OPINION

LETTER: Candidate endorsements

Vicky A. Kaaz

To the editor:

Leavenworth’s citizens have been given an amazing opportunity to reelect a trifecta of informed, independent and dedicated public servants to the Leavenworth City Commission on Nov. 2.

Four years ago, Mike Griswold, Mark Preisinger and Jermaine Wilson were elected to serve our community based on their own merits and accomplishments, without regard to their political affiliation. All three have spent the last four years proving to us that the trust and confidence we placed in them when we elected them is not misplaced.

Each of these men came to us with a history of service to our community. Mark at the time served on the City Commission. Mike and Mark had both served on school boards. Jermaine had established an organization we had all come to know and respect – Unity in the Community. All had actively participated in civic and community service projects, earning the respect of their peers and support from voters when they went to the polls in 2017. It has been my privilege and pleasure to get to know each of them over the years, working in some cases on initiatives to better the lives of our citizens. Mental health, community engagement events and local public transportation are three prominent examples.

As a recently elected official myself, there are some things I have come to appreciate that I never fully understood before becoming an elected official. When we run for public office, it isn’t wise to make promises you might not be able to fulfill. I’m certain countless elected officials have found themselves humbled by their broken promises regardless of how well intended. Others, who come with personal and/or narrow minded agendas, not so much.

I listened carefully to Priseinger, Wilson and Griswold when they ran for office four years ago. None of them made promises they couldn’t keep. For example, they did not promise to lower property taxes, although for the city’s 2022 budget the current city commissioners approved a .66 mill decrease in property taxes and froze rates for sanitary sewer and trash service.

They have made significant progress toward achieving their campaign goals, including building trust among the city’s stakeholders so continued and measurable progress can be made on the challenges ahead. Indeed, they are all aware of the challenges facing the city’s governing body, and understand the importance of teamwork, leadership and ethics in getting results for Leavenworth. Finally, none of them have made new campaign promises they can’t possibly keep if reelected.

Although some would have you believe otherwise, all of our city commissioners are extremely conscientious stewards of our tax dollars. None are spendthrifts. They understand how budgets are formulated and have exercised effective budgetary oversight, as demonstrated by the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) awarding its highly coveted Distinguished Budget Presentation Award to the city of Leavenworth for its 2020 budget.

Halfway through their term, Wilson, Griswold and Priseinger worked tirelessly, along with Bauder and Leonhard, during the unprecedented circumstances of a pandemic, to address the health, safety and welfare of all Leavenworth citizens. In doing this they did not lose focus on the mission and goals they established for and with the city of Leavenworth.

While some have focused on dividing our community, this group of commissioners kept our city moving forward. For example, they crafted a unifying, achievable and forward looking vision for the city; developed a strategy known as Leavenworth 2030 First City, Future Forward 2030 Comprehensive Plan; hosted community meetings to provide input to this plan; encouraged aspiring artists to beautify our downtown; recognized achievements of individual citizens and organizations; encouraged and facilitated community growth and development; kept citizens informed utilizing an ongoing, constituent focused communication strategy; provided CARES Act grants for small business and community service organizations; set annual goals and approved the city’s annual operating and capital improvement budgets.

Every decision these elected public servants made was focused on improving the quality of life of Leavenworth citizens. I have listened to or attended 90% of the City Commission meetings over the last two years and have met with the commissioners and administrator on multiple occasions. In doing so, I have personally observed their ongoing commitment to our city’s future. Improvements are evident in a number of areas: significant economic development occurring in both the private and public sectors, a strategic road renovation program, a long overdue stormwater management program, significant upgrades to parks and demolishing unsafe and dilapidated residential properties.

Clearly, these positive changes over the past four years did not materialize out of thin air. They are in large part due to the experience (40 years of public service governance between Griswold, Preisinger and Wilson), hard work and dedication of our sitting city commissioners.

In sum, we don’t need a change. Most certainly not the type of change that promotes discord, dishonesty and divisiveness. We need to continue with the momentum we have. Please exercise your franchise during the upcoming election. Vote to reelect Griswold, Preisinger and Wilson for Leavenworth City Commission.