Derby City Council Candidates

These are the candidates for Derby City Council in the upcoming Nov. 5 election. 

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. 

The only contested city council race is in Ward 4 where Jenny Webster will face off against Tom Wilhite.

The Ward 3 seat was held by Cheryl Bannon, who announced she would not seek re-election after 17 years on the council. It will be occupied by Nick Engle who is running unopposed. The other two council seats that are also unopposed are Ward 1 incumbent Rocky Cornejo and incumbent Jack Hezlep in Ward 2.


1.) Derby has built a number of parks in the last several years and currently has some 25 parks, according to the city’s website. Some citizens are commenting on the number of parks and wonder if future park development is necessary and if those efforts should go to other areas. Should Derby continue to develop parks at the rate it has for the last four years?

2.) The price of Derby water has increased over the years. With Wichita improvements to their water treatment plants, it is assumed their prices will continue to rise, maybe at a rate faster than they have. What can Derby do now to help facilitate efforts to keep our prices down and become more self-sufficient as the city grows and demands increase?

3.) What do you think are two things that the City of Derby could do a better job at, and how or what would you do to advocate for those things?

4.) Why are you running for a city council seat and what will you offer your constituents that will benefit them?

Rocky Cornejo

1.) That’s something we should always look at. Things change, trends change. We have a number of great green spaces and ball fields. You go to any of the ball fields in the season and those are all full. If fields are full maybe we do need to continue. It is important to keep kids active, get them outside, playing and doing things.

I think if it is something that progresses we can continue to look at change. It’s not to say we need to continue or we need to stop, but look at how things go. If somebody else puts in a ball field, maybe it’s not the right time and maybe we re-direct some of that funding.

2.) We’ve all recently heard of the Wichita water treatment plant problems. That’s not a good thing to have when we’ve only got them as our one supply. So we definitely need to look at some options, maybe getting our wells back up and running to maybe help supplement. But the wells are not going to fully serve the city.

In the bigger picture, do we build our own treatment plant to grab water from wells and some other outside sources other than the city? Or you do a number of those things to have a backup plan? With only one water feed coming in, that’s another issue we probably should be looking at. Try getting a secondary feed so if there is somewhat of a catastrophic failure we don’t have citizens without water for hours or days if a worst-case scenario hits.

3.) I don’t think we do a terrible job, but I think we need to continue to push Sedgwick County and keep the foot down to get them to create some funding for flood water. It’s gotten better but we need to keep that going.

I think we need to look harder at getting some more housing development opened up. If you look now, there’s not a lot of new development for families wanting to build or downsize to a smaller home but build their own. We need to see what we can help facilitate to open up some more options, whether it be lower price homes, a little higher income home or some of them in the middle. We have run out of a lot of that area. We need to try and see if we can get some developers to bite and open up some things.

4.) I’m running for re-election for city council to continue and keep Derby the great place it is to live. We have a lot of good things going on down here. I don’t want to see things go backwards, nor do I see them going backwards. But I just want to continue to tackle the challenges that come to keep this a great place.

Nick Engle 

1.) That’s something of a supply and demand question. If we see a lot of population growth going forward that would warrant more parks, then fantastic. I frequent a lot of the parks that we have in town and see them being used, which is exciting. People are engaging with what we have. Whether that means we need more ongoing that’s something we’d have to look into and be mindful of because the more parks we create the more upkeep we’d have to perform. We have to be very mindful of it.

The big thing that sticks out for me in this question is that if people are concerned that we’re putting too much toward parks and they would like to see those efforts, those tax dollars, that energy focused on other areas, I want to know what those other areas are.

2.) This is a big question. We’ll want to be attacking it sooner than later because we don’t want to be left with whatever options are on the table down the road. Whether that means we end up sticking with Wichita water, whether it means we need to find a different resource and compare the costs and values of those two, or whether it looks like we can cut through all the red tape that’s involved with different levels of government on creating our own water supply again and the expense of what that would look like. We need to compare all those options and see which one is going to be the best fit for Derby long-term.

3.) I’ll give you three, because I think there’s two that the city’s currently working on and doing a good job at.

One is addressing the flood plain issue. With all the weather we’ve had over the last few years, this is a big problem for a lot of people and it needs to be addressed, so the city council has to work with other levels of state and local governments to address that issue. Continuing that effort to make sure it is addressed in a meaningful way is important.

