Candidates share experience, dreams and goals for Pratt County offices

Courtney Blankenship
Special to the Tribune
Candidates for Pratt County Commission, Dist. 3 are (from left) Darrell Shumway, Rick Shriver and incumbent Joe Reynolds. Voters will elect one candidate on August 4, 2020.

Editor’s Note:This year there are contested races for one county commission seat and the position of Pratt County Clerk listed on the August 4 primary ballot for Pratt County. Candidates vying for those positions were all asked the same three questions and their responses are shared in a Q and A format for voters information from The Pratt Tribune as follows:

Pratt County Commissioner District 3

Darrell Shumway:

Why did you decide to run for this position?

I was born and raised on a farm near Preston, Ks and moved to Pratt in 1963. I have served the Pratt community for many years in a variety positions to name a few, the Greenback Booster Club, the Knights of Columbus, the Pratt Rotary Board, the PCC Booster club, the PCC Foundation Board and 30 years as a Trustee at Pratt Community College. During my tenure as a PCC Trustee I also served on the executive board of the Kansas Association of Community Colleges serving twice as chair, and served on both national boards of Community Colleges for 9 years and serving as national chair of the Association of Community Colleges. I totally believe in community service. I also believe I have the skills and experience of leadership that would benefit my decision making process as a Pratt County Commissioner. I want to continue serving our community as a County Commissioner representing the 3rd district.

If you are elected, what goals do you hope to accomplish while in office?

I have lived in Pratt County all my life and have seen many changes. Pratt County has many positive things that should attract people to want to live and work here. We have great school systems, a college, first class medical facilities, our parks and recreational facilities are well run and we have a progressive City of Pratt that looks toward to the future. Having said all that, we have businesses and individuals in the community that are hurting. For our community to thrive we need growth in the community. When the community grows the tax base broadens. When the tax base broadens taxes go down. I believe the County Commissioners can play a part in this growth by establishing an incubator fund. With an annual contribution to this fund from part of the tax abated Wind Farm revenue, the fund could grow substantially. This fund could be used to entice businesses to locate in Pratt which would add jobs and employees to our community. The result would be a broadened tax base and would lower taxes for all residents. I totally believe that a portion of the tax abated Wind Farm revenue should be used to help our community grow. I would use my many years of experience of board service to help make the right decisions during the budgeting process and administrative duties of a County Commissioner. I would always keep the interest of the citizens of Pratt County first and would be a good listener of the concerns of it residents.

What do you want voters to know about you as a candidate?

I would want the voters to know that I take community service serious. I work hard when given the responsibility to serve who ever I am representing. I would gather all the information needed to make good decisions. I am a good listener and believe in transparency when it comes to administrative action. I do not believe in Administration by committee but do believe in involving the community in the process of gathering information on major issues.

Rick N Shriver:

Why did you decide to run for this position?

I have been serving Pratt County residents for almost 30 years. Most of that as Fire Chief at Coats. I have served Pratt County residents as Undersheriff for the Pratt County Sheriff Office. I am currently the Vice President of the Skyline Board of Education. I am on Township 10 Board as Clerk. I serve as Vice Chair on the Pratt County Planning Board. I am on the Local Emergency Planning Committee. So I bring a wide range of experience to this position. And I think the citizens of Pratt County recognize that because they have been asking me to run for quit some time. And with the economic down turn from COVID-19, I thought now would be a good time to run so I could use my experience to help guide Pratt County through this situation.

If you are elected, what goals do you hope to accomplish while in office?

First and foremost transparency, the citizens of Pratt County have a right to know what the County Commission is doing. I would like to have all the meetings video recorded and put online for everyone to see. I know the Commissioners are spending more, but we are getting less service in some areas. I would like to change that. A department head has been going over their budget for several years and are not being held accountable. There may be a good reason for this, but if not, that’s not fair to the taxpayer. And I will hold them accountable. And of course we have the public safety building. I do not like the location or the cost of this project. I think you can solve all the problems they are trying to fix for less money and better location to serve all of Pratt County. And it needs more public input.

