To give voters a chance to know the five candidates a little better before the public forum — or for those who cannot attend Tuesday night’s event — The Herald asked each candidate to share a little about themselves and why they are running.
Incumbents Linda Reed and Jeff Richards and challengers Rocky Fleer, Helen Hood and Mike Skidmore are squaring off for the three openings on the commission. Longtime commissioner and five-time mayor Gene Ramsey did not seek re-election. Ramsey has served on the commission since 1994.
Here, in alphabetical order, are the candidates’ responses to The Herald’s questions.
NAME: Raquel “Rocky” Fleer
FAMILY: Single and have two grown sons, five grandkids and two great-grandkids.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU LIVED IN OTTAWA? 33 years.
WHAT WOULD MAKE OTTAWA BETTER? Lower mill levies and sales tax and better streets.
REASON FOR RUNNING: Committed to the betterment of our community and citizens.
KEY PLATFORM: I want to be the voice of the people and make decisions that are best for the citizens and city staff.
NAME: Helen Hood
FAMILY: Married to David Hood. I have two daughters: RaJeanna and husband, Rod Barnhart, and MaLinda and husband, Shane Manis. I have three granddaughters, one grandson and two great-grandsons.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU LIVED IN OTTAWA? I have lived in Ottawa for 48 years and have been a Franklin County resident all my life.
WHAT MAKES OTTAWA A GREAT CITY? Ottawa is a great place to raise a family, retire and get involved with the small town community. The employment opportunities are endless for those of all ages and backgrounds.
WHAT WOULD MAKE OTTAWA BETTER? I believe more economic development is needed to broaden the population diversity. I also believe we should continue to get our youth involved in the community with their families.
REASON FOR RUNNING: I am running because I have a passion for our community and maintaining the small town we raised our family in. To keep Ottawa a safe and fun place and continue to prosper. I believe in working with all the entities of Ottawa, side by side, I can make a difference. I believe it takes a village of concerned and active citizens to help Ottawa prosper.
KEY PLATFORM: Work with the community and fellow city commissioners to organize and implement a citywide neighborhood watch program. I also agree with the development of the dog park and playground areas in our community. I am also in agreement to have a study for pay comparisons for City of Ottawa employees.
LIFE PHILOSOPHY: My life philosophy is much like the U.S. Navy’s motto: “Honor, Courage and Commitment.” Be honest, be courageous and always be committed.
NAME: Linda Reed
FAMILY: Husband of 30 years, Louis Reed. Two married daughters, two sons (one in high school and one at K-State), four grandchildren.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU LIVED IN OTTAWA? We have lived in Ottawa for 21 years, but I was actually born in Ottawa and raised in Pomona before living away for many years.
WHAT MAKES OTTAWA A GREAT CITY? The people! The quality of life in Ottawa is first and foremost the best thing about the city. It is a fantastic place to raise a family as well. The proximity to larger city amenities, but the small town atmosphere in Ottawa gives you the best of both worlds. It truly is a great place to live, to work, and to play in!
WHAT WOULD MAKE OTTAWA BETTER? I believe that the involvement of more people and their ideas and opinions would make the city better. We need continued improvements in our sidewalks and streets. We need to maintain an affordable cost of living in our city.
REASON FOR RUNNING: I am running for re-election because I feel that I’ve learned a lot in the five years I’ve served on the commission, and I want to continue to make use of what I’ve learned to better serve the citizens of Ottawa. I consider myself as a “return on investment” for the people who live in Ottawa. I believe that the community has invested in me through training, education and five years of experience on the commission. I want to pay some of that investment back to the community by continuing to serve. Most of all, I want to work to continue improvements in our community by serving with the rest of the commissioners and city staff.
KEY PLATFORM: To keep Ottawa an affordable place to live, while continuing to find ways to continue improving our quality of life in Ottawa.