Also, revitalizing parts of town that have gotten run-down over the years. That’s something else the city is working on – creating a strata that makes an environment where local businesses and investors want to revitalize and revamp that area. Continuing those efforts to make sure we have a strong business presence in Derby and a beautiful city.

Something I think all levels of government could improve on is their methods of communication with all the citizens they represent. You could look at Wichita as an example of this – people are getting suspicious of their local government just because they don’t feel like they know what’s going on. I never want people to feel like they don’t have a voice in the public forum. I want to make sure people are aware of what options they have in getting involved and that there are plenty of methods of communication for the public to address their representatives.

4.) I want to serve my community. I’ve had people ask me what my platform is, and I don’t have any specific agenda or banner I’m waving. There’s nothing that made me mad that made me want to jump in. I just want to be a servant for the people in the community that I work in, and I think I can do that because I tend to be well thought-out. I like to examine every angle of a scenario. I’m honest. I’d like to think that I’m going to represent the people of Derby with integrity and open lines of communication.

Jack Hezlep

1.) Absolutely, yes, we should continue developing parks. We have evolved over the years from pocket parks – small little parks and why we have so many – to larger regional parks that more people can use with more amenities in them. The whole idea of parks has changed.

However, small parks offer open space to the community where kids can go over and play on the swings, and that’s just as important as the large parks that you have to ride a bike to, or walk to, or even drive. So we’re lucky. Our quality of life, because of the amount of parks we have, is the envy of the neighborhood. We’re always getting complimented on it and, in fact, we just got an award for the Warren Riverview Park.

So yes, I really do want to see us develop more parks, within reason, if we have the land and money to do it.

2.) That’s probably the number one thing for most small towns. Where you get your water, how you’re going to pay for it, etc. We’re really no different, although we’re luckier than most because we’re closer to Wichita.

This is one of my favorite subjects – I believe we need to be really far-reaching and create a consortium with other smaller towns around here and create a reservoir in a depression somewhat closer to here where we can store water and draw it out, so we become essentially independent of Wichita. Not that they’re treating us badly – we’re getting good service from them, but that’s still an issue.

So to that end, for the interim, opening up our wells that we do have and maybe using some of that. Importing that water into what we’re drawing from Wichita would cut down the price of water because we’re using some of the water coming from our own wells. That is an interim solution, definitely not long-term.

3.) In reality, Derby hasn’t done many bad things for a long time. I think we’ve been pretty far-reaching, pretty well thought-out; there have been a couple ones a few years ago.

Right now I think we could do a better job of creating bike paths to other communities – we’re getting the one to Mulvane, but I’m thinking Haysville, we can ride to Rose Hill, and pretty soon all the way to Wichita. I think that’s something that’s a quality of life issue and they will be used, I can guarantee it – I’ve seen it done in other places.

Also walkable areas within the town that you can essentially walk any place and get the amenities that you need. Walkable places is key, instead of having to drive everywhere you go to get a loaf of bread.

I still think we need to be more forward-thinking on our water issues.

4.) If you’re going to complain, you better participate. You hear everybody say ‘I want to give back.’ Giving back is participating in local government. I wish more people had run this time for council. I suspect they didn’t because things are going fairly well.

I offer experience – I’ve had positions in a number of communities and I’ve seen what works for them and what hasn’t. A lot of those things can be carried over to what we’re having here at the age of our town and where we are in the practice of it.

I’m not afraid to look forward. I don’t want to say ‘take a chance,’ but look at things and be forward-thinking on it and try. Just look at the hospital. If we hadn’t been forward-thinking on the STAR bonds we wouldn’t have that hospital. So I can offer experience and I think that’s a big thing.

Jenny Webster

1.) I absolutely believe parks are a foundation of us in Derby. That’s what we’re known for; it brings families together, memories. If we feel there are too many we should do that as a city. That should be something not just a council member, myself, should make. We should make that as a community.

Look at the west end; Warren Riverview Park has brought some great things to this side of town, showing the involvement and that we’re willing to give back. It’s not discriminating on which areas we’d put those. We want families to come together and get out and enjoy the community we have.