What do you want voters to know about you as a candidate?

I have lived in the Coats area all my life. I am a farmer. My wife Julie works at PCC in financial aid. We have 3 boys Keaton, Jared and Colby. We have 1 granddaughter Bella. I am not a politician, I am doing this because I care about serving the citizens of Pratt County. I hope to bring your voice to this position with Experience, Integrity, and Transparency.

Joe Reynolds:

(Did not submit responses.)

Pratt County Clerk

Lori Voss:

Why did you decide to run for this position?

I am your current Pratt County Clerk, and I truly love my job, serving the community and managing the responsibilities of the office. I joined the Pratt County Clerk’s office in 2002 and held the position of Deputy Clerk for 16 of those years before being appointed County Clerk this May.

Since being appointed to the position in May, I have learned about the responsibilities and complexities of the office. My experience as Deputy Clerk allowed me to immediately begin addressing the needs of this office and more easily transition into my current role. This position requires a candidate who is experienced and knowledgeable about the office.

The experience that I have gathered over the past 18 years in the County Clerk’s office has shown me that I have a passion to keep this department running smoothly and efficiently, while also working towards greater community awareness and support.

If you are elected, what goals do you hope to accomplish while in office?

My top priorities as your County Clerk are to create a culture of transparency, develop relationships with stakeholders and make the office easily accessible to all Pratt County residents. An easily accessible office will help ensure residents are able to vote--whether by mail, voting early or at the polls.

When I was appointed County Clerk in May, one of my first priorities was to establish a public Facebook page, which is something the office was previously lacking. This page will be used to communicate with the public about upcoming elections and deadlines. Having access to local information on social media allows the county to participate in elections and other matters that are affecting them.

While elections are a critical part of this role, the County Clerk position works closely with the county commissioners, develops budgets for the County, and develops abstracts for both the July and November Kansas Property Valuation Department. These tasks are critical to keep the county running.

As County Clerk, I want to continue developing relationships with counties around Kansas to streamline these processes and ensure the citizens of Pratt County are heard and their needs are met.

What do you want voters to know about you as a candidate?

I’ve greatly enjoyed working in the County Clerk’s office for the past 18 years. I feel fortunate to love my job and have enjoyed meeting many Pratt County citizens and rising to meet your needs.

For more than 40 years, I have been a proud Pratt County citizen. I was raised on a farm in northern Barber County, which I believe helped me develop personality traits needed for this position. I pride myself on my honesty, transparency and integrity.

In my personal time, I am a member of the Pratt Presbyterian Church, serve as a board member for the Pratt Area Humane Society and foster animals for Hands of Hope Rescue. I raised my two daughters, Jessica and Stephanie, in Pratt and enjoy visiting them during my time off work. Most days, you will find me in my yard, reading, watching Royals baseball and KU basketball (both pre COVID-19, of course).

Holly Howell

Why did you decide to run for this position?

I am running for Pratt County Clerk as an opportunity to use my qualifications and relationships with the other departments and county residents in a new way. It isn’t very often that there is an open leadership position within the courthouse and I feel I am capable of learning the responsibilities of the office. I’ve worked with the public for many years and would like the chance to serve the community in a larger role.

If you are elected, what goals do you hope to accomplish while in office?

One of my main goals is to increase voter registration and voter turnout. In talking to community members over the last few months, a concern regarding voter access has been raised because of COVID-19. Before I filed for the county clerk position in May, I already sent letters to assisted living centers about advanced voting options because I feel that the residents needed to know this information. I would like to implement more outreach with young adults about the responsibilities of voting, working with schools and youth programs such as 4-H. National elections come every four years, but local elections are crucial as they determine many issues close to home. These local officials guide decisions that affect taxing entities, which in turn affect property taxes, which affects everyone in some way.

