This year’s Derby Informer Voters Guide features interviews with Derby City Council, mayor and all but one of the Derby Board of Education candidates. It is your opportunity to get to know the candidates and see their answers to issues of importance in Derby.
In a video interview, each of the candidates competing for the same office were asked the same four questions. They were given a minute and a half to answer each question. The four questions are transcribed below, as well as their coordinating responses.
Running for mayor are current mayor Randy White and challenger Mark Staats, who currently represents Ward 4 on the Derby City Council.
1.) The city of Derby is thinking about constructing a water treatment facility to serve part of the city. What are your thoughts on the idea and the benefits and/or negatives of doing that and why?
Randy White: The city is always looking at water options. Water is a critical service that the city provides, and is a limited resource. We do have several wells on the west side of the Arkansas River that give us access to water rights and I am a firm supporter of figuring out how we can use those water rights.
The water company is in a pretty good financial position. We are about to pay off some debt on the line that runs the water from Wichita to Derby. We have some options to look at allowing us to doing other things. The volume of water that we can get from our wells will not meet all of our needs. So it will be important for us to realize that even if we would build a water treatment facility, we would still need Wichita.
We’ve all been reading the news, and we know that Wichita is in the middle of a big water treatment facility fix that is about half a billion dollars, and that means additional costs. I would be very interested in understanding how we can balance our own costs against their costs to keep the water rates down.
Mark Staats: The city does need to look into doing that, and the main reason why is: as a region, we have to continuously look for water. Obviously, the last few years we have not had to worry about that with the heavy rains that we have gotten, but we know in Kansas that Mother Nature’s faucet will turn off and we will have to start using more water.
Right now, we get it from the city of Wichita; we have since 2003 and that’s a good water source. However, they’re struggling to find long-term water solutions. So if we were to build a plant here and access the wells that are west of Derby, there’s a lot of good water we can use. It would need to be treated to Wichita’s standards. The negative on that is the cost of doing so. Having a large cost like that would obviously have to be passed down to the consumer, but we can hopefully use some of that water to sell to other communities, to intermingle with Wichita water, and in the long-term offset the cost of what we’re paying for Wichita water.
In 2003, when the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said Derby needed to find other water sources, we had to go to Wichita because we were running short. There was also a salt plume moving in from Haysville. That salt plume has since dissipated and is no longer a threat so that is a water source we can go for, it’s a continuous water source, and I think it would be good for our community in the long run.
2.) In Derby’s current form of government, the mayor has no voting power other than breaking a tie in the event that the council is in deadlock. The mayor does make appointments on boards and other committees and runs council meetings or may have input on some of the council’s agenda items. What can the mayor do to drive agendas or push directives that he believes are valuable for Derby?
RW: When I got elected four years ago, I had two things that I wanted to accomplish quickly. First, I had to get ready to run a meeting in seven days. The second, I sat down with the city manager and asked to meet with her weekly.
The mayor gets input from a lot of different sources. People ask questions, they expect the mayor to be up to speed on the issues that are related to what they’re concerned with. By having these meetings every Monday with the city manager, I’m able to share with her what people are telling me. I’m able to ask her questions to make sure that I understand the issues. Then when people ask me questions I become a valuable resource to share information with people.
I love helping people. One of the favorite things I do as the mayor is when I get asked about a concern or a problem and I’m able to turn that over to city staff and they take care of it. When we get into the meetings and we’re discussing some of these issues the mayor should have an opinion and I usually have an opinion. I ask a lot of questions to challenge council members to think through the issues and we work as a team. Officially, the mayor is a part-time employee. This is not what I do for a living; I work at Spirit for a living. But I still have a responsibility to make sure that I’m working hard for Derby.
MS: The mayor needs to listen to the people in the community and find out what they’re interested in and what agendas they would like to see pushed.
Secondly, it’s having some conversations with the city manager, since ultimately the city manager and city staff work on the agendas and bring them to the council. The mayor currently has a role in that. I think the mayor can continue to do that and push some agendas. I think the mayor should be the city’s fiercest advocate, the one that’s not making the votes up there but is advocating for the citizens of Derby. As mayor I would continue to do that.
