Kelli Reid for County Clerk: Voter Guide
Updated: Oct 28, 2020
Unfortunately, not every media outlet promoting a voter guide has provided an equitable and comprehensive look at all races in the upcoming election, with some saying that local races like County Clerk and Treasurer simply won't be included. As a candidate, I believe this is a genuine disservice to voters who want to get to know ALL the candidates on their ballot, not just some. In lieu of not having an accurate guide to point voters to at this time, we've provided a fairly expansive response to questions recently submitted for a guide that will soon be available to suburban-area voters highlighting all local races and candidates.
Candidate: Kelli Reid Position: Sedgwick County Clerk
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Education, Ottawa University (2000); Master in Public Administration, Wichita State University (May 2021)
1. What is your background? (Work, family, civic involvement, etc.)
I am a Kansas-native and three-time boomerang back home, who in many ways represents the talent leak facing the state of Kansas. I’m also a mother, wife, and daughter who is driven by family values, making a difference, and an unwavering commitment to the public interest. I am a proud educator, communications professional, and nonprofit administrator with a background in student government leadership and advancing diversity in STEM education and research. I received my Bachelor’s degree in Education from Ottawa University and will graduate with a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Wichita State University this spring. As a lifelong learner, I believe education is one of the most important components of advancing and improving communities.
For a decade, I served as Associate Executive Director and Director of Marketing and Communications for two nonprofit organizations that directly support the professional growth and development of students in higher education. I’ve presented at numerous national conferences and held memberships with various government, higher education, and nonprofit organizations, such as the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) and the Auxiliary Organization Association (AOA). I regularly take part in professional development opportunities and support local community events and small-businesses. I’ve also served as a volunteer for local organizations, led community-service and service-learning programs, and enjoy participating in community events and clean up projects.
2. What are your qualifications for office?
The County Clerk represents all residents of Sedgwick County. Their responsibilities are entirely administrative and non-political, and their role is to serve as the secretary of the Board of County Commissioners. They keep records of County business, meeting minutes, resolutions, and decisions. In large part, the County Clerk provides a direct link between government and the people. The Clerk also administers property taxes, maintains land and property records, and issues certain licenses and permits.
My commitment to serve, my ability to find common-ground, and my experience as an administrator - managing people, budgets, and programs - uniquely qualifies me for office. In previous leadership positions, I have managed multi-million dollar budgets and teams as large as 220 employees. I’ve led organizational restructures, internal control procedures, strategic planning, IT projects, program evaluation, and managed a variety of crisis situations. As an administrator, I’ve worked with and provided training to a number of diverse governing boards of educators, students, and scientists from all over the country. Additionally, I have served as account director for a local marketing agency, owned several small businesses, taught middle-school, and have been a licensed real estate agent over the course of my career.
My formal training represents a broad spectrum of the essential duties of the Clerk’s office, including: human resources management, public finance, state and local government law, program evaluation and assessment, conflict resolution, real estate, and more. Additionally, in my role as senior advisor for student government leaders interested in a life of public service, I taught open meeting law, handling public records’ requests, parliamentary procedure, ethical decision-making, and conflict resolution.
3. What do you see as the top issues in your race, and how would you address them?
I am running for County Clerk because I believe the people of Sedgwick County deserve a choice in who they elect to represent them. We must challenge the status quo, diversify leadership, and remove undue political influence from administrative positions to maintain an appropriate level of checks and balances on government power, influence, authority, and control. My priorities and professional values as a public servant are to restore public trust, increase transparency and accountability, and foster leadership and opportunities for success. From my perspective, the top issues in this race are:
Representation. First and foremost, I would be present at County Commission meetings to represent the people who elected me. The current Clerk is not present at meetings, even though Kansas law stipulates this as a primary responsibility. Sending a representative should be the exception, not the rule. The Clerk is the keeper of records and decisions of the County, and without their direct involvement in meetings, the public and the Commission suffer.
