Campaign Launches Community Listening Tour in Derby, KS
The day I decided to run for public office, I was told that my life and the people I know and spend time with would change. I didn’t fully understand how at the time, but am starting to get a good picture now. Together, we can accomplish anything!
The campaign to elect ME to a position that represents the people of Sedgwick County is something I am truly humbled by. It is an example of what’s possible when we encourage one another to do something bold and are brave enough to pursue our dreams and ambitions without fear. I asked myself in the mirror very early on in this process, “Who am I to run for office?” The answer was simple, “Who are you not to?”
Our country will soon celebrate the 19th Amendment Centennial giving women the right to vote. It wasn’t until long after 1920 that all women would have that same right, yet the landmark occasion made me consider that voting alone isn’t enough. Particularly for women, we must acknowledge that our voices and perspectives have value, and we must therefore not only exercise our right to vote, but our right to get involved, to participate in government, and take part in the decisions that impact our communities and the people in them. I think 2020 will be the year that sparks this change.
One particular commitment the campaign has made is to take time to visit with folks in smaller suburban cities and towns. A Community Listening Tour is the best way to fulfill that commitment and learn more about the ideas and perspectives people have about local government and experiences they may have with the County. It has been equally valuable to provide information about services of the Clerk’s office and the role they play as the official Secretary of the Board of County Commissioners, being the keeper of County records, and providing support for Homestead tax refunds, property tax appeals, business and recreation licenses and permits, and more.
We began our tour in Derby, Kansas and the surrounding area and will eventually make our way all across the County over the next couple of months. For the last two weeks, we made calls, dropped literature, visited local businesses, and talked to local residents. One morning during my neighborhood walks, I was stopped curbside by a man who asked, “Are you Kelli Reid? So, what are you going to do for the County?”
I welcomed the question and began engaging in conversation about the ways I hope to help restore trust in government and make information more accessible, among other things. This discussion led to me being invited onto his porch, where we shared ideas, stories, and philosophies about creating company culture, core values and purpose, process improvement, and what it means to stay true to the “why” of your existence. By the end of our time together I knew I had made a friend, but then he gave me a compliment I will never forget, “Well, Ms. Kelli Reid, we found common ground today. You ARE the common-ground candidate.” That beautiful connection led to several opportunities to meet other residents and local leaders, which I may not have had if it weren't for our encounter.
When we chose the campaign tagline, Forward Together, it meant something to me. And, as it turns out, it means something to others too. It is a simple statement that expresses my promise to find common ground and connection first so we can move forward together to create change. It is also a reminder that while we may feel strongly about our convictions and beliefs as individuals, together we are even stronger in our ability to face challenges and solve common problems. I believe there is much more that connects us than divides us, we just have to take the time to see, listen to, and respect each other as people first.
I am honored to have the opportunity to take on such an audacious goal as to run for Sedgwick County Clerk and humbled knowing that I cannot do it alone. This experience has already been one of the greatest accomplishments of my life, regardless of what happens in November. I’ve always said that we must consider every opportunity before us, proceed with intention and purpose, and simultaneously let go of the outcome. The truth is, we don’t know what will result from our efforts, but we do know that possibility lies in the relationships we create with people along the way.
Below is a fairly comprehensive list of the key learnings and takeaways from our first Community Listening Tour in Derby. While we may not recap every tour in the same way and not all feedback received is necessarily relevant to the Clerk’s office, this list provides an example of the things we heard, observed, and are listening to:
Derby is a forward-thinking, innovative, welcoming city full of pride!
The Derby Senior Center is a phenomenal community resource that people speak very highly of.
Derby is a model for community involvement and development and providing a sense of place and belonging for residents and visitors alike.
Of those we spoke to, no one could recall a time when a Sedgwick County Clerk or Clerk candidate came to Derby to spend time there.
There is a concern in Derby with rising home values, property taxes, and market demand, with very few affordable homes available to buy.
The people of Derby are accommodating and kind. Even when we entered a local restaurant five minutes before closing, we were greeted and served with a smile.
Precinct committee members in Derby are ready to engage with neighbors, get people registered to vote, and encourage early voting options.
Derby has a close network of businesses and a very active Chamber of Commerce.
Derby has gone above and beyond to invest in parks and recreation improvements, boasts incredible river access, and has friendly signage showing points of entry along the Arkansas River.
There is a high degree of importance in participating in the Census to be able to calculate accurate population totals. Census data helps determine the number of representatives among the states, drives redistricting of legislative and congressional seats, and determines the allocation of more than $675 billion in federal funding each year to states, counties and communities for schools, hospitals, roads, public works and other vital programs.
We need to do a better job reaching out to and communicating with Spanish-speaking residents about resources, opportunities, and services of the County.
The County could improve internal communications by sharing an approved vendor and contractor list with all of its departments on a regular basis.
The Clerk’s office could work more closely with the County public information officer and strategic communications team to engage with residents about upcoming agenda items, live meetings, and recent decisions.
There is a great need for a comprehensive communications campaign designed to share CARES funding opportunities to wider and more diverse audiences.
The County’s mental health and substance abuse services available through COMCARE are critical, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis.
There is a need to be more intentional about sharing resources and opportunities to populations that could benefit from the information the most.
The County website could be reimagined and redesigned to be more user friendly, streamlining information and increasing accessibility.
Closed captioning on County Commission meeting videos would help those that are hard of hearing be able to participate and engage.
Special thanks to the people of Derby for your warm welcome and support. Our Community Listening Tour now has a powerful example and model to follow as we visit other areas in the County.
Next up, the campaign will be visiting folks in the Valley Center, Park City and Kechi area. We look forward to what's to come!