Five Marion City Council candidates running for two seats in an April 5 election bring a diverse range of experience and priorities to the contest.
Marion County Record interviewed candidates about why they chose to run, their backgrounds in working with government, and what would be their top three concerns to address as council members.
John Wheeler is the sixth generation of his family to call Marion home. He graduated from Marion High School in 1992 and “went to Pocatello, Idaho, to play football” for Idaho State University, where he earned a degree in history.
It was in Pocatello that Wheeler got started in a career in the lumber business that took him to the Chicago area for 10 years before he and his wife, Megan, a Lindsborg native, decided to relocate to Marion.
“We had an opportunity to come home and I felt the need to get back to my roots,” he said.
Wheeleer works for Forest Products Supply in Newton. His son, Morgan, attends Hutchinson Community College, and he has two children, Aspen, 18, and Gunnar, 15, who live in Illinois.
Wheeler said he was approached by some people to run for council when he first moved back to town, but he wanted to get settled and learn more about city government before finally tossing his hat in the ring in January.
Economic development is a prority Wheeler said he believes should be divided in thirds: Helping current employers, developing local entrepreneurs, and recruiting new businesses to town.
“I don’t think somebody’s coming to town with 1,000 people, but we couldn’t handle that anyway,” he said. “But I think going after those 10- to 50-employee businesses would behoove us.”
Wheeler said he would like to create an economic development committee to assist developer Randy Collett.
Wheeler also would like the city to take a role in fostering some kind of vehicle for local investors to get involved, particularly small investors.
“There ought to be a vehicle for guys like me,” he said. “If I’ve got $1,000 to invest in a local company, we should be able to create something like that.”
Aside from strictly economic development, Wheeler feels an urgency for attracting new residents to town, based in part on projections for population decline.
“We’ve got to save it or it’s going away,” Wheeler said. “I’ve talked to people who didn’t believe the WSU report. They just couldn’t see that happen. It already has. Take a look at where we are now. That’s half of 50 years ago. I think we need to focus on that.”
While Wheeler doesn’t have government experience, he said his experience in sales has honed his ability in an essential governing skill — compromise.
“In sales, you have to learn to compromise like there’s no tomorrow,” he said. “It’s like politics in that you have to compromise so that everybody gets what they feel they need.”