Tri-County News endorses Hodge in JCCC Board of Trustees race


Tri-County News offers endorsements in JCCC Board of Trustees race

It’s hard to find the right group of candidates to serve on the Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees.

In previous board elections, we’ve had a local candidate. Shirley Brown Van-Arsdale was an obvious choice for folks on this end of the county who wanted a voice on the college board. However, after several years of service, Brown Van-Arsdale, who currently chairs the board, is not seeking re-election.

And so, southwest Johnson County is left without a candidate to the board, and that’s a shame. The board of trustees has taxing authority and the power of eminent domain over Johnson County citizens, and folks on this end of the county will miss having an accessible representative to give voice to their concerns.

In this year’s race, 10 candidates vie for four seats on the board. The candidates are Jerry Cook , Robert K. Drummond, Benjamin Hodge, Peter Jourjas, John Kanaga, Miguel Morales, John Papazafiropoulos, Melody Rayl, Stephanie Sharp, and David Weeks None of them have spent time campaigning in Gardner and Edgerton that we know of. That said, the majority of the candidates did fill out questionnaires for the Gardner News, and we researched many of their positions on their own Web sites as well as taking a look at endorsements the candidates have received from other organizations and newspapers.

We endorse Benjamin Hodge for the board. Although the current board has found him difficult to work with, he has proven himself to be a champion of open meetings and open records. Most recently, he’s been in the local news for releasing a budget document that was introduced in an executive session to the press.

The current board and the college president were not impressed. However, whether they agree with him leaking the documents, we like the idea of a board with a watchdog serving on it. He’s proven he’s committed to transparency, and he’s repeatedly said he will hold the line on taxes. Every governing body from top to bottom needs at least one member who will stand up for the taxpayers, and Benjamin Hodge is that person for this board.

That said, we’re also offering our endorsement to Melody Rayl. Rayl is another incumbent seeking another term on the board. Hodge and Rayl do not work in lock step with one another, and we like that. Dissension and debate makes for stronger policy. Rayl earned an Associates Degree from JCCC and served as a member of the JCCC faculty. Both roles have given her unique insights into the workings of the college. In addition to her relationship with the school, Rayl said she’s committed to sound fiscal management of the school.

We also endorse John Kanaga. Kanaga is a green politician. No, he isn’t campaigning on an environmental platform, but Kanaga is the youngest person in the race by several years. What he lacks in work experience, he makes up for with recent higher education experience. He holds recent degrees in economics and geography and is currently working on his law degree at the University of Kansas. His fresh prospective will be a welcome addition to the board.

Finally, we’re throwing our support behind political newcomer Miguel Morales. Morales is a freelance writer and former editor at the community college’s student newspaper. He was instrumental in bringing to light allegations of sexual harassment by former JCCC president Chuck Carlsen. His dedication to the school is obvious, and we think he’d serve JCCC well on the board of trustees.