Hyper-Partisanship. The County Clerk is elected to serve each member of the Commission and the public regardless of political affiliation, not advance a party's agenda or interests. This office is entirely non-partisan, but our current Clerk has shown repeatedly over the last 12 years that his priorities are politics over people, and he continually seeks to advance his political career while the duties of Clerk suffer. If elected, I will advance my passion for service to others by putting people above politics and seek to find common ground in all circumstances. My promise is to serve all constituents, not just those who share the same perspective as me.
Timeliness and Transparency. Going forward, a priority of this office needs to be increasing the timeliness and transparency of meeting minutes of the Board of County Commissioners and ensuring a more broad and diverse distribution of information about the decisions that impact residents. Currently, it takes 30-45 days to approve meeting minutes and make them a matter of public record, and during a time of constantly changing policy, this must be improved. Lastly, we need to do a better job sharing information in non-traditional formats, such as providing closed captioning or interpreters for Commission meetings or increasing the availability of bi-lingual content and materials.
Accessibility and Involvement. Ease and accessibility of information and records are critical components of the Clerk’s office. These processes must continually improve to meet customer needs and improve service-level satisfaction. When calling the Clerk’s office recently, a property owner was told they would have to submit a public records request to access property information for multiple houses they own. This is an entirely inadequate way of managing the needs of the public. Going forward, I would prioritize the ease of accessibility of information by the public, work to encourage involvement and participation in government, and ensure that the people in Sedgwick County know about services of the Clerk’s office. I also intend to deepen partnerships with WSU and other colleges and universities to strengthen and expand existing internship opportunities so more college students can get involved in local government and apply classroom learning in real-world environments. Lastly, I believe the Clerk can do more than administer property taxes. I would like to focus on creating and strengthening opportunities and programs for first-time homebuyers and increase awareness about financial relief available for property owners and related services of the Clerk’s office, like support with Homestead Act applications.
Employee Morale. There have been multiple accounts from Clerk’s office employees who have expressed concern about the organizational culture under the current leadership and the desperate need for positive change. Reported issues include: poor management, poor communication, favoritism, high turnover, and employees feeling unheard and devalued. One of my greatest strengths is my ability to connect with people, and I intend to use that strength to advance employee retention and satisfaction and empower individual and collective leadership. I will ensure team members are prepared to lead by providing training, tools, and resources necessary to perform their jobs, increase programs that acknowledge hard work and commitment, and promote alignment around the vision and goals of the County.
4. Relative to the office you are seeking, how do you feel about the government response to the COVID-19 pandemic? With cases rising again, what else do you feel should be done to address the situation?
Because the Board of County Commissioners also serves as the Board of Health, the timely availability of information related to public health decisions has never been more important. One thing COVID-19 has taught us as residents is the importance of staying fully informed and getting involved in decisions that impact our community. It is imperative that elected officials work together in a positive, professional manner in order to achieve common goals and objectives. We must be willing to put the public interest above self-interest, particularly in a public health crisis like the one we are facing. We must use the data we are learning about the virus and its spread to continually improve our approach to saving lives and to encourage critical thinking to solve the challenges we face together.
Trust in government is at an all-time low nationally and locally. I believe residents must see in our words and our actions, that government leaders can be trusted to act in a manner consistent with the public interest. As simple as it sounds, masks save lives. As leaders, we should provide a model to others by wearing one instead of potentially spreading the disease to others unknowingly and causing harm to our most vulnerable populations. The debate over whether government should enforce the use of masks in public places is a heated one, resulting in further division, mistrust, and separation as community members. In my opinion, wearing a mask is not an unreasonable solution to a public health crisis and the best tool we have in our toolbox to lessen the impact on our community and families.
From the perspective of the economic crisis we are facing because of the shutdowns related to COVID-19, I believe we need to do more to support our small businesses and allocate CARES Act funding to those most in need. I have been in the shoes of these small business owners and currently own and manage several rental properties in the local area. I understand how important small businesses are to our economy, and now more than ever, just how vulnerable a small business and their workers and families are to threats like the one we are facing.