Eudora News and Information – www.eudorareporter.com
Over the coming days we plan on bringing you profiles of the candidates for both Eudora City Council and the Eudora School Board. We sent out a questionnaire to all candidates and asked them the exact same questions. Their responses to the questions will be printed verbatim. This is opportunity for you, the reader, to see not only their responses but how they respond. The questions in the survey came from both editorial board decisions and reader input.
The next candidate to be profiled is John Fiore.
Mr. Fiore, please tell about your background.
I was born in the small town of Indianola Iowa, my family moved to Corpus Christi Texas when I was 7, and landed in Topeka when I was 13. After attending K-State, I found my way to Lawrence and in 2001 took a job at Sunflower Broadband. Within a year, I moved from a residential sales rep to a Business Account Manager, and worked my way up to Business Services Manager. Through Sunflower, I had the opportunity to join several area Chambers of Commerce, and quickly found that Eudora was my favorite of the small towns we served. I became President of the Eudora Chamber of Commerce in 2007, and moved here that same year. My wife Jennifer and I have been married for over 10 years, she graduated from KU and is a hospice music therapist. We have two wonderful children; Miranda is 3 years old, and Jackson, who was born December 16th.
What qualifications do you have for a seat on the City Council?
I bring a combination of knowledge and experience in business management. I graduated from Baker University with my Masters in Business Administration (MBA) last year with a 4.0 GPA. While attending classes, I was able to take the education straight from the classroom and apply it in my role as the Business Services Manager at Sunflower Broadband. In my 9 years working with the Business team at Sunflower (now Knology) I have helped expand the department from a few hundred business accounts to over 2,400, achieving over a 60% penetration in the service area.
Personally, my decision making skills are based on collecting as much information as possible, then applying logic to reach the best conclusion. I strongly believe in working to build teams and consensus through open and active discussion, and specialize in approaching problems from multiple angles to find creative solutions. Finally, I am guided by strong personal ethics and will be an excellent representative for the City of Eudora.
What do you think is the most important issue that faces the City Council?
The most important issue our city faces is climbing utility rates. Recent rate increases by Westar Energy and the ongoing lawsuit with RWD 5 have the potential to increase our utility rates significantly. Keeping rates low while replacing aging infrastructure is a challenge we need to prepare for both short and long term. Settling the Rural Water District lawsuit should be a priority so we can encourage growth to the south that is currently being hindered by the uncertainty of this situation. Settling this lawsuit without significant negative consequences is another of our most difficult challenges.
How would you help improve the city budget?
The Mayor, Council, and Mr. Harrenstein have worked diligently to trim 15% off last year’s expenditures, and while further efficiencies may be found, I would not recommend eliminating additional positions. Our city services have already been asked to make significant cuts, and the key to improving the budget should be by increasing revenue. This can be accomplished both short term and more importantly long term without raising taxes or utility rates beyond the amount necessary to cover our wholesale costs. Short term I recommend looking into increasing use fees to help departments become more self sufficient. Some areas that should be assessed are municipal court costs and facilities rental fees. I also believe we have opportunities to offer more programs and activities at our rec center that could benefit the community and operate at a profit. Long term stability is accomplished through increasing the tax base through economic development, which will be discussed in more detail below.
Many citizens complain about the water quality in the city. Do you have ideas on how to improve the water conditions?
The steps already taken by the current administration to improve water quality should not be dismissed, but we still have a long way to go. Improving water quality to a point where water softeners became a luxury instead of a necessity would require a significant investment to improve our current facilities, which should be incorporated into long term budget planning. Any opportunity for grants or stimulus funding in the future that would help fund such a project should be pursued. In the short term, we should look into the possibility of a partnership with the City and a dealer that can provide discounted or perhaps even subsidized water softener installations.
Many citizens feel taxes and utility costs are high. What are your opinions on taxes and utility costs?
I’ve never heard someone complain that their taxes are too low, including myself! The key to lowering taxes and utilities is by spreading the burden across a larger cross section of businesses and rooftops throughout the city.
What ideas do you have to increases businesses and jobs in Eudora?
The Economic Development Coordinator position that the City is hiring is a great first step. I recommend that person works as a team with the new Chamber President Susie Pryor and the resources Douglas County has to offer, including Beth Johnson, VP of Economic Development, and Will Katz, Regional Director of the KU Small Business Development Center. Both have attended Eudora Chamber of Commerce meetings in the past and offered their resources and support.
Also, the City worked with BWR to create an economic development plan that provides a road map that should be followed to grow the three key areas identified for commercial development. I will keep focused on this plan and guiding the growth that would bring the best return on our investment. To aid these efforts, I recommend the active identification and recruitment of established businesses looking to relocate that would be a good fit for our community.
What other issues do you feel are important to the City Council?
Continued focus should be given to preserving and improving the downtown area, including working with the school district to develop and execute a plan for their adjacent properties. Another major concern is not having an adequate sidewalk system along 10th St. and Church Street to connect our schools with our neighborhoods, including the lack of a pedestrian K-10 crossing.
Why do you want to sit on the City Council?
I believe Eudora is about to begin a period of significant growth, and feel my business background can help successfully guide us through this period. We have some great public servants on the council, and I think I can add some diverse knowledge to the group. I have always appreciated those who are willing to serve their community. I look forward to the opportunity serve, and also to learn from the citizens of Eudora and those I serve with.
We will be bringing you the responses from all the candidates over the coming days and week leading up to the election. You will have the opportunity to meet the candidates face to face on March 23rd when The Eudora Chamber of Commerce and Eudorareporter.com co-sponsor our “Meet the Candidates” forum. The forum will begin at 6:30PM. For more information about the forum you can click on this link: http://www.eudorareporter.com/eudora-news-meet-the-candidates/. Election day is Tuesday, April 5th.