by Bill Bush
SEDGWICK—The City of Sedgwick has three four-year term positions up for election in November. The positions are currently held by Brenda DeHaven, Monty Leonard and Kirby Stucky. Seven people—Russ Banta, Brenda DeHaven, Mark Jacob, Dwight Kinzer, Joshua Liby, John Pittinger and Joseph Taylor—have registered to be on the ballot.
Three candidates for the city council spoke at the public forum Thursday at the elementary school multipurpose room.
Josh Liby is a lifelong resident of Sedgwick who said he enjoyed growing up in a small town with its closeness of the community. His dad served on the city council for 12 years. He said he runs a successful business in Newton and understands financial statements.
He said he didn’t have all the answers but wanted to work with other city leaders to help Sedgwick grow and prosper. He doesn’t think the city should use taxpayer money to buy land but instead should offer tax breaks to developers.
“Children are the future of the community, and we need that growth in our community to support the school,” Liby said. “We’ve invested a lot of money in the school. Our community needs to grow and thrive in order to maintain the school population. We need to fix the housing situation.”
He suggested the city council and board of education get together to discuss the issue.
He said the city needs a local EMS, and he looks forward to being a part of bringing back that service. He said it would take a lot of community support, and he doesn’t want to invest in one that’s doomed to fail.
Liby was concerned about the industrial park, calling it “about dead” and said the city needs to get something happening out there. He said the current council is working on downtown to bring in businesses and said the Moonlight Market brings in a big crowd every time.
He wants to make sure all citizens give feedback, whether he agrees with them or not. He suggested using Zoom for council meetings so people could ask questions.
“Hope to have the opportunity to serve the community,” Liby said.
Joseph Taylor is from Nebraska, but his wife is from Sedgwick, which is how he found himself moving to town 10 years ago. He has two children attending Sedgwick schools. He said everyone was welcoming, and he loves the atmosphere of the community.
He’s served on the library board for four years, helped with PTO fundraisers, and is currently a part-time police officer.
He said he doesn’t have an agenda but would like to put money back in the pockets of residents by lowering the mill levy.
“I’m not a big fan of taxes,” Taylor said. “Anywhere we can reduce the burden, I’m for it.”
He said he would like to see downtown revitalized more, the industrial park grow, and more housing brought to Sedgwick.
“That will also contribute to expenses in town with tax dollars, reduce everyone’s burden,” Taylor said. “If we can bring in more business, expand housing. With extra property taxes, it helps share the burden of expenses.”
He said if the sales tax passes and the city can use that money on streets, it would allow them to shift the budget.
“We can look to cut the budget without sacrificing services,” Taylor said.
He said the city may have to expand the city limits to find places for new housing.
Taylor said he has been a big proponent of getting sidewalk extensions for safe sidewalks. He would also like to see lights put on the walking paths from the highlands to Fourth Street.
He said he would love to see the EMS service return but said it would be a challenge to fund and staff. He pointed out that Sedgwick County struggles with staffing and Burrton is on the cusp of losing their service.
Mark Jacob grew up in Sedgwick and has served on the local planning commission, the tree board, the Harvey County Extension, and as an EMT for a few years. He sells insurance and is involved at Plymouth Congregational Church.
He said the city is on the right track and he wants to see continued growth, but not too fast. He thinks the city needs controlled, thoughtful growth and more housing.
When asked if anything could be done about the mill levy, Jacob said it would be nice to have a lower rate.
“We all want different things,” Jacob said. “We want these basic services and extra things, and we also want lower taxes. It’s a juggling act, and I’m not sure how to do it, but it’s a discussion we have to have.”
He said that Halstead’s downtown seems to be busier than Sedgwick’s, and he would like to see more improvements in the future.
He doesn’t know how it’s done but thinks the city needs to figure out a way to offer more opportunities for affordable housing.
When asked about the EMS service, Jacob said he would like to see it return to Sedgwick.
“We had it for so long,” Jacob said. “It’s expensive, and trying to get volunteers to help man it is difficult. Or even paid people. Not sure how to tackle, but all for it.”
If elected, Jacob said he would talk to people, work with the other council members to set priorities, and communicate with school leaders so they don’t double up on projects.