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Peabody City Council candidates share thoughts

Staff writer

Hoch Publishing Company, owner of the Marion County Record¸ Hillsboro Star-Journal, and Peabody Gazette-Bulletin, asked all candidates in Marion County to respond to questions regarding the reason they are seeking election or re-election.

Peabody mayor candidate Larry K. Larsen declined to respond.

Peabody City Council (two positions)

Leslie LaFoy

1) Why do you want to be elected to office?

LaFoy: “I was appointed in 2006 to finish the term of an elected council member who had resigned. In the time I have served, I’ve learned a lot and believe that I’ve made positive contributions to the community of Peabody through sound decisions made by the City Council. I would like the opportunity to continue to make such contributions, to ensure that the community is well served by its council, and that we make progress while respecting and preserving the best of our community’s past and present.”

2) Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the current administration? Why?

LaFoy: “I am generally satisfied. I think the current Peabody City Council has made great strides forward in the past year. We finally have a dependable ‘team’ of council members who have honestly and successfully addressed very difficult issues facing the city. As a result, we have recently made considerable headway in the areas of developing cooperative employee-council relationships, in meeting both long term and short term infrastructure needs of the community, and in establishing a responsible, solid, working city budget.”

3) What is your background and/or qualifications for office?

LaFoy: “I have been a high school teacher of government, history, and economics — which is a good foundation for the more theoretical aspects of governance. More importantly, though, I have been the office and financial manager of my husband’s business for the past umpteen years — which provides me with the ‘real world’ experience necessary to make sound and fiscally responsible decisions on behalf of the citizens. Together with my husband, I’ve made a commitment to Peabody through the purchase of property, the relocation of our business, and the making of our home and lives. I fervently believe in the community’s future and want to do whatever I can to ensure that it’s one our children and grandchildren will be proud.”

4) What are your goals for the city? How do you plan to accomplish them?

LaFoy: “My primary goal is to have the City of Peabody develop a broader economic base. Doing so would spread the revenue requirements over a larger business and individual population and thus lighten the tax burden of each taxpayer. In order to accomplish this, we all have to work together. The city council needs to make sure that tax dollars are spent wisely and prudently on public works projects and police efforts to keep our community safe. Both of these aspects are crucial factors to businesses and individuals considering a relocation to and investment in any community. In addition, and just as importantly, city council must support and facilitate the efforts of various groups committed to community improvement — whether it’s park and city entrance beautification, the quality of our community’s schools, the range and diversity of recreational opportunities, downtown physical and economic revitalization, special events planning, good planning and zoning, and general economic development and promotion of Peabody.”

5) What is the most important issue facing the city? Why?

LaFoy: “At this point in time, my chief concern is with the potential financial impact the city may see as a result of the current economic situation facing our state and our nation. I cannot and will not support an increase in taxes imposed on our citizens in the event of any revenue shortfall. As citizens, we are all stretched. Asking for more of our families’ limited resources is simply not an acceptable solution to revenue concerns that may arise for the city. I think, therefore, that it is going to be very important in the near future for Peabody City Council to maximize every single cent spent in keeping us both operational and moving forward. We are going to have to tighten our belts in all areas, prioritize our needs, and continue to make sure each tax dollar expenditure is both essential and cost effective. I believe moving forward is vitally important even in difficult economic times. The city council has made considerable and notable progress in the last year in dealing with our infrastructure needs — water, sewer, and streets — on a planned improvement basis rather than from the standpoint of dealing with immediate crises. In doing so, we have made our citizens’ tax dollars work harder and more strategic. It is my intent to assure that we continue to plan forward so that crisis expenses and service disruptions are kept to a minimum or completely eliminated.”

6) Tell us about yourself — career, family, residence, etc.

LaFoy: “Our family moved to Peabody in May 2005, purchasing two buildings downtown — what are known as the former Tumbleweeds Antique Building and the Turkey Red. In the intervening three years, our son graduated from Peabody-Burns High School and is serving as a Corpsman in the U.S. Navy. We’ve largely rehabilitated the entire first floor of the Turkey Red building, and, by the end of February of this year, will have relocated my husband’s business — Venture Sales and Engineering —from Wichita. Personally, as a former high school social studies teacher, I’m a poster child for serious over-education in liberal arts. I’m also a multi-published author of mass market fiction, a quilter, self-taught interior designer, construction assistant, office manager, and unapologetic political-economic analysis junkie.”

Tom Schmidt

1) Why do you want to be elected to office?

Schmidt: “I am now filling an unexpired term on the council and feel I bring experience and knowledge to the position. I would like to be able to follow through on some of the initiatives that the council has begun and be involved in a number things we have in the planning stages. I think my experience, people skills, and financial knowledge can help as we go forward. I have a real sense of fondness for the community and want to promote its strengths and work on its weaknesses. I feel I am passionate in that regard.”

2) Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the current administration? Why?

Schmidt: “Neither. As I am part of the current council I feel we had made some significant strides in the past few months in addressing various problems, but there is always room for improvement, and I hope to be able to create a team environment as we go forward. This goes for our employees, who are our most valuable assets, to the council and the community as a whole. The city council with its attitude and decisions as well as our employees set the tone for the community I am a ‘glass is at least half full’-type of person and there are positives in just about any situation or opportunity, depending on how it is analyzed and addressed.”

3) What is your background and/or qualifications for office?

Schmidt: “I previously served on the council from April 2001 until December 2004 and as mayor from December 2004 until April 2007. I was appointed in September 2008 to fill an unexpired term ending in April 2009. I feel the budget is one of my strong suits from my business background as well as a ‘big picture’ viewpoint. I feel I can help the city find a financial balance during this economic downturn that will still allow us to provide the level of necessary services our citizens have come to expect and still have fiscal responsibility.”

4) What are your goals for the city? How do you plan to accomplish them?

Schmidt: “I believe that vision, planning, and goals are vitally necessary for our community as we deal with the changing world in which we live. We have to know who and what we are and where we want to go. I believe the city council sets the tone. It must be a positive one that allows the community to be vibrant, active, and attractive for future generations. In all small communities, it is many organizations and volunteers that enhance the quality of life. The city can’t do it all. The city has to be a clearinghouse for this type of involvement and create a supporting environment to help in the success of these organizations and volunteers. As I said when I ran for office in 2001, I want Peabody to be a better place to live and work than when I started and that still is my goal.”

5) What is the most important issue facing the city? Why?

Schmidt: “I would say it would be in a financial nature. We have to be very careful we don’t over-tax or overrate increase the community. As in all small communities, we are faced with many challenges including maintaining streets, water quality, old infrastructure, rising vendor costs, etc. We have to take into consideration our citizens as we plan projects and consider expenditures and services. Raising of taxes and rates cannot be the only answers. Dollars today just do not go as far as they used to and as a result we have to be smarter in its use. This is a major challenge for a small community with a very small industrial tax-base and homeowners providing the majority of our tax revenue.”

6) Tell us about yourself — career, family, residence, etc.

Schmidt: “I have been a resident of Peabody for 36 years. My wife Susie, and I have been married for 35 years and she has been a lifelong resident of Peabody. We have raised our three sons, Brett, Jeff, and Ethan, in Peabody. They are all grown and married. I have owned a home in Peabody for more than 33 years. I helped start the Peabody Recreation Commission in the late 1980s and served on the board for 12 years. I served on the board of Peabody Historical Society for 11 years. I formed the Christmas Lights Committee in 1999 that handles the Christmas lights in Peabody. I am a founding member of the Partners of Peabody Parks group that works to enhance our parks. I am a member of the Peabody Christian Church and served as chairman of the board for 12 years. I worked for Santa Fe Railway Company from 1975 through 1990 in the division manager’s office in Newton. In March 1991 I went to work for the Kansas Trane HVAC Company in Wichita, and currently am employed there. I am the sales operations manager in charge of managing day-to-day operations of the company.”

Janice Woodruff

1) Why do you want to be elected to office?

Woodruff: “Being a life-long resident of Peabody, it’s time to get more involved in it. I’m not out head-hunting, I feel maybe my judgments are just as good as anyone else’s.”

2) Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the current administration? Why?

Woodruff: “Can’t say I’m totally either way, but then no one probably is 100 percent satisfied.”

3) What is your background and/or qualifications for office?

Woodruff: “My qualification for city council is my love for our town.”

4) What are your goals for the city? How do you plan to accomplish them?

Woodruff: “I’d like to see our town be able to reduce our mill levy, along with the county. Being only one person, I’m not going to make promises I can’t keep. Hopefully we can work together to bring down expenditures.”

5) What is the most important issue facing the city? Why?

Woodruff: “Street repair — we have a one percent sales tax for it and so far haven’t seen too many repairs, but I also know we have to have time to build up the funds to make the repairs.”

6) Tell us about yourself — career, family, residence, etc.

Woodruff: “I’m the wife of a retired Westar Energy employee, Frank Woodruff. We had four kids graduate from Peabody-Burns. Two of our kids have returned to Peabody to live. We’ve been blessed with 10 grandkids and five great-grandchildren. I’ve helped manage two businesses and worked part-time at Sharon’s Korner Kitchen and the hardware, but my main career was my family.”

Last modified March 5, 2009

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