KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Overland Park mayoral race will come to a head during the primary election on Tuesday, Aug. 3.
For the first time since 2005, Mayor Carl Gerlach is not running for re-election.
Following the August primary, only the top two will advance to the Nov. 2 general election.
In anticipation of Tuesday, KSHB 41 News spoke with the four candidates: Curt Skoog, Dr. Faris Farassati, Clay Norkey and Mike Czinege.
Curt Skoog, current city council member for Ward 2 in Overland Park
Q: Why do you want to be mayor?
I've been on the city council for 16 years, and during that 16 years, I have developed an incredible passion for the city of Overland Park, and I want to be mayor to continue to move Overland Park forward.
Q: What do you think needs to be improved in the city of Overland Park?
Even though we have one of the highest-rated places to live, work and raise a family, there's still more work to do. We need to work on housing. We need to work on attainable housing. We need to work on building confidence in our police department. We need to continue to be the economic engine of the state of Kansas and grow high-quality paying jobs. That will continue to be my focus as mayor.
Q: Why should voters trust you to run the city?
Trust is something that you earn, not just something that you demand. In my time on the council, I have built trust with the community on delivering on the community's objectives. As mayor, you can look back to my track record of delivering success to our city and we will together build on that.
Q: Why are you the best person for this job?
I have a 16-year track record of moving our community forward. My track record started with the vision Metcalf process. When I knocked on doors the first time 16 years ago to run for council, I heard the same message I hear today, which is: "We love Overland Park. We love living in Overland Park." But 16 years ago, the next comment I heard from many people was, "I'm worried about my property value because of the aging strip centers in the Metcalf corridor." So when I was elected, I got support from the council and we completed the vision Metcalf process, which was re-imagining aging commercial properties along Metcalf.
Q: Is there anything you'd like to add?
As mayor, I will continue to move Overland Park forward in jobs, in neighborhoods, in education and in safety.
Dr. Faris Farassati, current city council member who moved to Overland Park about 13 years ago
Q: Why are you running for mayor?
I have had the pleasure of serving the people of Overland Park as a city councilman for four years now. In these four years, I've come to understand that the priorities of the government of Overland Park right now does not align with the priorities of the people of Overland Park.
The other thing is that I came to realize after talking to hundreds and thousands of people that they feel that their voice is not heard in City Hall the way it should be. They have concerns about the quality, they have concerns about development, the rate of development in Overland Park, they have concerns about a lot of other services, parks, facilities, public education and they feel like their voice is not being heard.
Q: If you become mayor, what is one of the first things you'd like to do and why?
If I am the mayor, the number one agenda I have is to put people's tax dollars back where they belong — public services and amenities — so the quality of life for the people of Overland Park can not only be maintained but be increased.
Q: What are you wanting to change in Overland Park?
People have concerns about affordable housing, people have concerns about taxes being given away to luxury apartments. So either we face these issues now or we will have significant challenges come our way. At the end of the day, this is a beautiful city, we all agree. But that doesn't mean we have to close our eyes.
Q: Is there anything that you'd like to add?
What I believe I bring to the table is a unique portfolio that I have been with the people. I listen to them. I know their priorities. And I will pursue it. Also, I have a plan — a plan that is based on research and on the voice of the people. And the last thing is that I have shown in the last four years that I am immune to the pressure of lobbyists and special interest groups. I hold to my line of fiduciary duty even if I am criticized for it. And I think they can trust me on that.
Clay Norkey, moved to Overland Park 22 years ago
Q: How do you think you can earn the trust of people who are going to vote?
Leadership is about service. I'm serving the people. I think I have an incredible track record of doing that, both at the church, through the Blue Valley Rec Commission, Bar Association president, HOA president, coaching kids. I mean, I've had — I haven't counted them all, but I'm sure it's well over 100 kids I've coached in my 12 years, probably well over 100 kids or more. And those families entrusted me with their kids. So that's kind of a track record I have and going forward, walking in and saying, "Hey, we're going to be transparent. We're going to be held accountable. If you guys want to come out and have a press conference and listen to me once a week, twice a week, every other week — then that's what we do."
