Mike McCrory and his wife, Nora, are still in their first year as Atchison residents, and it may not be especially predictable for a newcomer, recent retiree like Mike to be deeply engaged in local school governance.
Turns out, it is best to not predict what you’ll hear at a local election campaign event.
“I’ve had the opportunity to meet in depth with the principals of the elementary and middle schools here in town,” said McCrory, who concluded a career as a business executive in the Denver area before his arrival in search of a relatively relaxed life on the banks of the Missouri River.
“I’m a big believer in literacy, as if my wife; I’m a big believer and supporter of education. This town is so rich with Trinity (Lutheran School), with Benedictine, with the public schools that are here and (Maur Hill-Mount Academy). The town obviously has a commitment to education, and education is key to the future. So I’m here to learn more.”
For a newly engaged voter of this kind, plenty of would-be public office holders showed up on Wednesday evening at the Atchison Elks Lodge to help those interested learn more. They participated in the Project Atchison Candidate Meet & Greet event, held by the local charity and public service organization, which often has a role in local government matters and claims several from the slate of 2019 candidates among its members.
The event welcomed candidates and/or campaign representatives from the seven Atchison City Commission bids: Abby Bartlett, J. David Farris, David Hausmann, Luke Jesnowski, Lisa Moody, William J. Murphy and Charlie Perdue. Three of those candidates will hold seats on the next city commission when it convenes in January; Perdue and Hausmann are incumbent members, who would be re-elected if they place among the top three.
In addition, the event featured the bids of Sally Berger, John Bishop, Stefanie Durkin Gardner, Herb Gwaltney and Pamela Rizza for the Atchison Public Schools USD 409 board of education. Candidate Josh Wheeler will be on the ballot, but he has informally withdrawn pending a move to another community. Three of the remaining five will receive seats on the school board; Gwaltney is the only incumbent.
Event attendee Ryan Pickman, who is actively involved in local and state politics via the Atchison County Democratic Party, considers the nonpartisan city commission and school board races to be of particular importance. At the end of the day, it is the city commission, for example, which must solve problems that affect everyone in the community every day, like local roads.
“And they’ve been beat up for the last couple of years,” Pickman said. “We’ve got to get those fixed up. Housing will also be a critical issue this year, and that’s at every income level, from top to bottom.”
Pickman’s wife, Macy, is an educator, so he has that window into the school board race.
“I kind of have an idea of the long hours and other hardships that they face,” he said. “It requires caring about your students, sometimes more than anything, to help them succeed. Funding the school district is something we have to do. We have to make sure the teachers are properly paid, the students are properly fed ... and 409 does a fantastic job of that ... and make sure they are all prepared for the next level.”
Candidates will next have an opportunity to collectively speak to the public at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14, at the USD 409 District Office, 626 Commercial St. For those unable to attend, a livestream will be broadcast on https://www.facebook.com/visitatchison, and later rebroadcast on public access television. For more information on this Atchison Area Chamber of Commerce candidate forum, call 913-367-2427.