ARMA — With the November election approaching, candidates for Arma City Council have weighed in on their reasons for running in response to inquiries from the Morning Sun.
Candidates who are not currently on the council who are running this year include Carma Burns, Melesia "Lissa" Rhodes, Rob Lessen, Kelli Mengarelli, Shawn Moss, Ken Harryman, and Dave Ashmore.
Carma Burns wrote in an email that she decided to run because due diligence was not being used prior to some council members making accusations about elected and non-elected personnel, leading to animosity between the governing body and employees.
“There are times where the ‘buddy system’ is used and I personally do not believe it was in the best interest of the City,” she wrote.
“I have no personal agenda. I simply want to offer the City of Arma the option to have a council member that will not make decisions based on the ‘buddy system,’” Burns wrote, adding that she believes in researching before forming an opinion and remaining open to hearing multiple opinions or ideas on any issue. Her only priority, Burns wrote, is to “do what I feel is best for our community.”
Lessen also discussed his reasons for running.
“I decided to run for Arma City Council because I see a need for my skill set of running a successful business in our small town,” he wrote. “We must continue to look at savings while providing the services that the citizens have come to expect. I hope to continue to improve and expand the parks so young families can enjoy them as I did growing up here. I would like to leverage our relationship with the schools to do that. My priority will be to listen to the citizens and be their representation on the council.”
Mengarelli said she decided to run for council because she loves living in Arma.
“I want to take an active role in its development and its government,” she wrote, adding that she hopes to bring a sense “of honesty, integrity, and common sense that is focused on the whole with respect for all the parts.”
He priorities if elected will be “to remain focused on the future and where this community can grow while maintaining the respect and appreciation for where we have been,” Mengarelli wrote.
Ken Harryman noted that he is a lifelong Arma resident.
“I began attending the city council meetings about a year and a half ago and have since become interested in serving the people of Arma,” he wrote. “I originally began attending the meetings due to the misuse of city equipment and have become concerned about other issues as well.”
Harryman wrote that he feels saving money to fund further infrastructure repairs and upgrades should be a priority for the city, and he also wants to keep the mill levy and taxes from being increased as well as putting a stop to the annual 2.5 percent utility increase. “I would like to see the city apply for and receive grants to help fund swimming pool renovations and for purchasing of city vehicles and equipment,” Harryman wrote. “I will work to promote growth, serve the interests of all citizens, and take an active part in the running of city government.”
Shawn Moss also weighed in on his reasons for running.
“I decided to run as I feel it’s a great way to give back to a community that I’ve known since I was a child,” he wrote, adding that a large portion of his family have been part of the Arma community at various times.
“It has changed vastly since I was a child in both good and bad ways,” Moss wrote, adding that he would like to be part of making changes for the better.
Moss would also like to see some policies change, he said, “such as our mandatory annual increases that have been in effect for around ten years on our water and sewer alongside many, many voted in increases.”
Lissa Rhodes wrote that she approached the city council two years ago because of concerns about the city’s approach to economic issues.
“After I voiced these concerns, the city leaders asked if I would assist in economic development,” Rhodes wrote. “Arma Economic Development (AED) came out of this meeting.”
Over the last two years, as leader of AED, Rhodes has represented Arma on the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and on the Highway 69 Association, she wrote. AED has led the Scholastic Book Challenge, which provides books to USD 246 students, as well as working to bring a grocery store to Arma.
“There is a great need for grocery stores in rural areas and AED was instrumental in raising awareness of area food deserts, especially the areas of northeast Crawford County,” Rhodes wrote. “Northeast Crawford County has been designated a Federal Opportunity Zone due to the work of AED. This will lead to economic investment in this area. AED represented Arma at the National Rural Grocery Summit and Kansas Dept. of Commerce Rural Opportunities Conference. Recently AED has organized a Lunch and Learn Series for local businesses.”
Rhodes wrote that she hopes to achieve growth and sustainability for Arma.
“Geographically, Arma is in a terrific location,” she wrote. “We are ten miles from a state university, an hour and fifteen minutes from Johnson County, and we will soon be on a four-lane expressway. We are poised for growth, but we must be in a position to use this to our advantage. There is a national and state interest in rural community growth and sustainability. We must work with Representatives Monica Murnan and Ken Collins, who are members of the Kansas Rural Revitalization Committee. We have this help right in our own backyards.”
Rhodes “would like to see the community grow, just a bit, to be able to support services that we need, such as a grocery store and a community fitness center,” she wrote. “I would like to see new homes, and new businesses, small and large. I would like to see the property tax base increase, so I don’t have to watch my utilities raise annually. I would like to see a city government that is proactive and leverage all of the resources available. I want to see a city government that aggressively courts businesses to come to our community and provides incentives for new and existing businesses.”
Dave Ashmore could not be reached for comment.
Current council members who are running for re-election or for their first election since being appointed to a vacant council seat include Travis Wood, Dick Cleland and Scott Popejoy.
Wood noted that he was born and raised in Arma and has an appreciation for the community.
“Arma is a great place to live and raise a family. I want to be involved in the decisions that shape the city’s future, therefore that is why I have decided to run for City Council,” he wrote.
“Currently I am serving on Arma’s City Council due to a previous member’s resignation. I have been assigned to look over Parks and Recreation.”
Wood wrote that he has been in contact with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism and is looking to apply for grants to improve disabled access and install a fountain at the city’s pond, which will help with algae issues at the pond. “I would also like to look into possibly building or refurbishing our pool with a splash pad as well in the near future,” Wood wrote. “I enjoy serving our community and I feel that I bring new ideas to the table and I look at all solutions before I make a decision.”
Cleland is running for re-election “to continue my work of supporting the citizens and cleaning up the town,” he said. “My goal is to make sure the city runs efficiently and that we follow the ordinances and uphold the laws. I also want to make sure the city is fiscally sound.”
Popejoy also discussed his reasons for running for re-election. In addition to city council, “I have held many leadership positions during my residency in Arma, from the Boy Scouts of America, where I served as Cubmaster, to President of Arma Recreation, and the City of Arma Zoning Board, where I served as chairman for many years,” he wrote.
“Arma is going to be facing two very large projects in the not so distant future,” Popejoy wrote. “I would call these legacy projects, because they will affect the city for generations to come. The first is the US 69 highway expansion, this project will bring many financial opportunities to the city. I would welcome the chance to work with companies looking to expand into Arma.”
The second major project, Popejoy wrote, is rebuilding the city’s power substation.
“The current substation is nearing the end of its useful life and needs to be replaced,” he wrote. “This new substation will provide the city reliable electrical service for many years to come. I have worked with other wholesale energy providers to bring cost savings to the city. These cost savings will be used to help offset the cost for the upgrade to the substation, without having to rely on tax increases. All the while, there are still the recurring projects that the city must face, including street paving, infrastructure upgrades, and park improvements. I feel that I have the leadership skills and experience to complete these tasks for the citizens of Arma.”