Steve Paul

Meet the Midwest Voices columnists for 2016

In our annual call for contributors, the editorial board considered a larger than usual pool of qualified writers.
In our annual call for contributors, the editorial board considered a larger than usual pool of qualified writers. Bloomberg

Today we begin another cycle of Midwest Voices columnists. Nine new (to us) writers and one returnee from 2015 will offer commentary, one each Saturday throughout the year.

In our annual call for contributors, the editorial board considered a larger than usual pool of qualified writers. I’m particularly pleased to briefly introduce this varied and talented group of Midwest Voices, in the order in which they’ll appear. They span the political spectrum and hail from all around the metro area and slightly beyond.

Molly Fleming

Residence: Midtown Kansas City

Work experience: Molly is a community organizer, who leads the PICO National Network’s faith-based campaign to end predatory payday lending in America. She volunteers as a mentor with Amethyst Place. She also has worked on political campaigns, in policy analysis for a statewide think tank, as a public school teacher and as a labor union educator.

Interests: Vegetable gardening, reading, backpacking and tweeting from @molly_flem.

Political outlook: Progressive

Ron Marr

Residence: Amoret, Mo., in his native Bates County

Work experience: Ron is a freelance writer and columnist (for Missouri Life magazine)

Interests: Spending time with his dogs, playing blues harmonica and cigar-box guitars, musical instrument design and construction, catfishing, Taoist philosophy, low-tech living.

Political outlook: “All over the board” but leans conservative

Diane Bigler

Residence: Platte City.

Work experience: Diane, a licensed clinical social worker and adjunct professor of social work, returns for a second stint in the Midwest Voices lineup.

Interests: Traveling, baking, reading true crime stories.

Political outlook: Moderate/conservative

Spencer Hardwick

Residence: South Kansas City

Work experience: Spencer, formerly an institutional sales analyst for Goldman Sachs in New York, now teaches fifth grade at the Ewing Marion Kauffman School.

Interests: DJing, reading and engaging in heated sports debates in his free time. .

Political outlook: “Midwestern millennial progressive”

Paul Scianna

Residence: South Kansas City

Work experience: Paul, a native of Mississippi, is a marketing and communications executive who has “worked for or with almost every blue chip company in the KC region,” including a career-starter in pharmaceutical sales under Ewing Kauffman’s Marion Labs.

Interests: His love for journalism, writing and public affairs stems from his family’s involvement in local and big-city newspapers.

Political outlook: Conservative

Valerie Sprout

Residence: Shawnee

Work experience: Valerie is an immigration attorney focusing on family-based and humanitarian cases.

Interests: Traveling, reading and cooking.

Political outlook: Democrat

Laura Herrick

Residence: Overland Park

Work experience: Laura has been a public school teacher for 25 years.

Interests: She has written a book on parenting and is now writing books for children.

Political outlook: Conservative

Kara Bollinger

Residence: Kansas City’s West Side

Work experience: Kara teaches writing at the college level and writes nonfiction pieces and poetry.

Interests: She’s an avid gardener, who blogs about urban/community gardening at

Political outlook: Moderate/liberal.

Mike Pandzik

Residence: Shawnee

Work experience: Mike retired recently after a 45-year career in the cable television industry, including a long stint as founding president and CEO of the National Cable Television Cooperative, based in Lenexa. He served 24 years as a special duty public affairs officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, retiring with the rank of captain.

Interests: Reading, motorcycling, travel and theater.

Political outlook: Moderate Republican

Lisa Hays

Residence: Independence

Work experience: After working for area companies, including Payless ShoeSource, Hallmark and Stuart Hall, Lisa in 1998 launched her own research and marketing firm, Fresh Perspectives.

Interests: Personal and global environmental responsibility and ongoing improvement of the lives of “the vulnerable” — children, the elderly, those with disabilities and veterans.

Political outlook: Moderate Republican