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Primary races for the nine seats in the Jackson County Legislature have drawn 29 candidates. While most of them will be elected in district races, three at-large legislators are elected by the entire county in the Jackson County election.
One of those races, for the 3rd At-Large District, features a challenge to an incumbent. Democrats Megan Marshall and Delmira Quarles are running to unseat Tony Miller. The primary’s winner will face Republican candidate Lance Dillenschneider in the general Jackson County election.
Although they are elected by voters countywide, candidates must live in the 3rd At-Large District, which includes almost all neighborhoods and cities south of 78th Street, including Marlborough, Grandview, Lee’s Summit and unincorporated areas in the southern part of the county.
The three Democratic candidates are:
- Megan Marshall, a military veteran, current Lee’s Summit Board of Education member and vice president of Lee’s Summit Cares.
- Tony Miller, a former prosecutor and current legislator representing the 3rd At-Large District.
- Delmira Quarles
The Beacon reached out to all three candidates to seek their participation in a questionnaire about what they hope to accomplish as a Jackson County legislator. Miller and Marshall responded.
Responses have been edited for clarity, length and Associated Press style.
Click on a question to jump ahead:
- What new perspectives will you bring to the legislature?
- What will be the most important factors for you when making yearly budget decisions?
- How will you make yourself available to your constituents throughout your term?
- If elected, what are two or three specific things you plan to recommend to improve the county government?
- How has the legislature been successful in the past, and how do you think it can improve?
The Beacon attempted to contact Quarles through a Facebook message and by phone but did not receive a response prior to publication.
What new perspectives will you bring to the legislature?
Marshall: The county government is responsible for a number of important functions. Foremost collecting taxes and ensuring a fiscally sound budget so county departments are adequately funded. When residents across our county are left in the dark, it breeds distrust. When representatives are not committed to listening to taxpayer concerns, their decisions lack proper responsiveness and instead worsen the lives of residents. I will continue listening to the concerns of taxpayers and work diligently to deliver meaningful change.
Miller: I’ve lived and worked in several places in Jackson County. I value listening, learning and weighing all pertinent information from different perspectives before making a decision. I value setting aside partisan and personal agendas in order to get things done in the most cost-effective and efficient way possible to bring about programs providing the greatest impact.
What will be the most important factors for you when making yearly budget decisions?
Marshall: I believe the budget is reflective of what the government values. What government values should reflect what taxpayers value, because policymakers’ first obligation should always be to those they represent — not their own interests. The thousands of people I have had the opportunity to speak to … want property tax relief, reduced crime, greater access to mental health and drug recovery services, and most importantly, confidence that their county government is working for them.
Past budgets have sought to enrich the friends of legislators through county contracts and other nepotism. The county budget should prioritize the needs of taxpayers. Plain and simple.
Miller: The work we do is focused on funding many of the basic government functions that affect health, safety, and quality of life here in Jackson County. First, we must factor in what we are required to fund. Beyond that, I have been an outspoken advocate to encourage funding decisions be made based on need and not on a simple formula that “divvies up the money.” I will continue to be an aggressive advocate for that.
How will you make yourself available to your constituents throughout your term?
Marshall: I’m committed to constituent engagement across Jackson County. I will be the most accessible legislator in county government. Engagement and accessibility has not been a hallmark of county government and that must change. As part of my commitment to community engagement, I will organize public opportunities (town halls, panels, etc.) for face-to-face interaction between myself and residents.
There is a lot of diversity across our county. Not just cultural, racial and age diversity, but diversity of needs. At-large representatives have a greater responsibility to know the concerns facing residents all over our county and to bring that knowledge back to the legislature so that decisions are reflective of community needs.
Miller: I will continue to answer every phone call, make it a priority to attend every meeting or event I am invited to and remain committed to continue listening and learning about community needs. I will continue to proactively seek out opportunities to meet with constituents regularly.
If elected, what are two or three specific things you plan to recommend to improve the county government?
Marshall: It’s important that county legislative meetings be held at a time more conducive for public participation. Having meetings at 10 a.m. on Monday mornings ensures most working people are excluded. I’d like to see legislative meetings held in the evenings at least twice per month, while expanding the meeting location outside of just Kansas City and Independence.
Also, I’d call for an audit of all real estate owned by the county. Jackson County currently owns property that sits vacant at great expense to taxpayers. The need for affordable housing continues to grow in our largest cities. I believe the county government should work collaboratively with municipalities to strengthen our infrastructure, improve the lives of residents for generations to come and ensure a robust economic future for our region.
Miller: Get tax assessments right by giving the assessor the tools and resources necessary to succeed.
Renewal of the Children’s Trust Fund to help fill in the gaps of services to underserved youth not provided by other programs.
Efficient and high-quality completion of the new Jackson County Justice Center, which will ultimately include much-needed services from mental health services to life skills training.
How has the legislature been successful in the past, and how do you think it can improve?
Marshall: The most significant successes by county government have always been achieved by policymakers using community needs to inform policy proposals. For example, COMBAT remains one of the greatest achievements in the history of Jackson County government. Millions of residents have benefited from COMBAT-funded programs since its inception. These programs to address violent crime, substance abuse and domestic violence have resulted in healthier communities. In the future, we can improve our government by incorporating the best efforts from the past into a forward-looking approach that centers community needs.
Miller: The legislature has always been successful when we put our own personal and political agendas aside and focus on the information presented in an objective manner, blind to pressures to focus on pet projects. We can always improve by working to do this more often and with a greater commitment to collaboration and dialogue.