Candidates for elected offices within the Girard community shared their thoughts and ideas during a panel discussion Tuesday evening at Girard High School.
Two candidates each for the positions of mayor, council ward 1, council ward 3 and one of the positions on the USD 248 Board of Education, as well as one unopposed board of education candidate, spoke to those who attended.
The Girard Chamber of Commerce organized the event, during which each candidate was asked general questions and questions specific to the position for which he or she ran, and each had two minutes to answer.
“The Girard Chamber is hopeful all voters will be able to make better-informed decisions,” said Julie Smith, of the Girard Chamber.
All answers are printed in the order they were given.
Danny Murray said he is running for the council ward 3 position and was born and raised in Girard, then pursued a career in the service and several academic degrees before returning to Girard, where he is involved in a number of service organizations.
Elizabeth Galindo is running for the council ward 3 position and graduated from Girard High School and has studied at Fort Scott Community College and Pittsburg State University. She works for the Crawford County Register of Deeds.
Sandra Hallacy is running for the council ward 1 position and has been a resident of Girard for 51 years, where her husband worked as a mailman for 36 years. She worked at Girard Medical Center and now volunteers through several organizations.
Susan Thom is running for re-election to the council ward 1 position and is a lifelong resident of Girard. She said she is an active volunteer and wants to continue to be involved in the strategic work in the community.
Kurt Ziegler is running for mayor and has worked for the city. During his introduction he asked those present to say the pledge of allegiance with him.
Maurice Harley is running for re-election as mayor and said when he was growing up in McCune, Girard seemed like the big city, but that it has been a very nice place for himself and his family. He has served as mayor for eight years and on the council for 10.
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Tony Stonerock is unopposed for his position on the board of education and said he is a lifelong resident who attended PSU and has worked at a couple of the local banks.
Beth Murphy is one of two candidates running for one of the seats on the board of education, and said she has lived in Girard for 12 years, works at Heartland Propane and desires to be an example to her peers by becoming more involved.
Jim Mengarelli is running for re-election and is one of two candidates running for one of the seats on the board of education. He is a lifelong resident of Girard, raised his children in the community and praised it for what it has given his family.
Each candidate was asked about public service experience and to describe personal qualities that will assist with the job.
“I think it would be a great role for me, working with the public, to be on the city council,” Galindo said.
Hallacy said she had served on the council for nine years.
“I feel that makes me a well-qualified, experienced candidate,” she said.
She said she would like to continue unfinished business that was started when she was on the council.
Thom said council service is the most complicated position she has ever done, but that it is very rewarding.
“I love this town and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to move us forward and get us ready for the future,” she said.
Ziegler said he has worked for the city on a couple occasions and knows the good and bad of the inner workings.
“As the employee of the city, it’s given me an inside view of the city,” he said. “It’s a great town. I would like to be mayor.”
Harley said he has been mayor for two terms, in addition to serving on the Bone Creek board and chamber.
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He sad his work processing insurance claims and said it helps his ability to be patient and disciplined.
“I think the most important thing to be mayor is to be able to provide vision into the future,” Harley said.
Stonerock said banking in rural America has helped prepare him, as have many other years of service on several other boards.
Murphy said she began doing community service as a Girl Scout and has attended meetings of the board of education throughout the year.
“My personal goal is to get more involved,” she said. “I hope I can serve my community more every year.”
Mengarelli said he was the student body president at Girard High School and has served on many other boards since, and that service has given the ability to listen and make sound decisions.
Murray said he has no public service experience other than the military, but considers himself honest, approachable, straight-forward and someone who uses common sense.
The next question was directed to school board candidates and asked what the most difficult issue is for USD 248.
Stonerock said funding, adding that the district has many great plans, but that much of the ability to see them through hinges on money.
Murphy said implementation of the district’s strategic plan.
“That’s going to be the hard part and is definitely an issue,” she said.
Mengarelli said funding and keeping good legislators in Topeka so they can ensure education receives what it needs.
Mayoral candidates were asked about their approach to help other city leaders prioritize goals and activities.
Harley said the city has a plan identifying long-term priorities which is reviewed annually.
Page 4 of 6 - “The mayor is to set the vision and to work with the council,” he said. “It is the work of the mayor to make sure they build a cohesive group within the council.”
Ziegler said city employees often will bring projects to the council that turn into a wish list, and there are many topics that could be addressed.
He said he would like to help influence the council to embrace some of the city’s assets.
Council candidates were asked to describe the mechanisms they would support for attracting new businesses.
Thom said she would love to see a large business come to town with jobs, and she said infrastructure work would help create a base on which to grow.
“We’re a beautiful community and we have a lot to offer,” she added.
Hallacy said the community needs to consider how to support and help fill the needs of its small businesses, including having civic groups step up to help.
“I simply want to serve our community in the best way I can,” she said.
Galindo said the community needs to look at what incentives it could offer.
Murray said he supports looking at tax breaks and a variety of other mechanisms as ways to help businesses in town that are struggling.
Mayoral candidates were asked how they would represent Girard in county or regional economic development affairs.
Ziegler said that is his weak spot as he has spent more time focusing on the city of Girard, but that he would learn if elected.
Harley said he would make himself available and work to learn the relationships and to keep open lines of communication.
USD candidates were asked to name the district’s greatest asset.
Page 5 of 6 - “People,” Mengarelli said. He said a district is nothing without its people and community.
“Staff,” Murphy said, adding that the quality and drive of the teachers and leadership help to form what is valuable at the school.
“1,100 students,” Stonerock said. “That’s the crown jewel of our district.”
City candidates were asked for their thoughts on the city’s involvement in the development of a community recreation center.
“The best thing the city could do is provide a safe place for the kids to play,” Murray said.
“We do need stuff for the kids,” Galindo said, adding that a community center could be a valuable resource for the use of many in Girard.
“The role we’re going to have to play as a city is to provide a place of activity to the kids, but that is very difficult thing to do,” Hallacy said.
She added that funding could be an issue and the community would need to offer more suggestions and insight.
Thom said the issue would almost need to be put to a vote to ensure the council was acting according to a community directive.
“It’s just a very complicated subject,” she said, adding that the current council is in favor and is trying to figure out the next step.
The candidates all then were asked to describe their visions for the offices they are seeking.
Harley said Girard is “a great place to call home” and the council needs to focus on quality of life issues and the vision of a cooperative city and school.
He said economic development and other efforts will help that vision as the city seeks to move forward.
Ziegler said he is proud of the students at the schools and wants to help maintain a healthy, living town where families can afford to live and the town can grow and prosper. He said the utility rates are a tough topic that will need addressed.
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Thom said the council needs to continue what has begun and to work toward a positive outlook within Girard.
“We have so many things happening and we do have a lot to offer,” she said.
Hallacy said moving forward is important, including viewing the city and school as large businesses that have a great deal of influence.
Galindo said she sees a community that gets together to build a future and does things in a timely manner, taking into consideration the positives and negatives.
Murray said education is the key to the community’s survival and he would like Girard to look at how to make its students want to return.
Stonerock said USD 248 has been a school of choice in the area and the district needs to continue at that standard, including partnering with the community and with smaller communities to plan how it will continue to improve.
Murphy said she sees schools that will continue as leaders.
“As long as we continue striving for excellence, we’ll get anywhere we want to go,” she said.
Mengarelli said he sees a number of small things being taken into account, but also a broad picture of a safe environment where parents want to send their children and teachers create exciting educational opportunities so the students can succeed in life.