LIFE PHILOSOPHY: I believe that it is important for a person to follow their heart. For me that means to stay true to my faith and my conscience. I believe it is important to make sure that I treat all persons with respect and dignity. My philosophy is that every mistake that we make is another opportunity to improve. As long as we continue to hold true to our convictions, we can make a difference in the lives of others.
NAME: Jeff Richards
FAMILY: Michelle and I have three sons and one daughter, all living at home and attending middle and elementary schools.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU LIVED IN OTTAWA? We moved to Ottawa in 2000.
WHAT MAKES OTTAWA A GREAT CITY? I love the small-town feel of Ottawa. We have a lot of the amenities of a larger city, and we are close enough to get to the bigger cities if needed. Our parks, programs, medical facilities, recreation opportunities, etc. add a lot to our quality of life.
WHAT WOULD MAKE OTTAWA BETTER? I would like to see our cost of living (taxes) be lower. I would also like to see more “better” paying jobs.
REASON FOR RUNNING: I am running for re-election because I want to help make a positive difference in my community. I have never thought that doing things just because “that’s the way we’ve always done it” makes sense. Sometimes the way we are doing things may be the best way. However, helping to find better ways, and often less expensive ways, to do things is very rewarding.
KEY PLATFORM: I am a strong supporter of open and responsible government, and being a responsible steward of tax dollars. I think we need to continue to add and improve our sidewalks and parks. I want to see all of our city streets paved. We can do these things only when there is money to pay for it. This can happen if we have a strong and stable economic environment. The city government can help foster this environment through our tax policy and sensible regulations. Having clear and certain policies in place is a major factor in recruiting and growing businesses.
LIFE PHILOSOPHY: As a Christian, I am guided by my faith. As a citizen, and elected official, I look to our Founders and our founding documents as a guideline. As an Air Force veteran I still follow the USAF motto: “Integrity first, Service before self, Excellence in all we do.” I think all of these complement each other well and give me a strong foundation.
NAME: Michael Ben Skidmore
FAMILY: Married to my wife, Marilee, for 33 years. Three grown children, a son-in-law and newborn granddaughter.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU LIVED IN OTTAWA? I grew up in Ottawa, so I spent the first 18 years of my life here, and then went to KSU for four years. We lived in central Kansas for 17 years, then moved back here in 1995 and have been here since.
WHAT MAKES OTTAWA A GREAT CITY? It’s the people. Just like a church is made up of the people, and not the building or the name on the door, it’s about the people. We have some extraordinary citizens in critical leadership positions in this town, both private and public. We’re not perfect, and when issues arise, we have the right people in the right places to provide the leadership to get through the rough patches. I also like the idea that we have the “small town feel, but bigger city appeal,” as the Chamber has promoted. We have most of the amenities of a larger city, yet the safety and security of a small town. Ottawa is not only a great place to raise a family, but now Money Magazine tells us what we already knew — and that is we are a great place to retire, too.
WHAT WOULD MAKE OTTAWA BETTER? First of all, I think our current city commission is doing a great job of providing the leadership we need with carefully weighed decisions. We are also blessed with exceptional city department heads in their respective roles. To decide on this side of the election what could make it better is difficult to say, but if there is one thing on which I will focus if elected is to better market what we have here. I will push for more economic development, which in turn provides better and higher paying jobs for not only our citizens, but also those who will be moving here in the future. We are at a very positive and strategic geographical location, and we need to better market that gift to those that don’t know the advantages of living and working here.
REASON FOR RUNNING: I have considered running for several years and after listening to the advice of others, I decided it was time. With my experience in both managing people and money for many years, I feel this position would allow me to work with the other commissioners in helping to shape the future of Ottawa. I believe in efficient and effective city government. I am ever watchful for waste in spending, and would be assertive in getting the most benefit out of each tax dollar invested in Ottawa.
KEY PLATFORM: Measured growth without sacrificing our identity.
LIFE PHILOSOPHY: God is first, my family and friends are second, and I am third.
Profiles of the six Ottawa school board candidates are planned for Tuesday’s Herald.