February 12, 2016

Gardner council candidates discuss issues at final debate

Amy Cunningham

At the final forum before the election, seven of the eight candidates vying for three spots on the Gardner City Council had a chance to convince voters why they would be the right choice for the job.  Candidate Dustin Martin was unable to attend the forum due to a death in the family.

Candidates were each given three minutes at the beginning of the evening to speak to attendees on why they would be the best person to put into office.  Following opening speeches, Steve Devore, president of the Gardner  Area Chamber, presided over a question and answer period.

Candidate Chris Morrow said that he was honored to be running for the City Council and that his experience and temperament made him an ideal candidate.  He said that addressing the city’s budget shortfall would be best absorbed by making across the board cuts to different departments of 1 percent or less.

“(We) need to work with city staff and different department directors…to make cuts with a minimal amount of pain while sharing the (burden),” he explained.

Candidate Dennis Pugh said that serving on the council would be a great way for him to give back to the community.

“I have no special agenda and no outlining thoughts on any big change,” he said.
Pugh said that, while making cuts to city services and raising taxes is no fun, due to the recession our city is in a similar position to many cities across the country.

“You can’t cut police and you can’t cut fire. Where does that leave you?” he wondered.  “You may have to cut services.”

Pugh also pointed out that city staff has undergone a two year pay freeze, implemented when he served a three month stint on the council as an appointee from former mayor Carol Lehman.

Candidate Tory Roberts, currently serving on the planning commission and board of zoning appeals, said that she has loved living in Gardner for the past seven years.  She said that the city has given her a great place to live, work and play and she would like to see it return to that atmosphere.

Roberts said that the council may have to get creative when looking for areas to save money.

“We should look for creative ways to meet the shortfall without raising taxes,” she explained, suggesting a possible reduction in the city’s workforce, job furloughs, creative cross-training amongst the workforce and implementing one mandatory unpaid day off per month for employees.

Candidate Bill Sutton joked that as a member of the Knights of Columbus he had most likely made funnel cakes for everyone attending the forum.  He commended city staff for reducing the projected budget shortfall from $300,000 to $72,000 and doing so with the housing market bust in a city where 85 percent of revenues come from property taxes.

“If we did have to reduce the budget I would look at individual departments to see where we could trim the fat,” he said.

Candidate Jared Taylor said that he wanted to make Gardner a sustainable, responsible city and he hoped to bring a common sense approach to the council.

He said that, while the budget was brought under control, that the council must remain engaged to find further cuts.

“I don’t believe in sacred cows and I believe we should be doing all we can,” he explained.  “There may be additional cuts.”

Taylor also said the city should set realistic expectations and make sure everyone is informed.

“We have to be honest and open to what is going on,” he said.  “(We’re) trying to decrease expenditures, citizens have to be involved.”

Candidate Jeff Barber has spent 11 years living in Gardner and said that the city’s current debt situation spurred him to run for a seat on the council.

“I don’t feel we have a current watchdog,” he stated.

Barber said a recent ride along with the Gardner Police Department was eye opening for him, mentioning that the department relies on computer hand-me-downs from the city and that, he believes, some of the staff volunteer their time, working several hours per month for free.  He said even though the parks and recreation services received an 89 percent approval rating on a citizen survey. That is one area he would consider making cuts.

Candidate Larry Fotovitch moved his family to Gardner  in 1998 to raise his children in a small town atmosphere.  He believes his background in journalism trained him to ask important questions, his experience in finance would make him ideal for examining the city’s finances and his leadership serving in the U.S. Navy as a helicopter pilot would assist him in a role on the council.

Fotovitch explained that, in any organization employees represent around 70 percent of the overhead.  He said that in Gardner the employees represent 75 percent of the expense. One way to trim the budget, Fotovitch stated, would be to require the employees to shift from traditional insurance to health savings accounts.

“Requiring employees to use health savings accounts would save around $296,000,” Fotovitch said.

The remainder of the candidate forum was videotaped and will be viewable on the Gardner News website as soon as it is available.  The election will be held on April 5.


