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Voters Guide For Wyandotte County Commission Election 2019

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Nearly half of the 10 commissioners on the Unified Government are up for re-election in November. Meet the candidates.

Voters in Wyandotte County will decide on Nov. 5 whether they want to see a change of hands on the Unified Government Board of Commissioners. 

In this election, voters will select commissioners, representatives for the Board of Public Utilities and board members of USD 500 Kansas City, Kansas, public schools. Early voting starts Saturday.

Nearly half of the current commissioners are up for re-election. Second District Commissioner Brian McKiernan faces no opposition on his way to a third term in office. The presiding commissioners and their challengers are listed below, and here's how to find your district.

1st District At-Large

Melissa Brune Bynum (incumbent)
First elected in 2015.

Where are you from? I am from Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas, and have lived and worked here my entire life.

Occupation/Background: Executive director of Shepherd’s Center. Previously: American Red Cross, Wyandot Inc., editor/publisher of The Wyandotte West and Piper Press newspapers. Others: KCK Women’s Chamber of Commerce, Livable Neighborhoods, Downtown Shareholders.

How have you served the community? I have been in service to our WyCo/KCK community for my entire life. Service was modeled to me by my parents, so my service began as a young lady, working alongside them at church, in our neighborhood and in the community. I have served on the board of directors of more than a dozen non profit organizations in Wyandotte County, and have helped to organize more than a dozen active neighborhood groups. I currently work as the executive director of the Shepherd’s Center of KCK, a 33-year-old organization that provides programs and services to older adults in Wyandotte County. You could say that service is in my DNA. This is what led me to believe I could provide good service to our community as an elected official.

What is your top priority as a commissioner? Lowering the tax burden, supporting and partnering with neighborhood groups.

Mark Gilstrap

Gilstrap did not respond to KCUR's requests for comment.

He worked for the Unified Government for more than three decades before retiring last year.

In 1996, he was elected as Democratic Senator of Kansas' 5th District. He served until he lost in the 2008 primary. He then switched political parties and ran again, unsuccessfully, in 2012. He served as chair of the Wyandotte County Republican Party before entering the UG commissioners race.

3rd District

Christian Ramirez

Where are you from? I lived in Rosedale until I was 5 and then made the short trek to Argentine where I still live today.

Occupation/Background: Assistant site administrator for Johnson County Parks & Recreation before and after school program.

How have you served the community? I am a lifelong resident of District 3 with strong ties to the community. My grandfather immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico and opened a store in Argentine before it was destroyed in the 1951 flood. My family has always believed in putting community before self-interests and that is what really inspired me to run. I am super active in my community and government. I served as a legislative intern for Senator Pat Pettey; I helped with finances and volunteer coordination for the Brent Welder 2018 congressional primary campaign; I am currently the Treasurer for the Wyandotte County Democratic Party; and I helped to start a local chapter of the Kansas Young Democrats at KCKCC.

What is your top priority as a commissioner? Rebuilding a sense of community, focusing on youth programming and community driven economic development.

Ann Murguia (incumbent)
First elected in 2007.

Where are you from? I have lived in the Argentine neighborhood in Kansas City, Kansas, for the last 24 years. I was born and raised in Charles City, Iowa, until I was 18 years old.

Occupation/Background: Founding member, executive director of the Argentine Neighborhood Development Association (ANDA) for 12 years. Member of Kansas Board of Regents. Others: El Centro, Inc., Missouri Department of Corrections.

How have you served your community? The Argentine neighborhood has faced many economic and social challenges over the past twenty years. One of ANDA’s greatest accomplishments was securing the building of two grocery stores on a former EPA environmentally contaminated site. The 17-acre site sat dormant and property tax delinquent at the gateway to the Argentine neighborhood for 30 years. In 2013 this blighted area was repurposed to address the food desert issue this community had struggled with for almost two decades. We built a Save A Lot grocery store. As UG 3rd District Commissioner, I am in the leadership role of developing and completing multi-million dollars projects in our community, including projects like curb and sidewalk, bike paths, and park improvements. I was recruited by the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce to spearhead the health initiative that raised the age to purchase tobacco products. We were successful in passing this new legislation in Wyandotte County. 

What is your top priority as a commissioner? Reducing property taxes.

4th District

Harold Johnson Jr. (incumbent)
First elected in 2015.

Where are you from? I was born and raised in Kansas City, Kansas. I have lived in District 4 for nearly 50 years, and my family has called Wyandotte County home for four generations.