It is also important to listen to other council people and see what they want. You have to be careful not to violate open meetings, but if a council person or two has an idea they want to run forward, I think it’s the mayor’s job to take their voices and make them heard through the city manager or out in the community.
3.) What are some specific major issues facing Derby that you feel city government will need to deal with in the immediate future and why?
RW: The first is our half cent sales tax. As many know, three years ago we passed a 10-year half cent sales tax, meaning we have seven years to figure out how to pay our bills. We are using that half cent sales tax to fund our fire department and our library.
I always thought going into this that the solution would be that we would take a look at our debt ratio and try to get it down, allowing us some room in our budget to pay for our fire department and library. We have seven years to figure that out. I actually asked the city council to put that on a priority list several years ago, because we don’t want to wait four or five years before we figure that out. We need to be working on this for the next seven years.
The second issue I’m passionate about is flooding and creek erosion. We need some help from Sedgwick County with flooding and there’s no way around that. Spring Creek covers 35 square miles of Sedgwick County and they’re going to have to help us with flooding. A lot of our creek erosion is on public property and we need to figure out how we can help these citizens with their issues of creek erosion. We also have utility lines that are in some of these easements that we’re going to have to make sure we protect as erosion occurs.
MS: We need to take care of what we have, primarily the west side of Derby along the K-15 corridor from Patriot down to Kay Street and straight east and west of there. We have reinvested in that area and you can see the fruits of that investment at Warren Riverview Park and Madison Avenue Central Park.
Now we’re working on the Kay Street/Water Street area with putting in new roads, curb and gutter. I think the city’s involvement is going to help spur some development there. If the private sector sees the city’s investing in the area, they will come and do it. The city is not a magic pill and cannot fix everything, but we
can show that we care about that part of the city, and I think that’s our biggest priority for Derby.
We also have to think about storm water; that’s been an issue. There’s lots of conversations going on right now with the county; that needs to be first and foremost in our thoughts as we can move down thinking about rain and where that rain’s going to end up. We have to think about our water supply long-term for the region.
And lastly, we have to think of long-term solutions for continued funding of the library and the firefighters. The half-cent sales tax we’re currently operating under ends in 2025. We have to make sure we have the funding to keep that going, and start looking at that way in advance so it doesn’t catch us off-guard and figure out how we’re going to continue to fund those things.
4.) What are reasons you are the best candidate for mayor and what are the benefits to the citizens of Derby?
RW: First of all, thanks for electing me four years ago. I have tried to be a good mayor. I found that being a mayor is a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. I can easily be busy three or four times a week doing different things. Whether it’s supporting McConnell, which is the best neighbor we could have.
Or visiting a school, or supporting a community group. Being a mayor is a lot of work. It’s more than just running the meetings.
Secondly, I don’t have an agenda. I’ve never had an agenda. My only agenda is that I want to serve and help the people of Derby. I don’t own a business. I don’t have any special interests that I have to take care of. I just think that the mayor’s job is to be there for the people of Derby and to support them in every way that they can.
I’m experienced; I’ve been doing it for four years and that makes doing it another four years a lot easier. I’m also connected with people. I know a lot of local politicians, I know a lot of state representatives, and I’m in a position now where I am able to talk with people and use that information to better Derby. I try to be a positive, encouraging voice for Derby. I’m experienced, I’m passionate, I think I’m a good leader, and I would appreciate your vote on November 5.
MS: I think I’m the best candidate because I have a broader perspective of the city. I have lived here for 40 years. I worked as a police officer here starting in 1986. After retiring I immediately got involved in other city activities. I’ve helped on committees for Derby Days and the Community Foundation. I coached Derby junior football. I’m currently on the Derby Education Foundation. My wife is involved in a lot of things in Derby, various organizations. I think that broad perspective gives me a unique qualification to be mayor, to listen to Derby citizens, and do what’s best for Derby.
My heart and my passion is in Derby, Kansas. I want to see this town thrive. I want to see us take care of what we’ve got. And I want our citizens to not think about government, I want them to just go out and enjoy life and have fun in the city, enjoy our amenities and feel safe living here with our great police department and fire department, and our great men and women who work in public works in the city. We’ve got to keep that going, but it needs to be seamless to where people don’t see it and don’t think about it. I think that passion is what makes me the best candidate for mayor.