February 10, 2016

Gardner council candidates meet at forum

Editor’s Note: Candidate speeches were videotaped during the event and will be viewable on The Gardner News website soon as as they’re available.

Danedri Thompson

Candidates for Gardner City Council formally introduced themselves to members of the public

Gardner City Council candidates (from left) Jared Taylor, Larry Fotovich, Dustin Martin, Chris Morrow, Dennis Pugh, Tory Roberts, Bill Sutton and Jeff Barber await their turn at the microphone during a city council candidate forum Saturday morning. Staff photo by Danedri Thompson

during a forum sponsored by the Gardner Area Chamber of Commerce on Saturday morning.

All eight candidates mingled with members of the public for approximately an hour before drawing numbers and giving three minute speeches at Pioneer Ridge Middle School.

Dennis Pugh said it is important to him to be a part of something bigger than himself.

“This is one of the best ways I can give back to the community,” he told a crowd of more than 30 people. Pugh served briefly on the council in 2009, after being appointed by then-Mayor Carol Lehman.

He said the city has made some mistakes in the past. For example, last summer, he saw a city employee weed eating in shorts. That raised potential workman’s compensation concerns. He called city officials to let them know.

“That was a mistake,” he said. “You hold your city accountable.”

He said helping improve the city’s tax base as a goal, and said he’d like to see a community center built in Gardner in the future.

Jared Taylor said he wants Gardner to continue to be a liveable city with great schools and parks.

“Business will come to this city,” he said. “But we need to be creative as we move Gardner forward.”

Taylor said he is committed to rolling back the tax increase the current council approved last year. He’d also like to see the council reconfigured so council members are elected from districts and wards rather than at large.

Chris Morrow, one of three veterans on the ballot for city council, said he’s lived in Gardner since 2006.

“This growth has strained our city’s resources,” he said. “Yet, Gardner remains a great place to live.”

Morrow said he believes he has the right temperament for the job of Gardner City Council member and would like to balance the budget without increasing taxes.

Jeff Barber, another veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces, said he’s always followed national politics, but never paid much attention to the local level.

“Until BNSF decided to build an intermodal on our doorstep,” he said.

He said one of his goals on the council would be to ensure that new businesses and developments don’t become a financial burden to the citizens of Gardner.

Dustin “Duck” Martin graduated from Gardner Edgerton High School. He said because he is the youngest candidate, young people in the community are willing to discuss their concerns with him.

“I’m very easy going,” he said. “Very easy to talk to.”

He said he briefly moved out of Gardner when his wife got a job teaching in a district closer to Kansas City.

“Businesses and residents need someone (on the council) they can go to, and I feel like that’s me,” Martin said.

Bill Sutton said he remembers being in town and watching the fireworks and feeling a wonderful sense of community.

“I’ve also been here during times of descent, when it seems like our town is trying to tear itself apart from within,” he said.

Taxes are necessary at some level, he said, but he wants to ensure that city government is getting the most value out of tax dollars. He worries that the state officials will use monies that have traditionally been given to cities to close the state’s budget gap.

“We have to work against being left holding the bag,” he said.

Tory Roberts said she is eager and energetic to give back to the Gardner community. She currently serves on the Planning Commission, the Board of Zoning Appeals, and has been attending city council meetings for the last two years.

“I am familiar with the issues and will be ready to hit the ground running,” she said.

Citing renewable energy and re-examining the budget process to maximize future growth potential, Roberts said she is committed, enthusiastic, a listener and a doer.

Larry Fotovich said people probably know where he stands on the issues, because ran for mayor in 2009 and lost by 4 votes to a 14-year political veteran. He said he worked in finance, served as a navy helicopter pilot before starting his own real estate brokerage.

“It’s the smallest of small businesses,” he said. “One person.”

He said he wouldn’t be running for office if he thought everything in Gardner was perfect. The city has been headed in the wrong direction.

“The foundation was laid 10 years ago when (the city’s) debt was one-third of what it is today,” he said.

A Gardner Edgerton High School student filmed the brief speeches and they will be available online.  (As of 9:30 a.m. March 3, the videos are still not available. They will be posted as soon as available.)

Chamber president Steve Devore said the chamber plans to sponsor a more traditional debate in the future. The election is April 5.


  1. Jerry L Kellogg Sr says:

    Actually, the Chamber was a little more generous with time — each candidate was allowed to speak for six minutes. I am looking forward to next forum which will feature selected questions to be answered by the candidates.

