Tony Paolillo, David Sharp on ballot in Platte City
wo candidates are vying for the Platte City mayoral seat being vacated by Frank Offutt, longtime mayor who announced recently he would retire from public life and not seek another term.
Originally set for April 2, the municipal election was postponed due to COVID-19 and will be held Tuesday, June 2.
Registered voters in Platte City can cast their ballots at the First Baptist Church, 214 Ferrel St., on Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Tony Paolillo said if elected mayor he would want to continue some of the efforts established by Offutt, whom he described as having done a “great job” leading the city.
“It’s going to be hard to follow in his shoes,” Paolillo said. “But just being around him has taught me a lot,” he said, emphasizing Offutt’s abilities as an overall manager of the city. “My job would be just to keep the ball rolling,” he said.
Paolillo’s role as owner of a small business, Pao’s Custom Decks and Construction, also has taught him business and management strategies that help guide him as an alderman and will transfer nicely if he’s elected mayor, he said.
His business, he said, takes him throughout the Kansas City area and beyond, including sometimes doing work in larger cities, including New York.
Paolillo, 46, has owned his business for the past 16 years and has one part-time employee. He and his wife, Rachel, moved to Platte City about 20 years ago, following college, so they could be closer to their jobs.
“I’ve almost lived half my life in Platte City now,” said the St. Joseph native.
If elected, a major focus would be economic development with a special emphasis on attracting builders and businesses to the area east of Interstate 29.
“Residential has begun,” he said of recent growth in the area. “Now we’re just trying to get commercial going.” However, city leaders often play a waiting game. “Developers are not going to come to the city until they’re 100 percent certain” and have a viable plan.
Paolillo described himself as a “common-sense leader” and added, “I’m for business.anything we can do to help spur growth is positive.” But he stops short of the use of incentives such as Tax Increment Financing (TIFs) and Community Improvement Districts (CIDs).
“I don’t want Platte City in that boat,” he said of the cost to taxpayers if a developer can’t repay bonds and the responsibility falls to the city (taxpayers).
Paolillo said he sees no current looming issues that need to be addressed beyond the current pandemic. He said he’s unsure what the pandemic has cost the city in sales tax revenue and called the virus’s effects “the biggest issue of the near future.” He added, “How are we going to respond to this and come out of it a strong city?” The current economic climate will be challenging but his experience navigating the 2007-’08 recession has offered similar experiences. “I can fall back on how we did it back then.but I think it will take a while to get back” (to where we were before the crisis).
He has served the past 12 consecutive years on the board of aldermen, 11 of which as board president and mayor pro-tem, which has prepared him for a stint as mayor. His service also has taught him patience, he said.
“Government can do a lot.but it takes time,” he said, referring to, among other things, state-mandated public town hall- style meetings that should take place prior to a major development keeps the public informed. He said those vehicles are great ways of gathering public input. “That’s the only way you’re going to hear from them before it (development) happens,” he said.
One of the most important aspects of his position on the board of aldermen relates to money management.
“You have to control your budget,” he said, adding that “everybody (including public boards), has to “be able to pay your bills.and save money for projects that are upcoming. We’ve got to make the budget and maintain the budget,” he said. “If you don’t have a good budget, you can’t supply the services we need,” he said.
Paolillo also has gained public service experience during his nine-year stint as a member of the Platte County Regional Sewer District board of directors. He was appointed to the position by the Platte County Commission. In addition, he also has served as a member of the Platte County Fair Board. The private board group is responsible for the planning and staffing of a four-day event held annually since 1863.
Paolillo said that while he doesn’t necessarily favor a use tax on internet sales, the issue is up to voters who will decide the fate during the June 2 election.
It’s unclear how much the city could benefit financially from a use tax since it requires self-reporting by taxpayers who purchase online, he said.
“I don’t like to pass laws if I don’t know how it’s going to turn out,” he said. “I have to see all the data before making a decision. But, I personally don’t believe it’s going to make that much difference.”
David Sharp believes his experience on several city boards will translate well if elected mayor. He has been a member of the city’s parks board for the past several months, a position to which he was appointed by Offutt, and is currently secretary of the Platte City Planning and Zoning Commission, on which he has served for the past seven years.
He currently is president of the Platte City Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development, a group with which he has been active for the past six years. In addition, Sharp is serving his last term as leader of the group, he said, adding that he also acts as assistant chair of a Community Improvement District (CID) board.
He also is a member of the Platte City Lions Club, a service organization, and has been active in the Missouri Municipal League, for which he is qualified because of his seat on the planning and zoning commission.
He has attended the league’s continuing education classes for elected officials.
“Every year I’ve brought something back that I’m able to apply to my position (planning and zoning commission),” he said.
Sharp, 41, also has been a member of the Northland Regional Chamber of Commerce for about five years. He holds the distinction as the first and only dual graduate of that group’s youth and adult leadership programs, in which members learn to lead through coursework and practical application. The program taught Sharp skills by allowing him to conduct panel interviews with local business executives. In addition, the program allowed him to observe proceedings at the state capitol, where he met with the governor and observed legislators while the House and Senate were in session, he said.
He considers his candidacy a “call to service” since several citizens literally asked him to run, he said.
“I really believe people should lead,” said the single father of one child.
The lifelong Platte County resident, also a Platte County High School graduate, said he was living outside of the Platte County School District boundaries but moved back into the district in 2014 because he was seeking a school district where his son could get a quality education.
“It’s a great community,” he said of Platte City. “I have wonderful neighbors all around me,” he said, adding that the area has a small town feel while still being near Kansas City.
Sharp said he’d “like to see more young people involved,” adding to the majority of those in public service positions are 60 and older.
“It’s our future,” he said of younger generations.
Sharp has found himself the youngest to hold seats on several local boards and therefore has been the subject of good-natured teasing. He said his public service has taught him the importance of being prepared with adequate money to finance infrastructure that supports city services that many people might take for granted.
Sharp said his experience as the owner of two local businesses-a vehicle collision repair company, which he recently sold, and a synthetic turf company which he opened in 2001, have provided many experiences that will serve him well as mayor, if elected. Through his turf business, he has helped improve sports fields at high schools and universities in several states.
Sharp said economic development will play a key role in his actions as mayor and, to be successful, it requires solid relationships, which especially is currently important in the area east of Interstate 29.
“Some communities will attract business by giving the world away,” he said of current incentives such as Tax Increment Financing (TIFs) and Community Improvement Districts (CIDs). “There’s a lot of pressure from developers to make that happen,” he said.
But, local government must be careful to appropriately apply such incentives. “If doing it, officials must answer all the questions appropriately to make sure it meets all the criteria,” Sharp said.
Platte City relies on a strong tax base, which comes from sales taxes. While the city has seen some growth in this area, including with the addition of Price Chopper a decade ago, the city does not collect sales tax when citizens purchase items on the internet. He called sales tax the city’s “largest revenue stream” and “the best way to succeed is through private-public partnerships.”
He described the city’s finances as “in really good shape,” and said he favors the June 2 ballot initiative to charge sales tax on internet purchases, which “would be very helpful” in areas such as street maintenance. Sometimes citizens mistakenly refer to potholes on Hwy. 92 as the fault of the city. But that is a state-operated and maintained highway.
“We’re very fortunate with road maintenance and snow removal,” he said, adding that city officials have done a “phenomenal job” keeping up despite sometimes lagging revenue.
He said, “I challenge you to find a pothole” in the city.