With the upcoming elections for City Commission and School Board, we wanted to take time to highlight each candidate in the race.
All candidates were sent a questionnaire to fill out and respond to and stated that their responses to those questions will be presented as sent to us with no editing.
Today, we highlight City Commission Candidate Maria Nelson.
Please tell about your background and qualifications for a position on the City Commission
Professionally, my background is in finance and accounting. I have been a Controller for the last five to eight years. I am currently completing requirements to be eligible to sit for the CPA exam beginning this fall. I believe that my financial acumen, and the way that I approach every decision logically and factually, is an important asset that I bring to the City Commission; so many of the Commission’s decisions surround funding and making sound business decisions with taxpayer money. I previously served on the Eudora City Council from 2007-2011 and definitely feel that having a strong financial sense is of utmost importance for this position.
As for my personal background, my family has lived in Eudora for going on ten years. We chose this community for it’s small-town feel; we wanted to move out of Johnson County (where we both grew up) and were drawn to Eudora as a safe, inviting place to grow our family. We fell in love with the community here, the incredible school district, and the rural hometown feel of the city.
Voters in this election will be asked if they want to raise the City sales tax by ¾ of a percent to help fund the Parks and Recreation Master Plan and other capital expenditures. If this passes, what specific needs would you recommend that money going towards?
I would want to stay tightly in line with the intent of the proposal, which means using the money to fund Parks and Recreation. When I was on the Council in 2011, we hosted multiple forums and sent out surveys on this topic of recreation growth – the response was overwhelming. The citizens want more parks. They want playground equipment. They want trails. They want to be outside with their families – safely. Senior citizens want to walk outside – safely. We still need a way to connect “the two sides” of our city so as to provide safe crossing. We have already made great strides toward meeting citizen demand, and the reality is that it is going to take more money to keep improving. That said, if we are given the gift of this money via a sales tax increase, I would stick solidly to keeping the money in the line its original intent – funding Parks and Recreation related activities.
Where do you feel the city is in regards to economic development and what would you do in regards to economic development in the future?
I feel like the City is in a slow but steady mode in regards to economic development, and we need to make sure not to take our foot off the pedal. I walked downtown recently on the weekend and visited all of the stores that were open on a Saturday morning – and quite honestly, they were bustling with activity. This is a big change for us, and an exciting one. We have not seen a sudden “burst” in activity – we’ve seen a slow and steady increase. However, there is more work to be done. The more we can bring new business into town (even if it’s a corporate-owned chain), the more it benefits the small businesses we already have thriving here as well. The more options that people have to shop near home, the more they grow used to doing so.
I think that we need to define what it means, as a City, to not take our foot off the pedal regarding economic development. We should identify specifically what we are doing to attract businesses here – and if they are choosing not to come, then why? Are there changes we can make that would make us more attractive to further development? Economic development is important to our community because it touches EVERYONE – more commercial options near home benefit all of us, and more businesses add more sales tax income – it all comes full circle in the end.
The most visible piece of land available for development is the property where the old Nottingham School and Laws Field currently sit. As a City Commissioner, what specifically would like to see done with this property?
I sat on several of the original meetings between the City and School Board regarding this property. Everyone worked together and designed a general “feel” (and drawings/mock-ups) for what the property should look like. Overall, I remember everyone seeming to be in agreement that the look of the space was very important to our city because in a way it is one of the first things you see when you enter our community. Right now, having Laws Field there makes a statement. We see soccer practice going on, people running on the track, kids flying down the water slide at the pool – that is Eudora. That is our community. Active, vibrant, healthy. The new development should be something that encompasses this feel, and the size of the property gives us the opportunity to accomplish multiple goals (business development alongside a walking path and inviting entrance). I have not stayed closely enough in the loop on this project to know if we have diverted from this line of thought for the property; however, I do remember the original meetings and I still think that a multi-use property should be a top priority.
What other issues do you think are important that the City Commission should look at?
Other issues that I believe are very important for the City Commission include long-term planning for the less glamorous items. Of course we all want more parks, and more businesses in town. But we all EXPECT water to come out of our faucets, and we kind of expect to not pop a tire pulling into our driveway. However – replacement of the aging water pipe system throughout the city, and eventual updating of our streets (i.e. moving away from chip and seal) – aren’t things the average citizen wants to think about. They just want them to work. The City Commission, however, must think about them. I want to review costs on these big-ticket items and see what our replacement schedule looks like – and make sure we are planning for the future.
Why do you want to sit on the City Commission?
For me, serving on City Commission is a consistent and constant way to give back to the community. It is definitely difficult at times, but it is rewarding. Things do not move quickly within a City, I understand that – but you can make an impact. There have been numerous agendas and ideas that I remember moving through Council when I was on it previously, and over the last four years since my departure many of the ideas we discussed have slowly come to fruition. Serving on a City Commission is about being present in the moment, making sound unbiased decisions, and having good intentions. I believe that I have a lot to add to the Commission and I would be excited to serve the community again.