  2. Support Jared Taylor for City Council, he’s committed to lowering your taxes and responsible government. He’s informed and a good leader. See his website http://www.taylorforcouncil.us

    Vote April 5th

  3. Jerry thanks for the clarification. Speaking as one of the eight candidates it was great to meet a number of interested voters, hear their thoughts and answer their questions. It was also nice to finally meet the candidates I didn’t know, and get to know some of the other candidates better. I know video of the event will be available soon, and I hope interested voters who were unable to attend will take time to hear all of the candidates remarks.

    All my fellow Gardnerites who are registered to vote, please, VOTE on April 5th!

  4. And he won’t think twice about accepting money from a sitting mayor as he works to recall members of his council. Now that’s ethics and morals we definitely need in office. Yes, by all means let’s vote for this man. Good try though Paul. Maybe voters won’t think that accepting a donation from the mayor, to recall his own council members that resulted in him having total power to name their replacements, was in any way an unethical move by Mr. Taylor. And furthermore, indicative of either some serious bad judgement or lack or morals on his part.

  5. How many average citizens were at the forum? This number should include people other than spouses or family members of candidates or people like Steve DeVore or the press or entities like the Gardner Edge – how many citizens, Joe Blows, were there to find out about the candidates?

  6. have you left your cave at the edge? why don’t you hurry back.

  7. I was there Judith, and I would estimate the total crowd to be closer to 50, but I didn’t do a true head count. I can’t put an exact number out there, but I spoke with a couple of people after the meeting who were very surprised with the turnout, and how many of those were “Joe Blows”. There is most certainly an interest in the upcoming election.

  8. 50 out of 18,000 is not the interest there should be – 50 out if 18,000 is outright citizen apathy!!!!!! And I doubt if the true number of average citizens were 50 but that’s okay since the apathy is still atrocious even at that number. Another reason you have such lousy government in Gardner, Ks. across the U.S. and why you could end up like Bell, California. Corruption spreads like wildfire when the citizens are not involved and doing their jobs and applying due diligence. You should know right now who the jerks are in this campaign and if they get into office it will be because of the very same type of the moral decay by we have seen by those voting and/or voter apathy which will all bring a city and its people nothing but big problems.

  9. @Judith says:

    You weren’t there. I’m really growing tired of the comparisons to Bell, CA. If you really believe they are relevant to the happenings in Gardner, then you are farther off of the deep in the most believe.

  10. This Joe Blow skipped it due to the format. Without Q&A and debate I might as well keep visiting their websites.

    Besides, whoever removes my neighbor’s basketball goal gets my vote. 😉

  11. Amy Cunningham says:

    Robb – What neighborhood do you live in?

  12. Sunset Ridge / West Skylark Street

  13. And your words show what an idiot you are since you should always be interested in corruption such as what happened in Bell, California and so you can make sure it doesn’t happen here. Ignorant people put their heads in the sand and have a very small world in which they live and consequently they have small minds.

  14. @Judith

    I was not aware that some scandal had broken out at the candidate forum. Did someone talk too long?

    An emoticon was used to show that I was joking. I’m sorry that you missed my train of thought. By the way, that was a pun. A play on words. “Train” of thought, get it? Not so funny when everything has to be spelled out for you.

    Speaking of Bell, not only is it the name of a city in California but also the name of a helmet manufacturer. Perhaps you should try wearing one to protect your large mind.

    I have found that it’s harder to hear you crying wolf when I have my head in the sand. You make Aesop proud.

    I am well aware of what has happened and is currently going on in our city and I’m not thrilled about it either. It’s time to let the recall BS go. The small percentage of the population that actually cares has already came to their individual conclusions. They’ll carry that with them to the voting booth. It will more than likely be an “us -vs.- them” mentality for some time.

    And that is unfortunate. Neither side is 100% in the right. The truth lies somewhere in between. When will the sides either meet there or move on?

    Which of the candidates that weren’t involved with the recall BS will rise above the political BS that only 10-15% of the citizens care about and appeal to and rally the other 85-80%? That’s the real question. We desperately need (elected) leaders who actually lead. Do you think that Joe Blow who is having a hard time keeping food on the table and the mortgage paid gives a damn about some guys not filling out paperwork by a deadline? Do you think he ponders what life must be like in Bell, California as he drives by the empty buildings on Main street followed by the empty homes that line his street? Do you think that when he opens his mail to find that his property value went down and his taxes up that he goes into a rage about how the City Council doesn’t broadcast its meetings?

