A look at the three candidates
Three candidates who are vying for the mayoral seat in Parkville all either directly or indirectly addressed controversy surrounding the city’s outgoing mayor Nan Johnston and how they could work to mitigate the drama that has plagued the city for the past few years under her leadership.
The candidates offered their plans, via recent telephone interviews, for a different leadership style that would start the city on a new path following the last few years of Johnston’s time in office, which has included a lawsuit over alleged violations surrounding the release of city records, a criminal investigation, and findings of ethics violations by the mayor.
The municipal election will be held Tuesday, April 5 and also will include a host of candidates for three open seats on the city’s board of aldermen, as well.
Parkville voters can cast their ballots from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the Parkville Presbyterian Church, 819 Main Street in Parkville.
As a father of four young children, the 39-year-old said he has a large stake in what happens at City Hall because of the administration’s impact on his children’s future. While campaigning, the message he most often hears from residents is they either have no voice at City Hall or their voices are not being heard. He said citizens are ready for new leadership and representation in Parkville and there needs to be “checks and balances” because “sometimes elected officials may not act openly and honestly.”
Borchers has lived in the Northland for the past 15 years and has called Parkville home, along with his wife, Jennifer, and their children.
He believes city officials should be better educated about the Sunshine Law, which governs the release of records and open meetings in an attempt to foster transparency in government. “When I think about the Jason Makis of the world (who filed a civil suit against city officials, alleging abuse of the Sunshine Law), regardless of where you stand on the issue, it’s not going away,” Barchers said.
He said he’s realistic about city goals. “I don’t have this grandiose idea you can make everyone happy,” he said.
His background in finance economics and manager of operations for a large tax preparer in the Kansas City area has offered him the chance to help companies “build strategies and products that meet the challenges of clients and industries.”
He added that some of his ideas for a more open form of government involve making public meetings more accessible by always offering livestreaming and taking other steps “to make it easy for people to be involved” by encouraging dialogue.
Barchers said he has learned a lot about the processes of Parkville government by attending local meetings, including the board of aldermen and planning and zoning commission.
“I believe we can do better including more voices” he said, adding that the public should be invited earlier to comment on proposed policy changes and planned major development. In addition, officials should focus on making meeting times more convenient by starting them a little later, so they are “more accommodating to the people they serve.” He added, “It’s very hard as a parent to make a meeting at 5 or 5:30 p.m.”
In addition, city officials could do a better job of explaining how and why they reach decisions and that would eliminate speculation by the community. He said there was a lot of speculation about the controversial Creekside development, and it was hard for residents to discern fact from fiction.
“Bringing people along for the journey makes the job of elected officials easier,” he said.
If elected, Barchers said he will donate his mayoral salary to a scholarship fund for Parkville students. He said that’s one way to establish “more meaningful relationships with our schools.”
He also would like to form mentoring partnerships between small business owners in Parkville and students.
The 76-year-old Dean Katerndahl said he’ll draw from his more than 14-year service on the city’s planning and zoning commission to guide his actions as mayor. A resident of Parkville since 2005, Katerndahl said he was asked to serve on the planning and zoning commission by former Mayor Kathy Dusenbery and his appointment has been renewed by subsequent mayors, with approval of the board of aldermen, every four years.
He has served as chair of the commission for the past 12 years and has used his background as an employee of Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) to guide his leadership of the nine-member body tasked with reviewing and making recommendations to the board on zoning, development and subdivision plats and reviewing and updating the city’s master plan.
At MARC, he worked with local Kansas City area governments in establishing cooperatives to address the best ways for cities to manage public works, from street sweeping to paving. A key element was determining what works and what doesn’t, he said. In addition, following his retirement, he worked part-time as a consultant for MARC, where he helped with an array of special projects. He and his wife, Marcia, purchased a small, historic home in Parkville when they downsized 17 years ago after their son left the home, making them empty nesters.
Katerndahl mentioned his “life experience” will guide him if elected mayor, including earlier in his career when he worked with cities and counties as director of development for the city of Kansas City, Kan. His work and volunteer experiences have caused him to be “very community and neighborhood oriented” in which he views cities as a subset of subdivisions and neighborhoods. Parkville’s mayor and board of aldermen could do a better job of regularly meeting with citizens to gather input. “We haven’t done that so much recently,” he said, adding that officials should set up a program of regular meetings. Meeting with citizens also would help with budget preparation. “If we’d been more proactive, maybe (issues) wouldn’t have been so heated,” he said, adding that a pattern of not knowing what citizens want undermines trust.
Katterndahl said that, instead, he would opt for open and accessible government. As an example he cited Platte Landing Park, where city officials initially planned to install competitive baseball fields before discovering through a city survey that ball fields were not popular with the public. “We would have ended up in the same place, but it would not have been so painful,” he said.
However, Katerndahl said he believes there are misconceptions about a lack of availability of information on the city’s website and Facebook page and added that many residents don’t realize the information already is available. For instance, he said budget information is listed online, but “people don’t know it.” He said, “The budget is so important.it sets the agenda for the entire year.”
Katerndahl said while he sees some room for improvement at City Hall, he stands by his work on the planning and zoning commission and said he’s not “campaigning against Nan Johnston (after 14 years in the seat, she’s decided not to run again).”
He said of recent controversy, “I’m not trying to prolong whatever pain the city has been going through.” If elected, he would implement an “open, common sense” style of government, he said.
The 51-year-old self-employed web designer said he’s been watching as the drama at City Hall has unfolded and said he will work to build transparency into the processes by making more information available to residents earlier in the decision-making process. While city officials host public forums where residents can offer their input, those meetings need to be scheduled before city officials decide the fate of new, major development, for instance. “I’d like to take all those documents and make them public,” he said of posting potential plans on the city’s website and/or Facebook page. “I wonder how many confidential documents” exist that aren’t accessible to residents, but should be, he said.
The public’s input is moot when public hearings are held after elected officials and developers already have decided to accept a building project because “they (officials) don’t have any idea what the public actually wants,” he said.
Sears said when citizens voiced their concerns about plans to include large, competitive baseball fields at Platte Landing Park, citizens complained. City officials responded with a survey where they learned that residents prefer more emphasis on preserving natural habitat and walking trails, he said. Some elected officials believe they know more about the intricacies of plans than the general public, and, therefore, should decide big issues without public input. But Sears said he prefers a different approach. “If they’re not willing to do that (gain public input), then they probably shouldn’t have that position,” he said.
In addition, Sears said city officials should do more to assist Parkville’s local, small businesses and those tasked with bringing people to the city through special events, such as the Main Street Parkville Association. The group of local business owners plan activities designed to bring people into Parkville to spend money in local restaurants and stores. One way to further assist the group is by reducing or waiving the various city fees that accompany such events. He said he believes the city imposes too many such fees.
Sears said he’d like to see more public assistance for small business owners, who are prevalent in Parkville. If city officials planned ahead for tough economic times, such as those faced today due to the pandemic, more such public assistance could be available. He said as a small business owner, he knows how they can be especially hard hit by economic hardships and officials should find a way to help the small business owners in order to ensure they remain in business, which benefits the city through taxes. He said, “It’s time we give the little guy a break, instead of Amazon and Walmart.”
Emily Boullear’s name still appears on the ballot as a candidate for mayor, but she is not actively campaigning.