Sedgwick County commissioner, District 5

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  • Candidate picture

    Jim Howell
    (Rep)

  • Candidate picture

    Jim Skelton
    (I)

Biographical Information

What is the biggest issue facing the county in the next year, and what would you advocate doing about it?

Why are you the best choice for voters?

What could the county do better than it is doing now?

Jobs: How would you rate employment opportunities in Sedgwick County?

Specifically, what role should the county play in supporting growth of jobs or the workforce in Sedgwick County?

Taxes: Do you believe the county’s current level of taxation is more or less than it should be?

What specific spending or tax changes would you push for?

Spending: Do you believe the county’s spending levels should be more or less than they are now?

What spending would you change, and how?

Courthouse: One of the biggest financial issues facing the county is finding office space for county government to allow expansion of courts. Do you favor buying (or leasing) another building and moving county government out of the courthouse, expanding the existing courthouse, building a new county building or some other option? Please explain.

City-county consolidation: The county and the city of Wichita have consolidated planning and building functions. How would you rate the success of this consolidation?

Explain that rating. And, are there other departments you would work to consolidate in the next four years?

City-county relations: How would you rate the county’s relationship with the city of Wichita?

In your view, what could the two governments do to enhance or improve that relationship?

What role, if any, should Sedgwick County play in the removal and replacement (or restoration) of the Century II Convention and Performing Arts Center and Lawrence-Dumont Stadium?

The county commission has been all white since 1998 and all male since 2010. What, if anything, do you think needs to be done to ensure that racial/ethnic minorities and women receive adequate representation? Would you consider creating a minority-majority district through redistricting or expanding the commission to bring in greater diversity of viewpoints?

Transparency: How would you rate the openness and transparency of the workings of county government?

What changes would you seek in public access to the workings of county government and the commission?

There have been recurring complaints that commissioners in the political minority are denied information that majority commissioner receive and that is needed to properly prepare for debate and decision-making. How would you address this?

How would you rate the commission’s performance in the past year?

Please explain your rating and talk specifically about any changes you would like to see.

How do you define yourself politically?

What other issue do you feel strongly about?