    Not no but hell no! We need leaders who motivate. We need leaders who have genuine pride in Gardner and care about the City’s future- not use it as a stepping stone to a bigger career in politics or as a crutch for a political career that’s on its last legs. We need leaders who can both identify and solve problems. We need leaders who will shake thinks up in a positive way. We need leaders who don’t wait until the next Council meeting to have a handful of citizens come to them in a stuffy room but instead go out to them- and not just when it is campaigning season. We need leaders who can identify their weaknesses and/or inexperience and seek counsel in those areas rather than so called leaders who believe they have no flaws or are too spineless to show a weakness in fear of a political opponent exploiting it. We need leaders that pay attention to the needs of our youth and not dismiss them because they can’t yet vote.

    Who will step up to the plate? One month until the election and no one is knocking on my door. Websites are fine but only cater to those who care enough to come to you. My door may not matter because I will be there on April 5th. But the other 80%? You want to lead? Go get ’em motivated!

  15. You got my vote Robb.

  16. Your respect for your fellow citizens is overwhelming and yes I do think decent citizens are concerned with people following the law because if you have people who have no respect for the law, then you have NOTHING………Robb speaks like the great leader that jerk Taylor thinks he is……….or perhaps it is his other rotten half, Beasley who holds an APPOINTED position with the city…….they will give you lip service, manipulation, rationalization, lies, dishonesty, etc. as shown by their previous actions and words but they are far from authentic, genuine people much like you, Robb, whoever you are but your words are the slime I have heard before from the Beasley Bunch who don’t follow the law but have to be forced to meet the law……this is all my OPINION………..

  17. Well said Robb…..and you said without slandering anybody.

  18. Dustin Duck Martin says:

    I would like to address some of the comments that have been made here. First I would like to apologize cause my campaign has been running a little slow. I am not a big person on the signs, handouts, buttons, fliers. I am a people person, outgoing, shank hands and kiss babies kind of person so my name might not be out there like some of those that I might be running against. I would like to go door to door and “meet the people” that is my plan, I just need to execute the plan, no excuse why i haven’t i just need to.
    I am a long time resident, I have been here for it all…almost…I do need to apologize and say YES I did have to move do to the economy and my wife teaching in Kansas City and me being a stay at home dad we needed to move closer, it was my decision to stay somewhat close so Overland Park was the destination. I cant say enough how much I disliked living there, but even though that was my address I did not stray away from my Gardner roots. Attended High School games, visited buisness’ in town, I put so many miles on my car that my wife was finally convinced to move back. Then it hit the day we were supposed to sign the papers on a home we lost our jobs, we still went with the move and are living in an apt here in town.
    I work, eat, breath, shop and I will more than likely unless God has a different plan I will die here.
    I moved here when I was eight back in 88/89, I love it here, I went to school here was a memeber of whatever I could be a member of. I am an active supporter in school functions, but most importantly I have a DEEP PASSION for this city. Gardner has been good to me and so have the other residents that live here aswell. Parks and Rec, buisness, residents old and future, youth, elderly, schools, etc. I have a passion for it all. Now i have never been in a “Political” atmosphere before but I can tell you this if you want to be a leader then you have to step up and be one, dont just sit back and watch and complain, “Dustin you are a leader, be one, step up and have others follow you.” best words I ever heard from a man and that was Coach Bechard. Since I heard those words everything that I do I try to be the LEADER, that is what I want to do when/if I get the votes.
    The BNSF debacle is over, its coming we need to do what we can do prosper from it. The RECALL…its over, move on. Its time for NEW LEADERS to step up and take those places and Lead the Residents and Buisness owners, and Tax payers of this fine City to better places, more positive places. This is the way I feel, if i was running for council or not this is the way I feel, if I don’t get the votes then I ask those that do, to think the same, its not about your PERSONAL goals or ambitions its about those that elect us in. I dont have any BAGGAGE or PERSONAL reasons why I am running, I am running for YOU the people. I want a place that my THREE year old can grow up at and I hope she enjoys/loves it as much as I do.

  19. Jerry L Kellogg Sr says:

    Eight candidates are vying for the three seats on the Gardner City Council being vacated by incumbents not seeking re-election.

