Rival candidates for District 4 county commissioner are offering radical solutions to the county’s seemingly intractable problem maintaining roads.
Incumbent Dave Crofoot, chosen by party leaders to fill the new seat last winter, thinks the county has too many roads and may need to abandon some of the 800 miles of roads it maintains.
Challenger Amy Soyez questions whether county crews have sufficient ability to build and maintain roads and is willing to look elsewhere — even contracting with private companies — for some road maintenance.
“I honestly think the way things have been going, we obviously haven’t gotten things right,” she said.
In separate hour-long interviews exploring a range of issues, Crofoot and Soyez rarely suggested they had answers to most of the problems facing county government.
A second challenger, Tom Britain, repeatedly declined invitations to be interviewed for this story.
Crofoot said he didn’t know how to choose which roads to close or what to do with them, and Soyez said she would want to consult with neighboring counties and others before deciding exactly what to do.
Crofoot stressed his background in business and having grown up around politics, as a son of a state senator, in preparing him to sort through issues.
Crofoot is CEO of Western Associates. The business employs 35 with offices in Marion, Topeka, Wichita, and Tulsa.
Soyez also emphasized her business background as well, saying that she has learned to listen to others and seek out bold ideas like renting rather than buying county fleet vehicles.
Soyez is a pharmaceutical representative for Merck Animal Health. She is making her third run for county commission.
Both say that, if elected, they will listen carefully to constituents, but Soyez went on to say she thought commissioners should spend less time bickering with each other and more time serving the people they represent.
Soyez said she thought current commissioners sometimes get defensive instead of trying to understand when people ask questions.
“People ask questions at the county commission meeting, and they just glaze over,” Soyez said.
She said commissioners could be too narrow-minded and focused on their own agendas instead of doing what they were elected to do.
“As a county commissioner, your ability to listen is important,” Soyez said.
The commission needs more stability, less arguing, and better communication, Crofoot agreed.
Whether the county should hire an administrator and how to cut expenses in a time of financial uncertainty were other issues the two candidates discussed.
Crofoot said the county needed an administrator but could not afford one.
Soyez said the county should look harder for grants to help with expenses.
“I do think an administrator who could write grants would be a good thing,” she said. “There’s money out there that would help and benefit the county.”
In a time when tax revenues are uncertain because of a pandemic, both agree the county needs to stay in control of financial decisions.