Tuesday, we will go to the polls and select the next set of leaders for the Liberal City Commission and the USD No. 480 School Board. Perhaps we believe that picking the president is more important, but that is simply not the case. Every elected official carries with them the public trust to carry out a role in government, and we should take great care in weighing the role we play in choosing them. Their role requires them to have fiscal oversight of our tax dollars and ultimately to administer our city and the educational process. They do this by hiring leaders, and those leaders then carry out the responsibilities placed on them by the elected officials. If our boards only had these responsibilities, we could hire the job done. But the job requires more than that. Being a school board member or a city commissioner requires the ability to look ahead, to set the course of our community and our district; in other words, to have vision. Having vision does not mean increased spending. It does mean evaluating the resources we have and allocating them based on priorities. Those with good vision can balance the checkbook and squeeze in the dreams, hopes and future of a community, all at the same time. When you go to the polls, we urge you to select leaders who have more than a high public profile or those who have made a name for themselves created from being elected. We ask you to look for more than a person who believes they make good decisions when given choices. These are good characteristics to be sure, but those roles can be filled by many. What is rare and special, and what sets communities apart, is leadership with a vision. We need to know where we want to go and how we are going to get there. There has been much discussion in this race about where Liberal fits among its neighbors like Garden City, Dodge City and even Guymon and Hugoton. Some would avoid this comparison by pointing out that Liberal should be unique. And that’s true. But Liberal can also not afford to continue to be the fourth or fifth choice for growth in Southwest Kansas. We can’t simply wait our turn when smaller communities have had successes. We have heard all the candidates agree on the housing crunch as a part of the problem. We challenge you to find those who have provided a vision for how to solve this issue. The candidates differed widely on the solution. Choose those who provided a vision that you can support. Some candidates have suggested they would listen to any ideas that are brought forward. If commissioners aren’t willing to express ideas but are waiting for someone else to create the solution, they lack vision. Soon, the school system will have to expand. With 19 ‘portable’ facilities already scattered across Liberal, and classroom size growing, along with students being transported to other areas of town at a greater expense to the families, the question is no longer will we expand but simply how. We need leaders with a vision that will meet the need while getting the best value for our tax dollars. That will require vision. Some may seek a Taj Mahal approach, and others will support the trailer house method. But a board led with a clear-cut vision that can be supported by the community is the type of person that can help lead our district into the future. With forums behind us and campaigns winding down, we are two days away from laying the groundwork for the next two to four years of leadership. Will we move forward? That decision no longer lies with the candidates. They have done their job. They have each had a chance to explain themselves to you. The decision now rests with you. For the city commission, you have Dean Aragon, Jack Carlile, Joe Denoyer, Dave Harrison, Julio Jimenez, Tim Long, Ivanhoe Love Jr. and Ron Warren. For school board, you have Crystal Clemens, Travis Combs, Matt Friederich, Nick Hatcher and Tammy Williams. Take some time to weigh each of these names, what they stand for, and what your choice for each of them will mean for our community. Don’t make this a popularity contest but a true measure of leadership that will provide the vision to move us forward. Liberal is a community with conservative values, but it also has a history of a can-do spirit with a desire to grow. The future is now in your hands. You are the maker of your own fate. Consider your choices wisely, and make your vote count.
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