It’s important to stay informed and up-to-date on county and city politics. This is why the Junction City Area Chamber of Commerce held a candidate forum at the C.L Hoover Opera House recently.

Charles Stimatze is running against incumbent Larry Hicks for County Commissioner District 2.

Stimatze believes he can bring positive change to Geary County.

“I take pride in being a Geary County resident,” he said. “I believe I would bring an objective approach in the best interests of the taxpaying citizens of Geary County.”

Stimatze said he had already developed with some plans after attending several County Commission meetings, as to what he wants to do.

He expressed concerns, as a business owner, with a rising mill levy and economic development in Geary County. Stimatze wants not only to bring in new businesses, but to take care of the ones currently in place.

“It can be frozen and it needs to be because us as taxpayers and property owners — we feel that way,” he said of the mill levy. 

He believes he could work with County department heads to cut costs. 

Hicks said it’s possible to prevent the mill levy from rising through using “some very harsh — and I do mean harsh — methods in order to reduce it ... I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I’m going to eliminate jobs at the Geary County level because I don’t believe in it.”

He believes it would be better to try to reduce taxes by stimulating the local economy — which could be accomplished by bringing more businesses in.

Hicks and Stimatze appear to agree somewhat on this.

“We need to educate the public on shopping local,” Stimatze said.

Sales tax is a large source of revenue for the county.

If re-elected, Hicks hopes to promote economic development on the county level.

“This is a growing community,” Hicks said. “It takes a collective effort. It’s my belief and opinion that we need to be looking at a collaborative effort between both public and private sector in order to maximize our resources.”

Stimatze seems to agree with Hicks on this as well. 

“We need to work together with public, private, the military, the school and everything,” to bolster the workforce, he said.

In terms of working together, Stimatze said he’s heard relations between the county and city are “rather strained” at present.

Hicks disagreed and offered “an open door” to anyone who cared to talk.

There are jobs available in the community, Hicks said, but many jobseekers don’t have the training or skillsets to do them. He believes changing this could improve the local economy. 

Stimatze was uncertain how to address the question of how to improve quality of life within Geary County and promised to research the issue and post the answer on Facebook.

The candidates talked about helping local minority youth become more involved in the community. 

Hicks does not believe racism is a factor. 

“It’s unfortunate sometimes that there are those in the black community that want to cry racism and say that we’re not getting opportunities in one respect or another and I don’t believe that and I haven’t seen it,” he said. 

Hicks believes continuing to reach out to minority youth through local leaders in their communities will help.

Stimatze suggested a closer relationship with the school district.

Hicks, like his opponent, is local. He has a broad range of experience in government offices and not all of them were in Geary County. 

Hicks served as the press secretary for a United States Congressman. He has worked at the Pentagon, where he helped set up its first Small Business Showcase.

“My job there was to work with small businesses, to help them understand how to do business with (the Department of Defense),” he said.

He has used his past positions to help small businesses, particularly those owned by people who might have been at a disadvantage, such as women and minorities. 

“I have a long, and in-depth history of understanding business,” Hicks said.

This will be Stimatze’s first elected office if he wins.

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