Editor’s Note: Full profiles on the city and school board candidates who returned our requests to be interviewed will begin running Thursday to learn more about their views and why they are running for office.
Candidates for City Commission shared their positions on issues such as vaccine mandates, government involvement in the Nottingham development and recreation opportunities at a public forum Wednesday night over Zoom.
Jolene Born, Zach Brooks, Lance Handley and Tim Reazin are running for two open seats. About 60 people attended the candidate forum, according to event organizers.
One of the questions centered around government involvement with the Nottingham development.
Reazin, who has been mayor for the past five years, said there has been success in the Nottingham development, but there is more work to do.
“We need long-term care for this community,” Reazin said. “My goals are to continue down that long-term path. The idea that we've invested in land for a water treatment plant, the idea that we're investing in long-term sports tourism are things that I haven't finished yet, that I want to be part of.”
Brooks, a committee chair for the Eudora Cub Scouts and president of the Eudora Amateur Softball and Baseball Association, wants to make sure that even with the addition of new businesses to the Eudora economy through Nottingham, he would still like to see current Eudora businesses grow.
“We don't need to be doubling up on certain items,” Brooks said. “I want to make sure we bring the right businesses to town, not take away from what's already here.”
Handley, manager of Gene’s Heartland Foods, seconded that statement, adding that current Eudora businesses are invested in the community.
“I don't want to pirate off what we already have,” he said.
Born said there is infrastructure that needs to be repaired, too, but wants to see that accomplished without a tax increase.
“We are working on revitalizing the city, and of course, growing the city,” Born said. “We can’t grow a city if we have a high tax burden. As I have been for the last eight years, I’ve been trying very hard to make sure we do not raise our taxes any more.”
Candidates were also asked if they favor a new recreation center with bigger amenities, such as an indoor and outdoor pool. All agreed the recreation center would bring more tourism to Eudora and financially benefit the city.
“Eudora has a better opportunity, with the proximity to the highways, to pull some people to this town versus them going to Paola or Olathe,” Handley said.
Reazin said connectivity and trails were a high priority, along with growing sports tourism in Eudora.
“The funding could give us fields we can use during the week for our own programming, and then gives us weekend opportunities that bring in clubs,” Reazin said.
Born said she would love to have a bigger rec center because the city has outgrown the current center.
“It’s not senior friendly for them to be sitting on those bleachers,” Born said. “As far as a bigger pool and funding, if we don’t have the private resources to fund something like that, we’ll just go to a vote and people will decide whether we raise taxes to get a bigger pool.”
A bigger recreation center could drive up sales in the Nottingham Center, Brooks said.
“If we build these places or get these facilities where kids want to go to spend their Saturday, they will,” Brooks said. “Families will spend their money in our town.”
When asked about mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for first responders, Born said she feels mandating something for a job goes “too far,” but she is in support of promoting getting vaccines.
“I think we can incentivize and encourage it, but it’s still their choice,” Born said. “I don’t want employees to be shamed or shunned because they chose not to get vaccinated. I think we have other options.”
Brooks agreed with Born and said residents should take advice from medical professionals.
“I am far from a doctor so I’m not going to say one way or another on what we need to do,” Brooks said. “I say we use our resources and use our professionals that deal with this stuff on a daily basis.”
Handley said he was opposed to mandating the COVID-19 vaccine because he wants people to do what they feel is best for their health.
“I’m not for forcing employees to get vaccinated,” Handley said. “It’s totally their choice to do with their body what they want to do with their body. You have to listen to professionals and make your own decision.”
Reazin said first responders have a duty to work and act for the community. He hopes it does not come to a point where the vaccine is mandated and recognized that those who are vaccinated are doing what they can to protect the community.
“The challenge that we have with first responders and ideas of mandating is that they’re under the medical direction of a doctor,” Reazin said. “I would be challenged by the idea to mandate something as a city commissioner in the idea that we have quite a few professionals above us.”
For closing statements, Reazin emphasized the long-term goals he has as mayor for the Nottingham project and wants to take the steps to ensure the next generation of Eudora has a good future.
Brooks emphasized the importance of finding the right businesses for Nottingham in addition to keeping Eudora’s small town feel.
Born said she wants to remain on the commission to ensure current projects continue to move forward and that Eudora remains a place for everyone to be together.
Handley again emphasized the importance of small businesses in the community and encouraged residents to vote and educate themselves on the candidates.
School Board candidates also had a forum Wednesday night. Look for that story this weekend, followed by more in-depth individual candidate profiles by the Eudora Times staff coming out next week.
Reach reporter Tatum Goetting at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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