As the deadline to file for upcoming elections came to a close Monday morning, more than 30 Finney County residents, more than half of which were not incumbents, had stepped forward to run for seats on six local governing bodies.
This fall, 32 candidates will run for 19 open positions on the Garden City Commission, Holcomb City Council, Garden City Community College Board of Trustees, Garden City USD 457 and Holcomb USD 363 boards of education and the board of directors for Drainage District No. 2.
No candidates filed to run for Holcomb mayor, meaning the position will ultimately be selected from write-in votes, said Finney County Clerk Dori Munyan.
At the moment, Munyan said, it does not appear that there will need to be a primary election for the local offices.
This year, about half of positions on the school and city boards will be up for election, including four seats each on the Garden City Commission and USD 457 and USD 363 boards, three seats on the GCCC Board of Trustees and two seats on the Holcomb City Council. The Holcomb mayor position will also be on the ballot, as well as Mark Rude’s seat on the Drainage District board.
Nearly all positions hold four-year terms, except the Garden City Commission. On the commission, the two candidates who receive the largest number of votes serve four-year terms and the candidates who receive the third- and fourth-highest number of votes will serve two-year terms. All positions will begin in January 2020.
Thirteen of the 19 incumbents filed to run for re-election, including Mark Rude, of the Drainage District and USD 457 board; Dana Nanninga and Jennifer Standley, of the USD 457 board; Sean Sheets, Jean Johnson, Ryan Ruda and Curtis Peterson, of the USD 363 board; Lindsay Byrnes, Roy Cessna and Shannon Dick, of the Garden City Commission; and Yolanda Cox and Nicole Faulconer, of the Holcomb City Council.
Dick and Cox, who were both appointed to fill unexpired terms of other representatives, will run for their positions for the first time this year.
Several long-serving representatives will not run for re-election, including Garden City Mayor and Commissioner Dan Fankhauser, Holcomb Mayor Brian Rupp and USD 457 Board of Education member Tim Cruz, who all said they wanted to make room for new members on their respective governing bodies. Rupp, who has served as a city council member for about six years and as mayor since early 2018, said he never intended to serve more than two terms.
“I think people in the community need to serve and ... I think two terms is plenty for anybody no matter what office it is,” Rupp said. “I’d feel like a hypocrite if I did something other than what I’ve (done) ... I hope someone else steps up (to the mayor position) and says ‘That’s a job I want to do’ ... and we get someone who feels strongly about our community and wants to do what’s best for them and puts the time in to help do that.”
None of the current members of the three GCCC Board of Trustees seats hitting ballots this fall — Terri Worf, Jeff Crist and Steve Martinez — filed to run for re-election, meaning their terms will come to a close at the end of this year. Worf, Crist and Martinez did not return calls seeking comment.
Instead six new faces will run for the position, including longtime former GCCC administrator Beth Tedrow, former GCCC Endowment Association President Shanda Smith, USD 363 Superintendent Scott Myers, retired GCCC instructor and law enforcement officer David Rupp, former GCCC Endowment Association secretary Aaron Kucharik and Genesis Family Health Behavioral Health Case Manager Vanessa Gaytan.
Disagreement and controversy at the college in 2018 has left some community members frustrated with current board members, including Kucharik, who said that if he was elected, he would emphasize transparency to the public, a “truly independent” investigation into the death of GCCC football player Braeden Bradforth, and reinstatement of the once oft-used, now suspended public comments portion of board meetings.
“I wanted to run because I feel like things haven’t changed enough at Garden City Community College and I think it’s overdue for change,” Kucharik said.
But not all candidates feel the same way. Myers said recent issues at the college did not play into his decision to run and that he is instead motivated by a desire to further strengthen local education, including the relationship between K-12 and post-secondary institutions in Finney County.
Tedrow also said previous events are unrelated to her decision, and she simply wants to give back to an institution she has served and been connected to for decades, contribute her understanding of relevant policies and regulations and “restore” the public’s confidence in the college.
“I just want to be there to help in any way that I can. I think our administration is top-notch right now and the faculty, staff — I just have a lot of confidence in that college and the people that run it and if there’s anything I can do to help them, that’s what I want to do,” Tedrow said.
Nearly every governing body will see new names on ballots this fall. Former school board member Alex Wallace, Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce Vice President Janene Radke, City of Garden City Human Resources Director Allie Medina, St. Catherine Hospital nurse Elda Menjivar and Geovannie Gone-Macias, of United Healthcare, will run for the USD 457 Board of Education, and Ryan Schreibvogel and Bryan Kruleski will run for Holcomb USD 363 Board of Education.
Finney County United Way executive director Deb Oyler, Manny Ortiz of The Architect, Cultural Empowerment and Development Foundation founder Liset Cruz and therapist Fernando Rodriguez-Infante will run for the Garden City Commission and Levi Heinrich and Tyler Patterson for the Holcomb City Council.
Rude is the only candidate for his current seat on the Drainage District board.
Candidates had a myriad of reasons for running. USD 457 candidate Medina, who also heads the city’s Cultural Relations Board and sits on the Ethnic Empowerment Network, thinks she can add insight about Garden City’s diverse population and wants to contribute to a district her son will soon attend. Oyler said she thinks she could offer a voice to and from the nonprofit sector to the Garden City Commission.
Radke, also running for Garden City’s board of education, said she thought her background in trauma victim support could be a worthwhile new perspective to the district, which she considers a cornerstone of the community.
It will be the first time all three will run for public office.
“I think that there’s always times when you can use new blood on any board ... I’m very much an advocate of new people coming in on boards to be in positions to be able to add a different perspective, change the dynamics of the group just by being a different voice in the room,” Radke said. “ And so, I think it’s exciting that this many people have applied to be candidates to run and I think that it’s going to be an exciting election.”
Election Day will be Tuesday, Nov. 5. To keep up with advance and mail-in ballot information, as well as other updates regarding this year’s election cycle, check the Finney County Elections Office website at www.finneycounty.org/438/Elections.
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