Augusta election profiles

Greg Williams
Butler County Times Gazette

Nov. 2 the city of Augusta will host city and school elections — electing members of the city council and Augusta Board of Education.

Election day is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021.

City of Augusta Ward 1

City Council Member Candidate

Eric Birk 

Questionnaire not returned

City of Augusta Ward 2

City Council Member Candidate

Robert "Bob" Bailey

Age 54

Years living in Augusta: 22

What, in your opinion, is the top issue facing the community of Augusta today:  

There are so many issues going on in town right now. Everyone is going to have a different one that is important to them.  I believe we need to work on growth. We have not had sufficient growth in the last few years. That puts the ever-growing financial burden of running the city on the same number of people.  

What, in your opinion, is a solution you can bring to the commission to resolve this issue?

We need to get more businesses in town and better promote what we have. Go Augusta and the Tourism Board have been doing a good job.  We have to see why companies and people are choosing to go elsewhere and what we can do to change it. 

What unique skills or experience do you have that makes you a qualified candidate?

I have been on many boards and committees including filling in as a board member before. I make decisions based on research, not emotions.  

What can the commission do to put, or keep, the city on a strong financial trajectory over the course of the next five years?

Keep going over the budget and keeping it where we don’t get an increase in mill levies or taxes. 

City of Augusta Ward 3

City Council Member Candidate

Phil Gehlen 

Questionnaire not returned

City Council Member Candidate

Kip Richardson (R)

Age: 59

Years living in Augusta: 31

What, in your opinion, is the top issue facing the community of Augusta today:

This is question is difficult to answer, If I think about the downtown - it's getting businesses into the vacant buildings, removing roadblocks that prevent businesses from wanting to move into Augusta, providing an incentive to entice businesses to want to come to Augusta, and to provide support to those businesses that al already here no matter what the location is within the city.

We (the city) have got to continue to put the infrastructure in place to support the expansion of businesses that want to start and grow here in Augusta. Additionally, Augusta needs more housing so that we can allow our schools, businesses, and community to grow. The outward growth is a necessity to bring more and younger families into our community.

What, in your opinion, is a solution you can bring to the City Council to resolve this issue.

I want to spend additional time communicating with our businesses and realtors in our community to solicit input into our housing market and opportunities for growth, Continue to communicate with our school administration on the status of student enrollment and what we as a city can do to assist them.

I also want to improve communications with our city staff and community members to seek their input on community needs and what needs to be done to improve in this area. Lastly to speak to other council members to seek additional input on efforts that have helped in the past so that we can avoid those ideas that previously failed, Part of this solution I believe is continuing to make Äugusta appealing and a place parents want to raise their families.

What unique skills or experience do you have that makes you a qualified candidate:

I have been representing the members of Ward 3 as an Augusta City Council member for the past 3 ⅜ years. I was voted on by the city council in 2018 to fill Mike Rawlings's position when he became Mayor of Augusta. I have been a member of the Augusta Department of Public Safety as a volunteer fire firefighter for the past 24 years; currently serving as a volunteer fire captain. From 2002 to 2006 I was an active member of the Augusta Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors serving as the organizations' president in 2006.

Part of my responsibilities while being with the chamber was to handle the logistics of the White Eagle Festival previously held in August of each year. Additionally, I was an active member of the Augusta United Way. I also served 11 years as a reserve with the Butler County Sheriff's Office as a Road Patrol Deputy; In this role, I volunteered between 40 and 50 hours per month. I believe strongly in helping others and doing my part to make our community stronger, I enjoy serving on the August City Council and representing my constituents.

What can the City Council do to put, or keep, the city on a strong financial trajectory over the course of the next five years?

The city staff and city council work very hard to watch spending and use the money they are entrusted with to do the best for the majority of Augusta. Augusta's financial officer is top-notch and keeps the staff and council appraised of expenditures and budget items constantly. I am comfortable knowing that moving forward as in the past council members will be reviewing the finances as they are updated and reviewed at every council meeting. Any questions are brought up in the open meeting for members of this community to hear.