Occupation/Background: Pastor at Faith Deliverance Family Worship Center. Currently pursuing a master's degree in theological studies at St. Paul School of Theology. Previously: vice president of Commerce Bank.

How have you served the community? I have served on the Board of Directors for a number of nonprofit organizations that serve and benefit the residence of Wyandotte County such as the REACH Healthcare Foundation, Communities Creating Opportunities (CCO) and Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas to name a few. I currently serve as 2nd Vice Chair on the Board of Directors of Mid America Regional Council (MARC), and on the Chief Elected Officer Board of Directors of Workforce Partnership. As Commissioner, I currently serve on the Public Works/Safety and Administration/Human Services Standing Committees. Finally, I have chaired, hosted and organized several metropolitan and local public rallies, forums, summits and research actions, focusing on issues such as prison re-entry, payday loan usury rates, voter registration and other concerns that affect communities of color and the disenfranchised. 

What is your top priority as a commissioner? Bringing real economic development east of I-635 and economic dignity for all Wyandotte Countians.

Jorge Luis Flores

Where are you from? I was born and raised in Kansas City, Kansas Wyandotte County. 

Occupation/Background: Owner of J.F. & Associates real estate services. A graduate of Wyandotte High School, KCK Community College and UMKC. 

How have you served the community? I am a former Kansas City, Kansas, police officer (academy class valedictorian) where I served for almost 9 years and received two awards for valor. I recently started my practice in the finance industry. I serve on the leadership board for El Centro Inc. and Black Excellent KC. I have participated in community development projects focused on bringing affordable housing and services to underserved communities In KCK. I initiated Acts of Giving and volunteered with Jobs for America’s Graduates, helping lead youth towards graduation and employment opportunities. I was a recipient of Ingram’s Magazine’s top “20 in their Twenties” award. 

What is your top priority as a commissioner? Equal representation in our diverse community. 

6th District

Diana Aguirre

Where are you from? I moved from Kansas City, Missouri, to Kansas City, Kansas’s Argentine community 35 years ago.

Occupation/Background: Founder, president of Argentine Kommunity Awareness (AKA).

How have you served the community? Through AKA and the help of youth, volunteers, neighborhood businesses, churches and schools, I was able to provide monthly gatherings for the youth in which they could engage in a variety of activities while being a safe environment. Over the years I have dedicated to developing AKA into an organization with quite an expansive reach. It has organized food drives, graffiti clean-ups, beautification projects and more. For 14 years, we also organized Youth Nights for teenagers to be able to be in a safe environment and just be a kid. I created Teen View Health for Life with KU students from the school of journalism so students can write about issues that were most important to them. For 10 years I volunteered as director at a local church youth group striving to tear down the divide between the church, youth and community.

What is your top priority as a commissioner? Addressing the privatization of community centers and fairness of property taxes.

Angela Markley (incumbent)
First elected in 2011. Re-elected in 2015.

Where are you from? I have lived my entire life in the Turner area. Our home is just a few blocks from where I grew up.

Occupation/Background: In-house counsel to BRR Architecture, Inc. Graduated cum laude from Washburn University School of Law in 2006, and summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Pittsburg State University in 2003.

How have you served the community? I am a former chair of the Turner Recreation Commission, and a former Turner Days Committee member. I gave up both positions when I was elected to the Unified Government commission. I was a founding member of Turner Community Connection. My husband and I are officers of the SAFE Neighborhood Group. I sit on the governance committee of Project EAGLE, which operates from the Children’s Campus on Minnesota Avenue. As commissioner, I am chairperson of the UG Administration and Human Services Standing Committee. I serve as the UG’s appointment to the Mid-America Regional Council Board of Directors, and I chair the MARC Air Quality Forum. I am the UG appointment to the KCK Convention and Visitors’ Bureau board. I have previously chaired the ad hoc committees for the municipal court judge appointment, and served on the committee reviewing commissioner appointments, and the committee reviewing trash pickup failures and solutions.

What is your top priority as a commissioner? Reducing blight and improving perception and experience of our neighborhoods. 

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter at KCUR 89.3. Email her at andreat@kcur.org, and follow her on Twitter @andreatudhope

Andrea Tudhope is an award-winning multimedia journalist based in Kansas City, Missouri. She is currently coordinating producer for America Amplified, a national public media community engagement initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 
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