Gardner Mayor Dave Drovetta said last week that both of his recent appointees to the Gardner City Council bring unique qualifications and traits to the council chambers.
Kristina Harrison and Dan Newburg were seated at Monday evening’s council meeting.
“Obviously, I selected Kristina for her public service as well as her experience. She has been neutral in the issues of controversy,” Drovetta told The Gardner News on Friday. “Dan and I have been meeting for a few weeks and are discussing a way to utilize our faith community to bring our town back together. He, too, is neutral in issues of controversy and is an objective individual.”
Harrison, who holds a bachelor’s degree in business and an MBA from Ottawa University, is a longtime employee of CenturyLink who currently serves as an operations manager. Drovetta said he met Harrison through their daughters, and that he served with her on the Festival on the Trails committee two years ago.
Harrison, through her work at CenturyLink, has several years of experience in finance.
“Throughout my career, I’ve worked in finance and marketing, and now I’m on the network side,” said Harrison, who added that she is responsible for budgeting, process improvement initiatives and projects spanning the entire company. She also has led committees to select service and leadership award receipients from CenturyLink and other organizations.
Harrison said that late last week, Drovetta called her and asked if she would serve the remainder of Mary Peters’ term, which expires in 2013, instead of Shepherd’s which ends next year. Harrison had originally been asked to serve until 2011.
Drovetta said he asked Harrison to serve the remainder of Peters’ term because Gardner residents have had an opportunity to become more familiar with her in the days following the town hall meeting, when Drovetta announced his intention to seat her.
As someone with a background in business and finance, Harrison said she has kept an eye on the city’s dealings with its 2010 and 2011 budgets.
“I understand there are a lot of cities that are in trouble,” she said. “I firmly believe that before mill increases go before taxpayers, a thorough review of the city’s finances should be performed and mill increases should be a last resort.”
Harrison said that although she has studied the budget “in the peripheral,” she does not believe the city has arrived at its last resort.
“I don’t know for a fact that everything has been done,” Harrison said. “We want people losing their jobs to be a last resort as well. If we said we can increase taxes by (a certain amount), as opposed to two or three people losing their jobs, I think most people would take the tax increase.”
Harrison also said she supports the arrival of the intermodal, but she has not examined the costs associated with the project. She said, however, that she lives on the opposite side of town from where the intermodal would be located, and that it likely “wouldn’t impact me like it would impact other people.”
“I’m not naïve enough to think that if I lived out there, I wouldn’t have a different opinion of it,” she said.
Harrison said she has mixed feelings about the recent recall of Shepherd and Peters as well.
“I hate to see two people (recalled) who truly believed they were doing what they felt was best,” Harrison said. “They’re the only people who really know whether they did something with the Kansas Open Meetings Act. I’m just really torn on it.”
Harrison lives in Gardner with her husband Scott; she and her husband have a daughter who is a senior at Gardner Edgerton High School.
Harrison’s family has previous ties to the city. Scott had worked for the city for five years, first in public works and then in the water department, before being let go by the city because of what Harrison described as an argument between her husband and city staff. She declined to elaborate on the reason for his termination.
Newburg, who has served as a pastor at Gardner Church of the Nazarene since 1995, said Drovetta contacted him last week and asked him to serve the remainder of Shepherd’s term. Newburg has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a minor in finance, as well as a master’s of divinity degree from Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill.
Newburg said he has known the Drovetta family for several years and recently had been advising the mayor on helping to bring the community together.
“I’m not a politician, and I have never sought political office,” Newburg said. “I’ve known (Drovetta’s) family for a number of years through their kids, but I never really knew the mayor or his wife other than by that contact.
“I also know there is an awful lot going on in the community, and a lot of divisive stuff is taking place,” he said. “As part of the faith community, you don’t want to hear those things.”
Newburg said he was dining with Drovetta last Monday when the mayor asked the pastor if he wanted to serve in city government.
“It caught me completely off guard. I had no idea he was going to ask me,” Newburg said. “I asked him for some time to pray about it and seek the advice and counsel of fellow pastors. It was a three-day process.”
Newburg said after those three days, he accepted Drovetta’s offer, adding that he feels “nervous and scared” about entering the council chambers.
“This is not something I’ve spent a lifetime preparing for,” he said.
Newburg declined to speak specifically about some of the controversial issues surrounding the city, but that he wishes to bring unity and hope to City Hall.
“From a political point of view, I’m not the most well read,” Newburg said, “but as a person I’d like to think of myself as a man of high character and integrity, that my presence somehow brings a sense of calm and peace to the process.”
Responding to some concerns from residents about the combination of church and state, Drovetta on Sunday afternoon released a statement to local media outlets in which he explained his reasons for asking Newburg to serve.
“Who better to serve our community then someone with a genuine love for our town and someone with an extraordinary abundance of compassion and patience?” Drovetta said in his statement.
Newburg lives in Gardner with his wife Denise and their four children.
Drovetta said he remains confident in both Harrison and Newburg to act in the city’s best interests and to help the city get back to the business it has had to table because of the recall issue.
“The circumstances required that I act and I acted with the best intentions. These decisions were mine and I take full responsibility,” Drovetta said. “I ask that if you feel you must judge, judge me, but give these two citizens an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to serve you. I am confident they will be good stewards.”