The city manager and assistant city manager work very hard to present budget items to council members as part of the annual budget workshops. The city council spends countless hours in a work session to review, discuss and adopt a balanced budget for the upcoming year. One thing that I am proud of to be a part of is the city council members not only look into the next year's budget and build a solid plan but also beyond that to plan financially for years to come making sure future councils have a stable financial account to support our community. As a council member, I will continue to be open to seeking input and placing the community's needs at the forefront of expenditures.

Unified School District 402

Board Member- At Large Candidate

Allan E Milbradt 

Age: 69

Years living in Augusta: 37 years. 

Tell me one good thing about living in Augusta you have experienced within the last year:

The city keeps making improvements that make the city more attractive. These include a new play park and walking/biking trails. 

What, in your opinion, is the top issue facing the Augusta Board of Education today?: 

Change is the constant of the universe. In the world we live in the pace of change is increasing. So, how do we prepare students for this increasing pace of change and give them the tools they need to succeed?

What, in your opinion, is a solution you can bring to the BOE to resolve this issue? 

I’m smart enough to know I don’t have all the answers. But I do feel that continued emphasis on critical thinking and problem solving is necessary.

What unique skills or experience do you have that makes you a qualified candidate?

I am an architect who has 30 years of experience specializing in educational planning and educational architecture. I was the CEO of the architectural firm PBA Architects, which used a community dialogue process to help pass 2 successful bond issues in Augusta.

These bond issues resulted in new facilities for Augusta Middle School, Ewalt Elementary, Lincoln Elementary, Garfield Elementary, and a new central kitchen. In addition, the bond issues included major additions and renovations to Robinson Elementary and the Augusta High School.

Board Member- At Large Candidate

Susan Hostetter 

Age: 67

Years living in Augusta: 2 years

Tell me one good thing about living in Augusta you have experienced within the last year:

I think Augusta is amazing! It is a great community to be a part of and raise a family. I have been welcomed with open arms and hearts. People are proud and care about their community and schools! 

What, in your opinion, is the top issue facing the Augusta Board of Education today?

As well as many districts in my opinion funding is a big issue facing the Augusta Board of Education! State revenue is down and this directly affects the schools.

What, in your opinion, is a solution you can bring to the BOE to resolve this issue? 

District goals and student learning needs should be used when preparing the budget. As a former business owner with my husband and experience with a school budget, I do have the mindset of budgeting and looking at it creatively, and prioritizing! As a board and community, we will need to work together creatively to continue providing an excellent education for our children.

What unique skills or experience do you have that makes you a qualified candidate?

I retired after 43 years in education. I have taught middle school, several elementary grades, special education preschool, and held many leadership roles. I feel I have the experience to be a great board member. I have experience working in schools as well as working on curriculum and other issues in the schools. I am open-minded and know we need all stakeholders involved to continue preparing our children for the future.

Board Member-At-Large Candidate

Doug Berryman 

Age: 57

Years living in Augusta: 18

Tell me one good thing about living in Augusta you have experienced within the last year:

I have seen a very resilient community come together during very difficult circumstances and deal with the challenges of COVID and economic difficulties. The best thing I noticed was a community come together to ensure residents did not go hungry and were provided food boxes to assist them.

What, in your opinion, is the top issue facing the Augusta Board of Education today?

The obvious answer to this would be dealing with the challenges of COVID, but that will pass at some point. The main opportunity that the board will face moving forward is declining enrollment.  As a board member moving forward, in order for us to continue to provide all of the programs and services that we have been able to provide up until this point, we need to be creative in how we approach increasing our enrollment.  One of the current board goals is to find ways in which to market our district in a way in which we can increase our enrollment which will be vital to our continued success.

What, in your opinion, is a solution you can bring to the BOE to resolve this issue? 

I feel it is imperative that as a district, we find ways to market our district to potential families in ways that highlight the many great programs and opportunities that our district provides. We are doing great things in our district, but we need to promote and get the word out to potential families with children to spark growth.

What unique skills or experience do you have that makes you a qualified candidate? 