    All eligible Gardner citizens are encouraged to register and vote during the 2011 Spring General Election. The Johnson County Election office lists the following important 2011 election dates:

    March 16 – Advance voting by mail begins – 20 days prior to Election Day
    March 21 – Registration books close – last day to register to vote
    March 29 – Advance voting in person begins at Election Office, 2101 E. Kansas City Road, Olathe, KS
    April 4 – Advance voting in person closes at Election Office (12 noon)
    April 5 – SPRING GENERAL ELECTION, 7:00am-7:00pm, Gardner local polling locations

  20. Jerry L Kellogg Sr says:

    YouTube videos of all eight City Council candidate speeches:


    [replace each (dot) above with a period to activate this URL]

  21. Thank you for the updates and posting the YouTube vid, Mr. Kellogg. Much appreciated.

  22. Just finished watching the candidate videos. Sure worth my time and gave me no surprises but reinforced my opinions and gave me even more information. It amazes me to know there are so many candidates who really don’t have a clue about the details of how their city, county and state have and are being operated, what is involved and have no clear understanding of the important issues – truly amazing to me these people think they are qualified. Another eye opener is how some made it clear they will very, very likely continue the status quo cronyism government we have had for so many years which has not served the citizens well and how so many of them will continue to spend the money we don’t have. Lots of political talk with no substance and we need substance and strong moral values now more than ever.

    Again, I hope the new City Council demands that ALL city meetings be videotaped for citizens – that is certainly worth the cost.

  23. I want to thank the student/students/teacher who videotaped these candidate statements – Job well done!!! I appreciate your time and talents. You provided an excellent service for all of the citizens of Gardner!

  24. Gardner is on top due to the RECALL.

    First, California recalled Governor.

    Then, Gardner recalled their City Council Members.

    Now, State of Wisconsin planning to recall their legislators, recalling Republican breed only.

  25. rhonda humble says:

    Thanks Jerry for posting that link. We updated it today.

  26. Got my advance ballot today and it is completed and mailed in. One thing for sure not one of my votes went to present School Board members nor did they go for those affiliated in any way, including those who made contributions to such lowlife behavior, with the recall – those going along with the hate and lies and not following the campaign finance laws are sure not people who I want in my city government and the ones who let their hand wash the hand of another to continue the status quo government which creates huge problems for citizens.

  27. Big Shocker!

  28. Judith, please tell us who you would like us to vote for so we don’t end up like Bell, CA and you won’t call us idiots.

  29. Wouldn’t you love to know…………I have led you to the water numerous times before and you still won’t drink it – you want to drink and eat the propaganda, lies and hate that many throw out there. I know who you will be voting for Milo and my tax bill would continue to increase with those kinds of votes. I have voted and I just wish all of the 10,000 registered voters here in Gardner were fully informed and educated on how their local government is run, will vote and will make better choices but I believe it is highly unlikely that more than 15% of the registered voters will get off their rearends and vote in the upcoming election. I hope they prove me wrong and come out in huge numbers and do make better choices and not vote for those who won’t even follow the law and who are truly showing how moral decay can adversely affect citizens. I note Sutton has got his signs illegally on public property here and there throughout the city and he also is evidently one who doesn’t think the laws or ordinances apply to him.

    You have heard me gritching about those 38 businesses at New Century who don’t pay their taxes or very little like CenturyLink which is paying this year around $30,000 when their full taxes should be over $800,000. Most of those companies are not paying one cent in property taxes and then you wonder why you don’t have enough money for your schools. You are taking care of the takers instead of your own children. This article from the Denver Post tells how CenturyLink likes to take care of their corporate big boys but they don’t have enough money to pay their full property taxes – entities will take advantage of you IF YOU ALLOW IT.


    Qwest jets moving to CenturyLink HQ
    Denver Business Journal
    Date: Friday, March 18, 2011, 12:34am MDT

    CenturyLink Inc. — which is buying Denver-based Qwest Communications International — is planning to build a $2 million addition to its hangar at the airport in its headquarters city of Monroe, La., to accommodate two of what are now Qwest’s private jets.

    The News Star of Monroe reports that two of Qwest’s larger jets will be moved to Monroe following the purchase, which is expected to close April 1.

    CenturyLink already has five private jets, but plans to sell two.

  30. @ Judith says:

    Judith, I certainly hope that you didn’t vote for any of the candidates posting their signs (improperly) on City property.

  31. Give me a break……I am not a sign person since I think they are a total waste of money………..if someone votes for you because of your signs, then you will continue to have lousy government…….and that is because you have idiots voting…….

  32. Speechless says:

    @judith – You have been throwing around the word “idiot” a lot lately.

    If anyone disagrees with you Judith, are they idiots?

  33. GardnerPride says:

    Absolutely Speechless, you should have know better than to ask.

  34. Speechless says:

    @GardnerPride – I know we don’t always see eye to eye but at least we can have an open debate without it being reduced to name calling

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