Three candidates face off in race to become next mayor of Gardner

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GARDNER, Kan. — Ahead of the general election on Nov. 2, FOX4 is working to help voters get a better idea where candidates stand on issues impacting residents in the metro.

FOX4 sent out a questionnaire to candidates in more than 50 races in Johnson County. In Gardner, Randy Gregorcyk, Tory Kristen Roberts and Todd Winters are competing to fill the role of mayor. 

The winner of the general election will take over the role from current Gardner Mayor Steve Shute, who has served in the position since 2017.

Here’s a look at what the candidates had to say: 

Q:What is your top priority for the City of Gardner? 

Gregorcyk: As your Mayor, I will drive policy through the Council agenda, with the support of citizens and the Council, to address/support: Public Safety, Community Investments, Fiscal Stability and Future Development.

Todd Winters, Gardner Mayoral Candidate

Roberts: Keeping the small town charm, but adding well planned, well-suited development. This will help our quality of life for the citizens and help the taxpayers. Right now the citizens are footing most of the bill for the taxes and it would be good to have it shifted more to development paying for the taxes. We have many needs for infrastructure and the additional taxes from development would be helpful.

Winters: Keeping Gardner safe and affordable. Gardner maintains one of the lowest mill rates in Kansas for a city of its size. Our city-owned utilities rates are very comparable to others. We are continually ranked as one of the safest cities in Kansas. Balancing responsible growth with safety and affordability continues to be a top priority for me.

Q:What do you feel will be the biggest challenge to the city in the next 10 years and how should it be addressed?

Tory Roberts, Gardner Mayoral Candidate

Gregorcyk: As Mayor, it will be important to understand Gardner’s recent history and subsequent challenges. Forecasting the next 10 years will be difficult for anyone, with that said, initiatives built on policy governance – guides appropriate relationships between an organization, investors, community; will be important to maintaining vision during expected and unexpected challenges. With a balanced financial position, sound infrastructure and services, a strong and growing community, our city can weather any challenge – as seen in 2020!

Roberts: Infrastructure needs and paying for those needs. We are [a] fast growing community and have to plan for the growth accordingly.

Winters: Growth. As we grow, our infrastructure needs (roads, water, electricity, wastewater etc.) will grow with it. Balancing those needs while keeping taxes low is a top priority. Bringing the right development projects to town helps to accomplish this. Additionally, as we grow, it is important to me to keep that “small town” feel. Investing in our downtown is a great way do this.

Q:What is your view on the use of tax incentives for new development? What criteria would you use when determining if incentives like Tax Increment Financing (TIFs), tax abatements or the creation of a Community Improvement District (CID) should be granted to developers wanting to build within the city?

Randy Gregorcyk, Gardner Mayoral Candidate

Gregorcyk: Tax incentives are important tools to spur growth. However, the City of Gardner is well positioned to “lean down” such incentives, considering available land (to develop) is plentiful, coupled with recent annexation, investment (by the city) in infrastructure (water) and a growing community. The vision of Gardner is healthy, and growth is inevitable – smart growth (diversity of) should be our goal.

Roberts: I am in favor for incentives for the right development for our town.

Winters: There are many criteria used when determining if incentives are granted. We utilize our finance team, a bond counsel, and others to determine the financial impact of new development incentives. Ultimately, if there is a strong net benefit for Gardner, I am not opposed to their use. 

Q: What changes, if any, would you like to see in the city budget?

Gregorcyk:  As Mayor, I want to continue to make the budget readily available to our citizens and ensure city staff are fielding (promptly) any questions from our community, concerning the budget and establishing budget talks (with elected and city staff) sooner versus current timeframe. Changes, if needed, will be addressed and communicated clearly, more importantly operating in budget is the GOAL and should be for each elected member of the governing body.

Roberts: Decreasing the taxes while still providing the needed services for the citizens.

Winters: We just completed our budget and actually lowered our mill rate. Most changes I wanted to see have already been accomplished. What I would like to see is more citizen input on the budget itself.

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