2.) That’s going to be something that we’re always going to have. In some areas, the demand is always going to be a little higher. We have to focus as a community, do our research. Communication is a big thing. We can’t just say a bunch of things and say this is what’s going to work for our citizens; we have to communicate to our citizens and make sure they understand we’re in efforts with them and they’re not on their own. If we find our research has one area where we need to focus. I think if we communicate, we can tackle this as a community together.

3.) I don’t think there’s one particular thing that we have that we need to focus on or that we’re lacking.

Communication is a big one. We need to make sure our citizens are aware of things.

Our west end has been a big concern of many people. If we keep communicating and seeing the drive, building a park, there’s still construction going on. Those are things we can continue to grow and not worry about what that would look like.

Communication is the key point for me. Making sure our citizens are heard, and that I represent my community and my ward. I’m very excited to see what I can do in that change.

4.) This is something that has always been a goal of mine. I wanted to make sure I did my research and to be part of the community. What better way to be part of the community than to be a voice for the community and my ward and showing that a young woman in business can be successful and really strive for what she believes in. I bleed green, so if I support this community why not stand up and do what I say I’m going to do, which is sit on the city council if I get that chance.

Tom Wilhite

1.) I think we have plenty of parks, some could use some upgrades. A half a percent of the sales tax is collected and from that half a percent, half of that, or a fourth of that percent, is used for parks, and the other is used for fire.

I’m thinking we’ve got plenty of parks. We need to have a different method of dividing that half percent sales tax money up. We can put a quarter of that half a percent toward the roads. The other quarter split into eighths and spend that on parks for upgrades and keeping up the equipment and other things. The other half can be kept for the fire department running smooth.

We’ve already built a Taj Mahal for our fire department. It’s probably the fanciest fire station this side of the Mississippi. As a result of that I hear lot of comments from other people in my shops saying, “All we need is another darn park.”

2.) I think this is a big problem. Wichita has got a thumb on us. They can tell us “Well, you’re either going to do this, or we’re going to raise the prices to sky high.” So you won’t need to do any development down here because people won’t come to Derby because the water prices are too high.

I think something needs to be looked at. Step one is to regenerate the wells that we had out west of town and maybe furnish the water to the industrial district of Derby with those wells. We can also use them for a back-up for the other system.

In the meantime, we need to get in a conglomerate with Haysville, Mulvane, and maybe Rose Hill, and see if we can’t all go together and build a nice reservoir somewhere, preferably out southeast of Derby someplace. People would then benefit from the fact that they have a recreation area, they would have the water that we needed, and we’re not underneath Wichita’s thumb. We all know from articles, we’ve heard in the past that the water treatment plant in Wichita is in sad condition. So they’re going to be fixing that. And when they do, they’re going to jack the heck out of the price.

3.) The number one thing is the road conditions. All you have to do is drive up Rock Road and go across the canyons going up Rock Road. Not more than a week or two ago they’re re-striping and redoing all the stripes on Rock Road with the canyons in the middle of it. It doesn’t make sense to me to spend money on a junk road.

The other problem we’ve got big time is a problem of getting across the railroad track. The cars back up to the west on Market for two miles. And there’s been times, and I’ve witnessed it in my shop right next to the railroad, the train is stalled and waiting for another train to go by for at least an hour and a half. This has happened on several occasions that I have witnessed. People then are stuck with driving north on McIntosh up 71st Street and getting across, and maybe they’ll get across if another train isn’t coming another way. The other option is to go down to the sewer plant, down a dirt road, which is terrible, to get down behind on the south side of the tracks.

Two things could be done to fix that. They need to eliminate the sidetrack in Derby. Sidetracks belong out in the countryside; they don’t belong in a town. The other thing we need to do is build a bridge preferably over the railroad tracks starting at about Market and diagonally crossing the railroad tracks and dump it out at Madison. You’ve got land enough to accomplish the up and down. You have a bunch of homes in there that are kind of second grade, that would be easy to do a buy-out of those homes and continue on with a method to get traffic across the tracks.

4.) I’ve been self-employed for 50 years in the town of Derby and have made a business successful all those 50 years. And I’ve done it through making smart decisions. I’m a problem-solver, because I have a problem every day with some car that’s got this little problem and we’ve got to figure out what it’s going to take to fix it. So I’m a fix-it kind of guy. And I think we need those kinds of people on the city council. People that can make really intelligent decisions and not pay for it later, or do things twice, or not stripe roads that are going to need to be fixed.