An additional goal is to improve communications between departments, employees and the community. Sometimes it takes a crisis to see areas that could be implemented. I feel that one of the roles of the County Clerk is to ensure that the public has the information that they need: from hours of operation, job openings, special news and other facets of county government. I would like to look into putting information on social media within specific guidelines. Many people use social media to answer their questions and it is important that the correct information is available. Another key role as County Clerk is to record the County Commissioner meetings. One of my strengths is writing, and having accurate and comprehensive agendas and minutes of these meetings is pivotal in maintaining transparency with the public.

What do you want voters to know about you as a candidate?

The main challenge that I currently face is communicating that I am capable of serving the role as Pratt County Clerk. I do not have the experience working within the office. However, I do feel I am qualified to learn the position’s duties and responsibilities. I have worked in the Pratt County Treasurer’s office since 2005. From this, I have learned a multitude of skills that would prepare me to attain the functions as Pratt County Clerk. Yes, my primary job is to collect real estate, personal property and motor vehicle taxes. Another key role is finding and accessing information for customers quickly and efficiently to answer a wide variety of questions on a regular basis. I also have other responsibilities that include balancing and reconciling the daily transactions, making daily deposits for the county, and collecting monies from other county departments. These tasks seem second nature but they involve a great attention to detail and accuracy. Over the years, I have adapted to learn new roles and duties as necessary. Departments within the courthouse share information when it comes to tasks like tax assessments and tax collection. I have established relationships with these departments and vow to be a team player by helping and assisting in any way to aide them which in turn serves for the betterment of the community.

I am confident of my ability to learn new tasks and responsibilities. Outside the walls of the courthouse, I have aspired to challenge myself personally. When I have opportunities that I am passionate about, I aspire to try my best. I am a graduate of Skyline School and Pratt Community College. I took many paths to attain my degree, completing my Bachelor's of Science in Social Studies from Kansas State University in 2013. Going back to school was one of the most challenging and most rewarding choices that I have made. I was confronted with learning online, reeducating myself on the fundamentals of Algebra to complete a Calculus class, readjusting my writing skills back to a collegiate level and planning my time to allow this goal not to disrupt raising my daughters.

In 2007, I started my journey with Premier Designs jewelry. I knew nothing about running my own business or about jewelry at all. At that time, I didn’t even wear jewelry. Over the years, I have had personal successes based on my passion to better myself on many levels. I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone, achieved goals, and built relationships along the way.

I am active in the Pratt County 4-H program. I am on Pratt County 4-H Program Development Committee, serving as chair again this year. I believe that youth programs are wonderful ways that enable children to attain skills, participate in community service and boost leadership opportunities. I have served on the Pratt County Extension Council Executive Board for the last two years. Through this, I have had the aided in decision making processes regarding policies, budgets and hiring employees.

My roots are in this county. I can’t think of a better way to acknowledge these roots than to have the chance to serve the people of Pratt County, whom many I have known nearly all my life. My parents are Bill and Jean Howell who still live on the farmstead near Croft that my great grandfather bought around 1901. My maternal grandmother was raised near Sawyer, on land that her grandparents settled. My mother taught at Liberty Middle School for decades. Off the farm, my first job was at the Rancher’s Café in Sawyer. I have been humbled in talking to friends and acquaintances that know my heritage and heart in serving others. I feel that one of my greatest qualifications is that I’m a mom. I have two daughters that attend Skyline. My hope is to guide them and give them as many opportunities as possible so they will become successful adults. Because of these girls, I have taken the steps to pursue a new opportunity. They have been a motivation for many of my decisions as I want them to know that there are no boundaries with enough drive and determination.

I would appreciate the opportunity to serve the citizens of Pratt County in a larger role. With my experiences working with the public and additional skill sets, I believe that I am very capable of the responsibilities of the office of Pratt County Clerk.

Thank you for considering me with your vote on Tuesday, August 4th.