Age 55
City Derby, Kansas
Education Wichita Southeast High School Graduate; B.S. Organizational Management & Leadership - Friends University; B.S. Industrial Technology – Southern Illinois University College of Engineering; A.S. Avionics Systems Technology – College of the Air Force
Political experience Republican Precinct (DB11) Committeeman since 2010; Elected to the Kansas House of Representatives 2010 (Served 2011 to 2014) Member - Government Efficiency Committee 2011-2012, House Education Committee 2011-2012, General Government Budget Committee 2011, Federal & State Affairs Committee 2012, Judiciary Committee 2013-2014, Vice-Chair of General Government Budget Committee 2013-2014, Vice-Chair of Pensions & Benefits Committee 2013-2014, Vice-Chair of the South-Central Legislative Delegation 2013, Chair of the South-Central Legislative Delegation 2014, Elected to the Sedgwick County Commission in 2014, Currently the Incumbent Commissioner of District 5.
Community involvement Derby Area Circles - Ally Calvary Baptist Church Derby - SS teacher & member 28 years, Member of Friends of McConnell; Member of the Derby & Mulvane Chamber's of Commerce; Youth Horizons; American Legion & VFW member.
How long lived in district Altogether, I have lived 41 years in this district, 25 years of that is in Derby.
Endorsements Kansan's for Life Kansas State Rifle Association The REALTORS® of South Central Kansas PAC Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC.
Campaign phone (316) 788-4887
Twitter @Howell4KS
YouTube video
The local economy is slow while the rest of the American Economy is expanding. We need to attract, train, and retain qualified workers that can pass a background check/drug test. To solve this, we have worked with Spirit AeroSystems to secure their job growth. Currently, we continue funding higher education at record levels to create a competitive workforce. Also, we invest in mental health and youth intervention programs to help our community become more upstanding.
I am characterized by servant-leadership. During my time in the Air Force plus my 24-year career in local aviation, I have shown the values that are important to the community: integrity, compassion, and hard work. Additionally, I am a homegrown product of the 5th District, having lived in Southeast Wichita, Oaklawn, and 25 years in Derby. These facts, plus faithful service and a dependable track record set me apart from my opponent.
We need to stop perpetual borrowing. Currently, we borrow $4M every year. Each time this happens, $1.6M is wasted in interest over the finance period of the debt. Instead of borrowing, Sedgwick County should seek for pay for routine infrastructure improvements with cash. We should reserve debt for infrequent and critical infrastructure needs, similar to how citizens use a mortgage to buy a house rather than using debt to pay for routine expenses.
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The county needs to foster a pro-business environment. This means keeping property taxes low, reducing unnecessary regulations, and streamlining bureaucratic processes. These actions allow the business community to create jobs. Further, we can grow our population of qualified workers by increasing our graduation rates and increasing funding for mental health and juvenile interventions. Continued county investment in higher education, especially tech education, is a must.
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Based on several studies, there is about $500M worth of stormwater infrastructure needed that should be placed over a few decades. People generally support reasonable dedicated taxes for infrastructure they value such as good roads. With that in mind, the voters should have an opportunity to support or oppose a dedicated revenue stream for storm-water issues across the county. But without a voter-approved dedicated revenue stream, stormwater flooding will never be fixed.
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I continue to fight for our underfunded senior centers across the county. Fifteen years ago, the county negotiated a performance-based funding agreement with senior centers. The centers have met the higher-level funding performance criteria. Nevertheless, the county has ignored the agreement. In 1986, the voters approved spending up to 1 mill of property tax revenue to serve the needs of seniors but today that funding is down to around 0.4 mill.
By repurposing some jail space, the Sheriff will be able to give more courthouse space to the DA. This will solve most of the immediate needs. Eventually the courts will need more space. It is in the best interest of the tax payer to find an existing space to purchase. Currently, the staff recommendation to raze the 24,000 SqFt DA Annex and construct a new 5 story building will cost more than $300 SqFt. Instead we should purchase existing space for about half the cost.
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The MABCD/MAPD functional consolidation is working great except for the lack of adequate parking. Consolidation ideas are continuously considered, however, unless consolidation provides better services, more efficiency, or loss cost, it doesn’t make sense. One area that consolidation would help the most is fire protection services. These discussions have already begun.
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The conflict between Sedgwick County and the City of Wichita is not new. It takes efforts from both sides to make a relationship work. We cannot succeed without one another. I am committed to listening to the leaders of Wichita and showing mutual respect. However, advocating for Sedgwick County as a whole will always be my first priority.
Because Century II belongs to the City of Wichita, I believe that they should lead the path forward on this issue. I believe that Wichita should be empowered to do what they think is best of the community. At this time, the county has no official role to play.
Creating a minority-majority district is gerrymandering by another name. Neither should be done. I believe that every political candidate should be evaluated on the content of their character rather than their physical appearance. Even so, I believe that it is important for the representative to intently listen to all viewpoints and then make an educated decision. The voters then have the responsibility to evaluate those decisions through elections.
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I am passionate about public access to government. For example, since becoming a County Commissioner, we have increased transparency in numerous ways. We now send monthly newsletters directly to constituents. All staff and Commission meetings are posted on YouTube for easy access by everyone. Crucially, any person can speak at Commission meetings without an arbitrary sign up deadline beforehand. These changes have greatly increased transparency in our local government.
Commissioners must comply with the Kansas Open Meetings Act. At times, staff comes and asks a question or provides information. As information is gathered, each commissioner may not get the same information or know the conclusion. There needs to be updated policy or processes to ensure the final information legally gets to all of the commissioners.
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I rated the performance as average because during BoCC meetings recently, there have been motions to stop discussion and strip away opportunities to make other motions or make amendments. Because County Commissioners are representatives of the citizens, to silence a Commissioner is effectively silencing voters. This is wrong. All discussion, amendments, and motions should be respectfully heard in order to best serve the people of Sedgwick county.

