Two candidates are vying for the seat of Platte County Presiding Commissioner in the Tuesday, Nov. 6 election.
The commission’s role is outlined in Missouri state statutes and the presiding commissioner is assigned no term limits.
Ron Schieber, the incumbent, is facing David Park for the role of presiding commissioner, who leads the commission and its bi-weekly meetings. The commission has two other members, called associate commissioners, and is charged with setting county policies, including overseeing the budget and acting as the final authority on county regulations.
Commissioners also represent Platte County by serving on many Kansas City area boards.
A profile of each candidate follows and is primarily based on written replies to The Landmark’s emailed questions, with a few statements having been obtained through telephone interviews.
Ron Schieber Ron Schieber the Republican candidate and the current presiding commissioner, was elected to the position in 2014 and his four-year term is expiring.
Schieber grew up in Maryville, where he graduated from high school in 1978 and earned a degree in business administration from Northwest Missouri State University in 1983.
He and his wife, Stephanie, have lived in Platte County since 1993 and have five daughters. Schieber served in the Missouri House of Representatives from 2010 to 2014 and was a member of the Park Hill Board of Education from 2001 to 2008. He has been active at St. Therese Catholic Church in Parkville and has worked in banking and finance since 1985, where his focus has been residential and commercial lending.
In addition to his duties on the commission, Schieber works as senior loan officer for Cornerstone Mortgage.
“I have worked very hard over the years to lead my team with integrity and consistency,” Schieber wrote of his time leading the commission.
“In short, when I ran four years ago, I made the following promises: No new taxes and there have not been any; No special tax elections and there have not been any; Sell the golf course to end decades of tax subsidies and we have; Build up the park’s future maintenance fund and we have; Reduce/realign sales taxes and they will be as they sunset beginning in 2020; No conflicts of interest and there have not been any; Make law enforcement the county’s top priority and we are; Adopt long range planning in order to stop kicking problems down the road and we have. Plans to reduce/realign sales taxes, which he wrote will occur as the funds “sunset beginning in 2020.” In that year, the current one-half cent parks sales tax will have generated $140 million during the past 20 years. Future improvements that he considers a priority are: funding a 10-year parks maintenance plan, establishing parks trail connectors and fully funding a stormwater plan.
“I also want to make sure that we implement budget disciplines that require the county to direct the use tax to be associated with the parks tax as well so that general revenue does not continue to rely on those funds for other non-parks purposes,” he wrote.
During a telephone interview, Schieber said he will work to make law enforcement the county’s top priority. For the past 18 years, the county has established a dedicated tax for road and bridges, parks and stormwater and general sales tax, “yet law enforcement is our top constitutional priority in my opinion,” he said.
A re-alignment of the current sales tax structure to include a dedicated public safety tax will be necessary to continue to accomplish this goal. A new public safety sales tax could be established while reducing other sales taxes, he said, adding that this could be accomplished without increasing the overall sales tax rate of one and three-eighths cents.
“I just think law enforcement should have had a higher priority over the last 20 years,” he said.
He also believes in adopting long-range plans “in order to stop kicking problems down the road.”
Adopting long-range planning will ensure “that property and sales taxes don’t have to be increased every time some mandate comes down,” he said.
When asked about the county’s largest challenges, Schieber wrote that the county jail soon will require the capacity to house more inmates and said county officials currently are working with architects and engineers to iron out design issues.
“Platte County will need more beds in the jail in the near future. We are currently analyzing options including finishing the area known as futures,” Schieber said.
“There are some design issues with the futures area that we are trying to work through with the architects and engineers. It is my hope that we can find a way to use this area as originally intended. However, changes in the laws since it was built, and the height of that area, may limit the number of beds that can be added,” he said.
“I believe if we are going to make public safety the top priority of the county, we will need to realign our current overall sales tax structure and include a dedicated public safety tax. Even with the creation of new jail cells, it’s my goal to keep the overall sales tax rate, currently at one and 3/8ths cents, as flat as possible in the long run,” Schieber wrote in an emailed response.
“Due to the recent downgrade of the county’s bond rating, we will need to fully commit to running the county on a cash basis without borrowing when possible. We are currently interviewing municipal advisory services to make sure the commission has expertise in managing a budget in this unique and challenging environment,” he said.
David Park David Park, the Democratic candidate, is a 1973 Lee’s Summit High School graduate and has a degree in environmental health from the University of Nebraska and a master’s degree in public administration and a certificate in economic development from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Park said although he’s never held an elective office, his role as director of neighborhood and community services for Kansas City provided many experiences that make him comfortable working in a political arena.
Park had a 35-year career with the City of Kansas City, Missouri where he worked with the mayor and city council on ordinances and legislative changes that impacted residents, before he retired in 2014.
During his career, he worked with different government entities to institute state-level legislative changes and for the final five years he worked as director, where he reported to the city manager.
Previously, he was deputy director where several divisions within city government reported to him, enhancing his management experience. Park began his career with the city as a code enforcement officer, where he was charged with handling nuisances, such as trash and weeds and unsafe housing conditions.
Park is married to Wanda and the two live in a subdivision near Lake Waukomis in Kansas City.
The candidate said he believes “open, honest communication” is imperative and, as presiding commissioner would strive for such an exchange between the many county officials who deliver services and those who reside in the county.
Park, who, with his wife, has two grown children and two grandchildren, said he believes communication and transparency between the county commission and the public is currently somewhat lacking and could be enhanced by hosting public hearings for the purposes of getting citizen input.
For instance, he said citizen task forces or advisory groups could be formed to garner public comments about proposed additions to the county jail and a potential ballot measure for tax restructuring.
Because Platte is the fast-growing county in the state, the county commission must work to prepare for that growth, which “will lead to increased demand for services, such as law enforcement, parks and recreation and roads.”
While the Missouri River and agriculture shaped the county’s past, they also continue to help define today’s Platte County. The river, woods and green space are valuable in terms of “quality of life,” he wrote.
Park listed English Landing in Parkville, E.H. Young Park in Riverside and Argosy Casino as popular contemporary destinations, all because of the river.
He said the county’s projected future growth will occur in urban and suburban arenas and it’s often difficult to balance farmland with such growth “without negatively impacting agricultural operations and the natural, scenic land for which Platte County is known,” he commented during a telephone interview. “But, the negative impacts must be avoided whenever possible,” he said.
Early, periodic review of development plans and creating an atmosphere that encourages an exchange of information and opinions will make necessary compromises palatable, he said.
“I believe in a lot of public discussion and making sure everybody is heard,” he said. “It won’t be easy, because there are those competing interests, but you have to in order to ensure the plan is “sustainable and makes sense.”
He wrote, “My plan is to strengthen relationships with regional partners like town councils and boards, school boards, and state agencies to ensure we work as a cohesive team in delivering services to our shared constituency.”