I am in my 29th year as an educator and I’m currently working as an administrator in another school district. This has provided me with a broad base of knowledge from which to draw when making decisions that affect all students in Augusta. In addition, six of those 29 years were spent teaching and coaching Augusta middle school students and teaching driver’s education to Augusta high school students. In my five years on the USD 402 school board, I have served as board Vice President for two years and one year as President. My tenure as President was during the height of COVID last year, and I am proud of the fact we were able to have school in person for 33 out of 36 weeks along with celebrating our 2021 grads in a traditional graduation ceremony. I don’t have all of the answers, but I am certainly capable of finding those answers when needed.

Board Member-At-Large Candidate

Angie Johnston 

Age: 46

Years living in Augusta: 46

Tell me one good thing about living in Augusta you have experienced within the last year: 

Augusta is an amazing place to live and work.  As a lifelong resident, I feel our greatest strength is the way we come together as a community whenever there is a need. This year I have seen some amazing people come together to grow our community. With the addition of a few new awesome businesses and our new downtown speaker system, we are definitely headed for greatness. 

What, in your opinion, is the top issue facing the Augusta Board of Education today?

The COVID pandemic has put an enormous strain on our students, staff members, and community as a whole. However, the way our district leadership has navigated this high-stress time has been very impressive. In the future, as a board, I believe we are going to need to work to balance the budget with a focus on increasing our staff member’s salaries and benefit schedules so that we can recruit and retain the quality educators our district deserves. 

I believe that our teachers and staff members are the ones that make a difference every day in the lives of the children they interact with. We need to make sure they feel valued and supported so that they can be the best they can be.

What, in your opinion, is a solution you can bring to the BOE to resolve this issue? 

Unfortunately, there is no easy solution. However, as a small business owner and active community member, I am hopeful my experience will bring a fresh perspective and I will work hard to search for creative solutions. I’ve never heard a student say “that textbook changed my life”. But, we all know that teachers change the lives of their students every day. 

Let’s invest in them, people not instructional materials. Let’s look closely at our budgets and see what things we can lower or cut out. Cutting is never easy, however as a business owner, when we have made cuts that feel difficult at the time, we have actually rarely missed those items. 

What unique skills or experience do you have that makes you a qualified candidate? 

I graduated from WSU in 1998 with a degree in Elementary Education. After four years of teaching, I moved into the business world and am now the owner and operator of Family 1st Living.  We provide affordable housing to residents in Augusta, Andover, and Wichita. I have four daughters, three who graduated from Augusta, and one still in high school. Finally, as a lifelong resident, I have served on several boards throughout the community. 

I am the former president of the Augusta High School Booster Club, former president of the Augusta Chamber of Commerce, current treasurer of Bright Futures Augusta, and current president of Augusta Progress Inc., Augusta’s economic development board. My experiences in education, parenting, business, and serving have prepared me to make common-sense decisions for the students, families, staff members, and taxpayers of our district.  We are all stakeholders and we need to work hard for everyone we serve.

Board Member-At-Large Candidate

Casey Belknap 

Questionnaire not returned

Board Member-At-Large Candidate

Darrel Kohls 

Age: 46

Years living in Augusta: 15

Tell me one good thing about living in Augusta you have experienced within the last year:

The best part of living in August this past year is the schools. My three kids that are currently attending school in USD 402 have been able to return to normal. They have gone to school with the teachers focused on teaching. That has been a relief for our family. COVID-19 was hard on the community and our School District remained focused and made things right for our kids.

What, in your opinion, is the top issue facing the Augusta Board of Education today?: 

Declining Enrollment.  This will have long-term implications on the education landscape within our district.

What, in your opinion, is a solution you can bring to the BOE to resolve this issue? 

We must work closely with our partners at the City of August and all interested community groups to attract young families to our town.

What unique skills or experience do you have that makes you a qualified candidate? 

I have been on the staff side of government work my entire adult life. At age 18, I joined the United States Navy and proudly served for 4 years. After my time in the Navy, I have been in public safety working many years at Butler County EMS. I now serve as a Battalion Chief at the Wichita Fire Department.

I understand the importance of letting the experts in the profession innovate and come up with solutions to complex issues. I understand the importance of creating a progressive working relationship of proper accountability between the elected body and professional staff dedicating their lives to a career serving the public. 

Board Member- At Large Unexpired Candidate

Larry Winter 

Questionnaire not returned