I am a principled, prolife, pro-second amendment, and conservative Republican. While I hold all of these ideals, I consider each issue individually and refuse to rubber-stamp any vote.
Our zoning code needs a comprehensive review and update. There should not be an ‘automatic, administratively approved’ zone change. Annexation and zoning should be handled as separate issues. If zoning needs to be changed, there should be a notification to nearby neighbors and a hearing and a public vote.
Age 50
City Wichita
Education High school graduate, US Army combat training and heavy weapons schools. US Army vehicle mechanic school. Bachelors degree in International Business (WSU). Life in general.
Political experience Wichita City Council 2005-2010, Sedgwick County Commissioner 2011-15, Elected to the CPO District 3 Advisory Board, Panel for Citizen Participation, Board of Housing Commissioners, Chairman of the City Council District 3 Advisory Board, Charter Member of the Storm Water Management Advisory Board, Citizen Involvement Task Force, City Manager Selection Committee, Elected Chairman of the Sedgwick County Association of Cities, Fireworks Task Force, Wichita Board of Zoning Appeals, Wichita Independent Neighborhoods board member, Arts Council board member, County District 5 Advisory Board, Elected Chairman of the Quad Cities Plan initiative. Chairman of the Wichita Area Planning Commission Project Selection Committee, Board member of the Wichita/Sedgwick County Historical Museum, World Trade Council of Wichita Board Member
Community involvement Current President of the East Mt. Vernon Neighborhood association. Member of American Legion post 4, Rotary International.
How long lived in district 27 years
Endorsements Wichita Independent Business Association. Wichita Firefighters
Campaign phone (316) 648-4097
Twitter @votejimskelton
YouTube video
The single biggest issue may be how to resolve the problem of lack of space at the County Building. The District Attorney, Sheriff, and District Courts need additional space to meet the demands of our legal system. Strong consideration for an option located in downtown Wichita that would involve purchasing and renovating an existing vacant space. This action will add value to downtown Wichita and lend to community goals.
Most importantly I will listen to citizens. I will appoint a district advisory board that encompasses citizens that live in my district. I will look to this board to voice their perspective regarding issues before they are voted on by the county commission. I spent nearly 6 years on the Wichita City Council and 4 years of service on the County Commission. I will utilize my experience and relationships in order to explore appropriate governmental consolidation.
Sedgwick County needs to be respectful with our staff and community. The County needs to be partners in designing and delivering efficient health services. I’ve seen much in the last few years that the Board of Health has treated this as a low priority – by not advocating on behalf of our most vulnerable, unreasonably cutting budgets for essential health programs. Wichita and Sedgwick County have a long way to march in order to rebuild a productive relationship.
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The County should foster relationships with business and implement programs geared toward economic development. Support economic incentives to keep and attract industry in Sedgwick County. Support community investments like the Zoo Elephant exhibit, parks, Bike trails, Old Town, and attractions geared toward quality life. Transportation infrastructure is key to meet needs of industry. Develop education and technical training opportunities at local academic institutions.
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Explore economic development legislation that would allow incentives to companies wishing to relocate or expand in Kansas through reduced electricity rates similar to those already in place in Missouri. This legislation does not increase residential or business rates because the incentives allow the utility to sell excess capacity. Missouri has attracted a large new steel mill and expanded a Ford plant due to this type of legislation.
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Address position vacancies in the health dept. to meet county obligation for Public Health. Applying for and accept federal grants specific to the Board of Health’s mission. Avoid spending money for things like gun lockers and subsidies for private developments & direct the saved money to senior centers and senior services. Storm water mitigation project funding is inadequate, the 911 Call Center is need for personnel to meet increasing demand for emergency response.
The District Attorney, Sheriff, and District Courts need additional space to meet the demands of our legal system. I believe the best option for this would be to purchase and renovate an existing vacant space. This action will add value, and serve to advance long established community goals. Leasing or acquiring a building that is currently occupied downtown could cause hardship on current tenants, causing them to leave the downtown area entirely.

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I voted to purchase the Ronald Reagan Building in order consolidate city-county planning and code enforcement functions..Service delivery is equitable, the public staff has adopted the same philosophy, training and standardized service. Further consolidation considerations include road and bridge maintenance, building maintenance, custodial services, Vehicle maintenance, Animal Control, and information technology. Explore Fire Dept. consolidation in the longer term.
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City and county managers need to meet weekly to discuss common issues. In the past he county has refused to meet with the city, and engage in much needed public joint meetings. Some commissioners demanded unnecessary and unreasonable political payback in order to work together on common ground with City. Statements made from the County Commission bench that are inaccurate, and critical of the City hurts teamwork. Honor established local intergovernmental agreements.
These public assets are owned by the City of Wichita. It is understood by me these facilities add quality of life to the citizens of this region. If the City of Wichita askes for financial investment from Sedgwick County, the decision I make will be based on a cost/benefit analysis and citizen input..
I was the first county commissioner to appoint a District Advisory Board to represent people in my district. I would again look to that group and encourage other commissioners to do the same if they have not done so already.
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I will appoint a District Advisory Board that encompasses citizens that live in my district. District Advisory Board members receive all information and receive staff briefings the same as county commissioners. Advisory board members tour county facilities and make recommendations on county policy, issues & budgets. Any citizen should be able to inspect a public facility. I am open to have evening commission meetings in different locations throughout Segdwick County.
Rules of procedure and a code of ethics could resolve this. Staff has a responsibility to provide commissioners with the same information. Commissioners have a responsibility to ask questions. Commissioners may also lawfully discuss issues following state laws.. I would address this by having staff ensure that all questions or requests for additional information are properly handled, and the answers or information given to all commissioners.
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I believe the commission needs to act when information regarding county business is presented. Waiting until the last minute for citizen input or consideration is inappropriate. Unethical actions taken by some commissioners results in diminished public confidence toward local government. The commission mishandled the issue concerning Tyson Chicken, as no opportunity for public comment was given before a decision was made to invite them to Sedgwick County.
I am a moderate that will serve as a representative for all citizens in Sedgwick County. I will not discriminate based on political party, race, religion, or creed. I am a fiscal conservative that believes in citizen input prior to decision making, spending tax dollars wisely and will not fund gun lockers in the courthouse, subsidies for private developments, or steer contracts. I will bring reasonable, balanced, ethical and honest decision making to County Government.
Rules of procedures are key for the consistent and proper function of any Board. Establish a code of ethics to keep commissioners from pedaling political influence toward government contracts.Take steps necessary to allow for the collection of delinquent property taxes & stop responsible taxpayers from making up this shortage. Improved funding to the Community Crisis Center to address increasing substance abuse and mental health issues. Review county appraisal practices