With the courthouse perhaps the last big building project going before the voters Nov. 8, candidates for the commission’s Sixth District are looking ahead to what the next focus should be.
Contractor Mike Brown of Olathe wants the commission to be more involved in encouraging economic growth. Incumbent John Toplikar, also of Olathe, says the county should look harder at social services issues like aging and mental health needs while continuing to keep a rein on taxes.
The winner will represent the southwest corner of the county, which includes unincorporated areas, Gardner, Edgerton and part of Olathe.
Brown’s key interests are in encouraging economic development, public safety and quality of life issues. He also said he’d be better at responding to residents’ queries than Toplikar has been.
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Accessibility is, in fact, the reason Brown said he decided to run in the first place. He said he’d had difficulty reaching Toplikar himself and believes he’d be quicker to return calls and emails.
Brown stressed that he has good relationships with city officials and business leaders that he could use to drive economic development forward. The BNSF intermodal freight facility is the largest economic development in the western two-thirds of the country, he said, quoting a figure from Investor’s Business Daily. “In my opinion there’s not enough being done to make that thing be the success it can be,” he said.
Those connections could also be used to work with law enforcement on community outreach and with cities to save money on such things as road repair, he said. For instance, the county could perhaps get a better price on chip and seal by joining with a contiguous city, he said.
“In the end it’s not really Edgerton money or Gardner money or Olathe money or Johnson County money. It’s all the taxpayers’ money,” he said.
Toplikar disagreed with Brown on accessibility, saying that he promptly attends to all residents’ contacts and that he has never missed a meeting where commissioners vote.
Toplikar said he is most concerned that the county preserves a good business climate by keeping taxes and spending under control. “My main overall issue is keeping Johnson County affordable for our citizens,” he said. “The government has to do everything with citizens in mind. That means we don’t overtax and don’t overspend and don’t grow government by creating new and unnecessary programs.”
Citizen surveys taken by the county show voters are most concerned about social services on aging, mental health, public health, homelessness, job training and services for the disabled, he said. Instead of spending on buildings like the Arts and Heritage Center and a new courthouse, the county should focus on basic services like Med-Act, for example, he said.
“Government should focus on basic services like providing a safety net for those who can’t help themselves,” he said. “If the county is going to spend more money and make it a better place to live, those things the county should be looking at are not where to build a better theater or a more modern-looking courthouse.”
In fact, both candidates say they dislike the plan to raise sales tax and build a new courthouse. But that question is now up to voters to decide.
Education: Attended Johnson County Community College and Kansas State University
Occupation: Building contractor
Elected experience: None
Education: Attended Johnson County Community College, University of Kansas, Washburn University
Occupation: Owner of a carpentry business
Elected experience: Johnson County Commission, 2003-2009; 2013-present; Kansas House of Representatives, 1993-2002; Olathe City Council, 1989-1991