The past year has been one of the worst for Shawnee, politically speaking:
The intrigue around the council’s appointment of the mayor’s uncle, which resulted in a district attorney investigation;
Mayor Jeff Meyers’ being caught on camera parking in a handicap parking space in front of City Hall;
Cliques and feuds on the council so public they became newspaper fodder.
The controversies have made Tuesday’s election — with three council seats up for grabs — a contentious one.
Councilman Daniel Pflumm, who has fought for more transparency and says he opposes special interests, is seeking re-election in Ward 1 for a fourth term. He is being challenged by another veteran politician, John Segale.
Councilman Alan Willoughby, who was appointed to the Ward 2 seat by the council this summer, will try to be elected for the first time. His opponent is Mike Kemmling, a local dentist, who was narrowly defeated last April in a race for the other Ward 2 seat.
Councilman Jeff Vaught, who is seeking his second term, is opposed by newcomer and neighbor Gerald Herron. The two live in the same subdivision.
In the Ward 1 race, Segale, 47, a former Johnson County commissioner and Shawnee City councilman, said he is running because he is disappointed with the apparent dysfunction plaguing the City Council.
“I will work to end the petty bickering making our City Council a laughingstock and hurting our credibility with residents and businesses,” he said. “It is hard to attract economic opportunity if the community is viewed as ruled by an elite working behind closed doors that is afraid of new ideas or questions.”
Segale’s main goals, if elected, will be to seek and embrace new development, encourage smart investments in the community, and enhance the desirability of Shawnee for residents and businesses.
“One example of a smart investment that I will work for is the elimination of non-curbed residential streets in our developed neighborhoods as has been done in the other communities of northern Johnson County,” Segale said. “Ward 1 has several miles of these streets and the existence of ditch streets cost more money to maintain and hurts the image and thus economic development opportunities for our community. This investment will be funded by redirecting funds from the current economic development fund reserved for private developers to the street replacement effort.”
Segale, who ran for mayor last year and lost, also said that the city should be aggressively marketing the development of the Interstate 435 corridor with a mixture of office, residential and retail development.
His opponent, incumbent Pflumm, is running for re-election because he wants to continue making a difference in the city he loves.
“My family has a great deal of history here in Shawnee and I have a personal investment in this community,” he said. “I care about the city of Shawnee and want to make Shawnee a place where families can live, work, and grow.”
If re-elected, one of his main goals will be to address the road maintenance issue and expand redevelopment in the older areas to reduce the tax burden on Ward 1 residents.
“Road maintenance is the most important issue at the present time,” said Pflumm, who founded an engineering, control systems and instrumentation supply company. “A reduction in the road maintenance budget over the last five years has created a great need for mill and overlay of our aging streets and replacement of many curbs and gutters. As a council, we need to do a better job managing our existing budget and expanding our economy through development and re-development of older areas. By expanding our economy we can reduce the tax burden on the residents of Shawnee and Ward 1 and get back on a regular schedule for road maintenance.”
The 51-year-old also pointed out that he has never voted for a tax increase and says he has reduced the tax burden on residents by fighting for reduced spending throughout his 11 years on the council.
“I always have the citizens interest in mind not, special interests,” said Pflumm.
The Ward 2 race is possibly is the most contentious in the city. That’s because it involves the mayor’s uncle, Alan Willoughby, whose appointment last summer by the council was investigated by the Johnson County prosecutor amid much publicity.
Willoughby’s opponent is Mike Kemmling, a local dentist who narrowly was defeated last April when he ran for the other Ward 2 council seat.
Willoughby, a mechanical engineer with an MBA who has lived in Ward 2 for 35 years and is now retired, says he wants to make Shawnee an even better place to live, work, play and raise a family. Prior to being appointed to the seat, he served for two years on the city’s planning commission.
Willoughby said the city’s tax base can be increased to ease residential tax burdens by bringing in new development. He said he also will work hard to bring more curbs and gutters to neighborhood streets.
Kemmling wants to reduce the tax burden on residents and businesses in Shawnee. He said when he moved to Shawnee 13 or 14 years ago, the sales tax was 7 percent. He said the sales tax was as high as 10 percent in special taxing districts. In addition property taxes have gone up.
The sales tax is 9.275 percent in one district and another will be 9.775 percent beginning Jan. 1.
The main issues facing the city include a need to focus on economic development without adding additional burden to the taxpayers. Public safety and decaying infrastructure also need attention, he said.
Kemmling owns Capstone Dentistry in Shawnee and believes that his experience with a small business, dealing with budgets and generating revenue, will help him as a council member.
In Ward 3, Vaught, a commercial real estate broker and council president this year, says the city is on a good run with a $19 million reserve account and an Aa1 bond rating.
Vaught said he wants to maintain that momentum.
“I believe we will see some great development opportunities in the near future,” he said.
The main issues facing the city, he believes, are the lack of curbs and gutters in many neighborhoods and the need to have a keen focus on economic development.
Vaught, who describes himself as a patriot, said one of his attributes is that he is very involved in the community. He is a member of the Shawnee Chamber of Commerce and Shawnee Economic Development Council. He also has served as the Crimson Ridge Homes Association president for two years.
Vaught’s opponent, Gordon Herron, accuses him of a lack of transparency and being involved in “backroom” deals when the council appointed the mayor’s uncle to the council.
Herron, who lives down the street from Vaught, said he decided a change in leadership was needed because the city wouldn’t back the residents of Crimson Ridge when a park that winds through their neighborhood was quietly sold to be made into a snake habitat. The city has said it would not oppose the project even though a federal agency says it should not happen.
In addition, bad publicity about City Hall shenanigans was an added push, he said.
“I decided it was time for a change in leadership,” Herron said.
Herron said he also was confused with back-and-forth council decisions to eliminate and then restore detailed record keeping of meetings.
Herron also believes there are spending problems: In three of the last four years, expenditures were higher than revenues, he said. He also questioned why the city doesn’t have an internal auditor.
To reach Karen Dillon, call 816-234-4430 or send email to email@example.com.