We're going to have better public engagement, better communication and we're going to be out there engaging, and I think that's how you build trust. If they can see their leaders in action and they can trust — and when they make a mistake, that they're out there admitting it — and fixing it — I think that's how you build trust.
Q: Can you effectively guide the council with decisions in keeping better improvements and better quality of life for folks who live in the city?
By bringing in new businesses, new investments, entrepreneurs into the city and we build upon our business base, that will help give us a thriving economy. That brings in good jobs and that increases the tax base and takes the burden off individual homeowners. The better business is going, the better it's going to be for the tax base for the homeowners.
Q: What are some major agenda items that you want to see changed for the better for the city?
I think we need to make some changes in the way we approach our policing. Especially in the mental health context. You know, we've got the John Albers shooting that happened three and a half years ago, and we can't allow something like that to happen again. We need to rethink how we approach our responses to mental health crises. We need to look at that, you know? Is sending a police officer fully armed with a sidearm taser, bulletproof vest, is that the right approach for a teenager who's having a mental health issue? Probably not.
Q: Anything else you'd like to say to get someone to vote for you?
We are electing a new mayor for the first time in 16 years. This is an incredible opportunity to take us in a more positive direction so we can reject complacency, we can reject the status quo. Because those are not acceptable. It's also an opportunity to make sure we head in the right direction and not get detoured because we have the ability to be so much better than we are. And we're on a path — if we can move forward, we're going to be able to do great things, this is going to be an even better city, but we have to make sure we have that forward progress.
Mike Czinege, moved to Overland Park 30 years ago
Q: Why do you want to be the mayor of Overland Park?
I want to be the mayor of Overland Park because I don't like the way the city is going. I think the direction — it's a great place to live and work. I've raised three children here and have been here 30 years. But it's changing and it's changing fast. There's too much development going on with apartment complexes and apartment cities being developing all over the city, sometimes to the exclusion of single-family homes, which is what the city was founded on in 1961. And the apartment buildings — apartment cities — are bordering right next to single-family homes and neighborhoods. It's causing traffic congestion on city streets and at traffic lights, and it's over-crowding our schools. And I retired in January and just said, "It's time to do something about it."
Q: What have you talked about with people in the community, and what are their thoughts?
I meet with people and let them know, first of all, my name is Mike Czinege. I'm running for mayor. I'm a conservative, which means I want to restore the voice of the residents to the city. I want to stop the apartment development that's intruding on residential neighborhoods. I want to stop rising crime and support law enforcement and use tax subsidies effectively and not pay developers who want to put another apartment complex in and incentivize them with tax subsidies.
Q: What was it like 30 years ago compared to now?
One of the best things we can do to ensure affordability for the people that work here and want to live here is to continue to build homes. And if there are any incentives that we want to give to people, or developers, get them to build a wide variety of types of homes. Entry-level homes, modest price homes, luxury price homes, estate type homes — and have a good inventory available for the young people, the singles, and the young marrieds with the young kids who want to live here.
Q: Are there any other key points you want to focus on?
We need to make sure that we're supporting law enforcement, making sure we have enough funding to get the best officers possible. We need to make sure they're on the street protecting us, make sure that they have adequate training — because they're making life or death decisions in split decisions. It's not like a video game where you can just make a mistake and go on to the next game. And you don't have minutes to decide what you're going to do if someone's approaching another person with a knife.
Q: For those people who haven't met you, how would you sell them on yourself? What would you say?
I've never been in politics. I've never aspired to be in politics. But there are some issues that need to be addressed. I have 44 years of business experience being an executive in a variety of industries. I was the CIO at AMC Theaters here in Overland Park and Leawood for 17 years. I was the CIO at Applebee's for four years before that. I was partner for eight years before that. So I know how businesses are run. I've run — just in my departments, we've had budgets close to 100 million dollars each. And as a member of the executive committee at AMC Theaters, we managed budgets in the billions of dollars. And we did it effectively. I know how to manage a budget. I know how to make things work, and I know how to collaborate with people to get things done. That's the key to being a successful executive.