Overland Park voters should re-elect Mayor Carl Gerlach on Tuesday.
Gerlach has served in Overland Park government since 1995 and has been the city’s mayor for 12 years. He can point to a solid record of accomplishment, including improvements along Metcalf Avenue, a revitalized downtown and impressive job growth in the community.
Overland Park routinely lands on lists of the best places to live and raise a family. The city has avoided major political scandal during Gerlach’s tenure.
We do believe Gerlach should work harder to make government more accessible and transparent to voters. Overland Park does not televise its city council meetings and does not allow residents to speak to the full council before legislative sessions. Both policies should change.
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Charlotte O’Hara, Gerlach’s opponent, is an impressive challenger. She has shown a firm grasp of the issues and has raised serious questions about the city’s use of public incentives for businesses planning relocation.
She has pledged to change the city’s political culture by welcoming newcomers, another check mark in her column.
Yet O’Hara’s approach to governing would be too inflexible for Overland Park’s needs. She said she would oppose incentives in almost every case, which could hurt growth in the community.
She said she would not have pursued the Amazon headquarters, for example. That seems short-sighted.
Overland Park is one of the area’s most important cities, and it will face significant challenges in the years ahead: neighborhoods in decline, the Brookridge development controversy, even the future of Sprint, the city’s biggest employer.
The city will need a steady hand to manage those problems and others. It’s a close call, but Mayor Carl Gerlach has earned another term.