  1. Only one candidate gave a specific way to cut expenses. The rest gave the good ole vague, political answers.

  2. Yeah, that was a good plan, take away healthcare benefits. Fine words coming from a guy whose benefits and family income come from the school district who has had employee raises every year.

  3. Steve, you continue to tell the lies – no one is taking anything from anyone. All employees, whether it be city, county, state, private or whatever better be coming up with ways to save money and cut costs and to work smarter or none of the people will have jobs. You can sling the hate or you can help in solving problems and I know what you will be offering as you always have and it is not something that will help the citizens but more of the crud that tears a community apart.

  4. Kansans for Life Endorse Bill Sutton, Recommend Dennis Pugh, Oppose Jeff Barber and do not support any other candidates. They say vote for a non supported candidate before you vote for an opposed candidate. Looking at the non supported the only one that is negative is Larry Fotovich.

  5. Citizens should be looking for decent candidates for City Council and not bringing social issues such as abortion into the fray – Sutton is more like a class clown than a serious candidate who has the knowledge and vision and one who won’t go along to get along but actually working for the people. Pretty much the same goes for Taylor and Pugh – I know I will get the same ole cronyism government from those two while involving themselves in lies and hate and they both would rather not meet the campaign finance laws but have to be slammed against the wall to meet the law – why would I want those two in my city government with the example and standard they have shown?????

    I am not wanting some more of the good ole boys club who will be working for the thieves – I would like to see someone representing the average citizen for a change so they don’t end up like Ace Hardwarde having to claim bankruptcy or Austin’s who have to deal with an asinine Planning Commission who can’t see the forest for the trees or the average citizen who is always looked upon only as an ATM machine while being forced to take care of the takers.

  6. GardnerPride says:

    Judith, do you just copy and paste each of these replies? You’ve said the same thing at least 3 times on every single news article. We get it.

  7. Carol Peterson says:

    I second GardnerPrides last comment. Judith / JJ / Pandizinger (whatever name you choose to use), you make some good comments and then always have to slander someone, make unkind comments and act like you are the only one who is permitted to have an opinion. You need to grow up, come to some meetings, take part in the running of your city and not hide behind your computer. I know youve mentioned being disabled, but I remember Mr. Kellog saying he would be more than happy to pick you up and take you to a meeting and return you home. But no, you don’t want to do that. You want to stay at home and make these unkind comments to people who are tying to make the city better.

  8. Well, Carol Peterson, if anyone is slinging the slander it is YOU and people like you. Why in the Sam Hill would I want to go to a City Hall meeting when the city won’t even make arrangements for my disability in advance of the meeting like they say they will do on their website and why would I want to go to a City meeting when I communicate with these jerks time and time again and they never listen, they don’t answer requests for information on a timely basis or not at all, why would I want to attend a meeting when the Council people promise me they will do this or that and never come thru – those jerks aren’t working for me and never will. You might want to waste your time attending these meetings when you can only speak for 3 minutes and then they merely ask if there is someone else who would like to speak. Videotape ALL city meetings and then all citizens will have the opportunity to see their city government in action and it would be at their convenience and when they aren’t working.

    You and the Beasley Bunch cronies want to continue your status quo government that will adversely affect the citizens time and time again, however, I do not want that and I will speak out for something better whether you get tired of hearing about it or not. What you consider are unkind remarks are the TRUTH which you have such a hard time handling since you would much rather go along with the lies and the hate. Clean up your own backyard before coming over and telling me what mine should look or sound like.

  9. Jerry L Kellogg Sr says:

    Videos from the March 24 candidates forum at Pioneer Ridge Middle School are currently being uploaded to the Gardner Area Chamber of Commerce Channel on YouTube. There are currently three clips available for viewing. The Q & A forum lasted over 90 minutes, so I would expect several more segments to be posted.

  10. watchdogq says:

    I wish city meetings were video taped so we could watch our government in action.

  11. watchdogq says:

    I wonder why Dave Drovetta would work so hard to get his buddy Bill Sutton from the Knights of Columbus elected to the council?

  12. @ watchdog says:

    I wish meeting were taped too. Chris Morrow stated that was important to him to have done. I believe he was the only one that mentioned it though.

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