In the election for Jackson County Executive, Stacey Lindgren faces a big challenge.
Not only is she a Green Party candidate facing an incumbent Democrat – a party that has held the seat since the new county charter took effect in 1973 – she is facing a man with great name recognition in Kansas City Royals Hall of Famer Frank White Jr.
Lindgren, though, says she is unfazed by that.
"People know Frank White as a great baseball player. This is the first time the voters get to decide that Mr. White is the best person for the county executive job," said Lindgren, a businesswoman and Kansas City resident who owns a business strategy and marketing consultant firm and is a founding member of the KC ARTS Ecovillage Project in Kansas City. "I am confident that they will weigh this decision based on our vision for the county and our qualifications for the job.
"Also, I believe that it is important for citizens to get involved in civic affairs. My candidacy elevates progressive ideas at the local level and turns the county executive election into a conversation about the future of Jackson County rather than a just a job confirmation. The Green Party wants the public to know that there is an alternative and we intend to offer that alternative up and down the ticket. I trust that the public will appreciate having an actual choice."
The Jackson County Legislature selected White on Jan. 11 to serve as Jackson County executive through the end of 2016 after former executive Mike Sanders resigned from the office on Jan. 5 for personal reasons.
Now White, a Lee's Summit resident who stepped down as the 1st District At-Large Legislator upon his appointment as executive, is running against Lindgren to serve the remaining two years of Sanders' term through 2018.
White said he was emboldened to run for the seat after the Legislature showed trust in him to lead the county.
"It's the confidence that the Legislature had in appointing me to the position after being in the Legislature for only a year prior," White said. "So I just have to trust my experience in that time as executive and build on that. So far I think I have done a pretty good job at it, and hopefully the voters do too."
Lindgren said her business acumen would make her a good leader for the county.
"I have many years of executive and management experience, working in fortune 500 companies to start-ups. I founded several businesses, creating jobs for other people along the way," she said. "I will bring a business perspective to the county executive office, both within county operations and when interacting with businesses impacted by county services. My approach to the job will be to serve as an effective manager but also as a leader who will help all the people of our county set their sights on creating a healthier and more equitable community."
White said he has grown to love the position and learn what it takes to fill it in his short time in office and wants to continue what he has started.
"I really like the position," he said. "... I've been able to learn about the programs offered by the county, what the Legislature does and how it works and how the sheriff's department and judicial system works and the policies and procedures of those.
"There's always room for improvement but there are a lot of things I want to be part of to help improve the lives of the people in the county. For me, it's all about helping people of the county and improving their quality of life."
Policies and priorities
White said his priorities if elected are to update the Jackson County Sheriff's Office facilities and continue Sanders' work to bring commuter rail lines in addition to pushing for programs to help the county's citizens.
"Before Mike left he did a lot of work to get the old Rock Island rail line going, and I'd like to continue to move forward on that," White said. "And we have a situation with the jail being old. It's in need of several repairs, so I'd like to find the money to the bring the jail up to better safety standards and make it easier for the sheriff and his deputies to do their jobs."
White has also been pushing for county voters to pass the COMBAT tax renewal for the fight against drugs, and the sales tax for the Jackson County Community Services Fund to help protect children, which are both on the Nov. 8 ballot.
He hopes to continue providing programs like the summer one that took inner city children to the beach at Longview Lake and one to help senior citizens enjoy the holiday program at Longview.
"These people pay their taxes for the county, too, so it's all about letting them use the facilities and programs that they pay taxes for," he said. "We want them to be aware of all the programs the county offers them.
"... There are a lot of good things Mike got done in the previous nine years and we want to closely monitor those and continue what works. My focus has always been on the people of the county; it's not necessarily about brick and mortar. I want to improve the quality of life, like boosting salaries and providing programs to help people. That's been my focus all along and why I ran for the Legislature in the first place. What can I do to help the community and the people."
Lindgren said her priorities if elected are to create business opportunities and bring environmental issues to the forefront.
"I want to build on the current efforts to make the Kansas City metro area a hub for entrepreneurship and innovation. Jackson County and Kansas City can work to integrate these efforts more efficiently and support more creative people and ideas," she said. "The Weather Channel Climate Disruption Index shows that Kansas City will be fifth out of 25 cities most impacted by climate change. This disruption will be sure to affect the rest of Jackson County. Climate change is an urgent global crisis that will hit us close to home. Jackson County needs to be part of the solution and we have no time to waste. I would work with the county legislature to get county operations powered by 100 percent clean energy by 2030. The county can also play a big role in creating clean transportation systems like mass transit and engage in climate mitigation efforts such as increasing our tree canopy."
She would also like to make county government more transparent.
"I also want to create a more open and transparent government that engages the citizens," said Lindgren, who recently had her first child. "One example of this is allowing direct citizen involvement in setting a portion of county budget priorities. Participatory budgeting has been shown to work and empower citizens in other communities such as Chicago and New York. The citizens of our county should be able to directly work with government to make decisions about the money spent to affect their lives."