Reynaldo Mesa has been a fixture in local government.
A member of the Garden City Commission since 1999 and three-time mayor, Mesa recently ended his run with the city. During his last City Commission meeting Tuesday, he reflected on his part in a number of accomplishments in the city, ranging from his interest in creating a program to help revitalize downtown Garden City — an endeavor now known as Downtown Vision — to the more recent move to enact a ban on smoking in public places in the city.
And now, he moves on to a far different landscape.
Mesa decided to depart city government for an opportunity to serve in the Kansas Legislature as the representative for most of Garden City. He opted to run for the House seat vacated by Republican Jeff Whitham, and did so without any competition in the primary or general elections.
As a result, Mesa didn't experience the kind of debate many candidates face.
In an interview with The Telegram, Mesa did vow to pursue all too familiar goals: less taxes, less government and creation of incentives that help businesses succeed.
He also told of his personal roots, which included his father coming here from Mexico and succeeding in life.
While Mesa noted his Hispanic heritage has been an asset in a diverse community, he did say he tried to govern in a way that benefited the entire community. He was correct in doing so.
Still, the Republican's background and experience should be a plus as he takes his place in Topeka to represent a city with a significant Hispanic and Latino population — especially considering the likelihood of movements in state government to target immigrants.
Conservatives in Kansas have gone too far in trying to address the fallout of illegal immigration with strategies that would do more harm than good.
To compound that unfortunate trend, voters just chose a secretary of state candidate determined to make voter fraud an issue in Kansas, even though there's no evidence of such and the effort would be little more than pandering to the anti-immigrant crowd.
Look for incoming secretary of state Kris Kobach to rekindle efforts to force voters to show identification at the polls — a move that would unfairly target some, including the poor and minorities who may not have such IDs (and who also happen to traditionally vote Democratic). It's a notion that rightly has been opposed by the League of Women Voters.
Other proposed, anti-immigrant legislation in Kansas involved efforts to repeal a good law that allows undocumented immigrants to pay in-state college tuition if they attend at least three years of high school, graduate and work toward citizenship.
Then there was the move to make English the "official" state language, when it already is.
Kansas lawmakers need to realize and emphasize the importance of policies that would encourage those here illegally to emerge from the shadows and work toward citizenship. Legislators should not be swayed by political pressure driven by mean-spirited rhetoric and misinformation that's stalled progress in the nation's capital, and will do more harm than good here unless cooler heads prevail.
As he assumes his new role as a representative for Garden City, Mesa will be the face of a community with a significant immigrant population and employers who depend on their contributions.
He will need to help his legislative peers understand the economic impact of immigrant labor, and how education can and should play a key part in helping immigrants assimilate and gain legal status.
It won't be easy, considering today's political climate.
We wish Mesa luck, and encourage him to maintain a sincere desire to do what's best for his hometown and all of its residents.
If he does, Garden City should be well served by its new representative.
E-mail Editor-publisher Dena Sattler at firstname.lastname@example.org.