Two candidates are vying for Parkville mayor in the election, which will be held Tuesday, April 2. Incumbent Nan Johnston is being challenged by Kenneth Wilson.
an Johnston, the incumbent, has served as mayor for the past five years and was a member of the Parkville Board of Aldermen prior to being elected to the city’s top post. Johnston said her work on the board helped prepare her for the diverse role as mayor in addition to her work with several volunteer organizations.
Johnston, who has an adult daughter who lives out of state, has been a Parkville resident for the past 15 years and believes the Creekside development project at Interstate 435 and Missouri 45 will be important to the city’s economy.
She asserts it will keep the city’s taxpayers from making more payments on a Neighborhood Improvement District (NID) following a failed development plan. Johnston believes the current plan is by far the broadest, most comprehensive option as compared with other proposed plans throughout the years.
She wrote in an emailed statement that the plan is from “a local developer with a good reputation” and city officials are “in the process of working through development details.”
Johnston says she currently is working on several projects that she identified in a similar candidate profile during an earlier bid for mayor. She said she has spent considerable time and effort working with the Missouri Department of Transportation and the Mid-America Regional Council (who award federal and state tax transportation tax money,) to alert officials of safety and traffic issues on Hwy. 9.
As a result, the city has earned the award money and has “had engineering completed and right-of-way acquired, and [is] in the process of relocating utilities so we can begin construction on improvements,” she wrote.
The improvements will take in Hwy. 45 to Lakeview and include a sidewalk to the downtown area. “There is still a large stretch remaining to be funded and I continue to pursue it,” she wrote.
Johnston wrote that Parkville also needs upgrades to infrastructure from water to sewer to electrical systems, especially in the older parts of town. To address the electrical issues, city leaders have been working with Kansas City Power & Light to upgrade services, which that results in reduced power outages.
She said that some issues have been resolved while others are still to be worked out.
“I do not believe in kicking the can down the road where public infrastructure is concerned,” she said, adding that avoiding fixing problem areas can result in increased costs later and “could cause unnecessary inconveniences for residents.”
The oldest of four children, Johnston credits her parents with providing strong role models of community involvement. “We didn’t have a lot of money,” she wrote, adding that she has volunteered time and talent extensively, working for schools, churches, charitable and civic organizations. “But we were encouraged through their example to help our fellow man,” she said. “This is what drives me today.”
Johnston, who successfully ran a business start-up before launching her own business, said she “would like to see the things we have been working on through to completion.” She added that she “has 11 years of relationship-building and that network is so important when it comes to getting things accomplished.” She added, “I enjoy public service immensely and this is something I can do to make a positive impact.”
Kenneth Wilson believes his role as the head of a non-profit that assists patients needing organ transplants (and their families) has perfectly primed him to take the lead as the mayor of Parkville.
“It just kind of comes out of helping other people,” the 63-year-old said during a recent telephone interview. The candidate has been running the Two 12 Sycamore foundation for the past two years, after he received a life-saving liver transplant in 2013.
Wilson, who’s lived in Parkville for the past eight years with his wife Candace and 15-year-old son, said he works with patients and families at various locations, but spends a lot of time helping those seeking treatment at Children’s Mercy Hospital. He has a “surprising number of patients” being treated for all types of organ transplants.
Wilson, who worked for more than 30 years in sales and business development for a logistics company (arranging for the movement of goods) now works full-time in his foundation and travels the country helping others. Wilson became symptomatic with fatty liver disease after ignoring warning signs that eventually led him to be hospitalized and in ICU until he received a new liver.
“I waited too long. The sooner you make corrections,” the more success patients have at warding off the disease and the need for a transplant, he said.
A trip to a doctor that he didn’t connect with led him to avoid medical attention for years until it was too late for his liver to heal itself. He suffered irreparable scarring of his liver. He talks to groups to warn others to avoid harmful toxins.
He added that his communication skills have been sharpened as he spreads the word about his foundation and helps people understand the importance of safeguarding health in order to sometimes prevent the need for a transplant.
“It just kind of comes out of helping other people,” he said, adding that he can be “a steadying force that brings the community together. “I’d at least like to try,” he said.
One idea that he believes could result in better communication is for members of the city’s various boards and commissions to have quarterly meetings to discuss collective goals that can make Parkville better. Wilson said he’s learned about some of the issues facing Parkville through his role as a member of the Old Town Community Improvement District (CID), where he has been a member for the past three years.
Wilson said a dispute between a member of the CID and Mayor Nan Johnston “should have been resolved a long time ago.” He said better communication can resolve such conflicts rather than allowing them to fester.
Wilson said he believes more emphasis should be placed on improving and promoting downtown Parkville, which he believes is what draws visitors and residents to the area to shop and enjoy outdoor parks. He said he believes community growth should come from a place of contemplative thought.
“I think it’s easy to just do it (grow) and not stop and analyze what’s best for the city. Wilson said he also believes Parkville needs to do a better job of listening to those who oppose policy, such as those who formed a citizens’ group due to their objection to the Interstate 435 and Missouri 45 development proposal. “I know it would probably be difficult,” but frequent town hall meetings can give residents a voice in the operation of their city, he said. “It’s easy not to hear what you don’t agree with,” he said and added, “I think…you have to find a healthy balance. People who oppose an issue don’t get the same voice as those who support an issue.”