Republican governor candidate Jim Barnett wants the same can-do attitude for Kansas as he learned from Greensburg Mayor Bob Dixson who related the story of rebirth after the 2007 tornado.
The rebirth of Greensburg after the May 4, 2007 EF5 Tornado that destroyed 95 percent of the town, is an example of what can happen when people work together. Greensburg Mayor Bob Dixson was elected as mayor just one year after the tornado and he has seen the rebirth first hand.
He wants to have that can-do attitude back in Topeka in the governor's office. That is the message he gave to Republican Governor Candidate Jim Barnett when he visited Greensburg on July 27.
Several businesses got their start in the incubator building and invested in the community. It took a collaborative effort to bring Greensburg back to life and thats what Dixson wants to have happen in Topeka with the governor. Barnett agreed and said that's what is needed in Kansas today.
After the tornado, a lot of people met under the makeshift tent where they cried and hugged and laughed together. One key element in the recovery was school opened in August and children didn't have to go to another district. The Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer houses gave families a place to live until the town could be cleaned up and new homes could be built. The National Guard brought a Mobil Army Surgical Hospital and that was also a key factor.
A lot of planning went on under that tent and everyone had input. That's the kind of cooperation Dixson wants to see in Topeka. There was lots of collaboration and communication. Everybody had to suffer a bit and everybody had to benefit to make it work.
Dixson said Kansas can't make that progress until the process to get there is identified.
"You can't have a plan for the future if you don't clarify the issues," Dixson said.
Barnett said he wanted to know what Dixson wanted the state to do differently.
Dixson said he wanted to keep local resources local, the state needs to maintain the roads and provide a good education. But most of all he wants the state to provide opportunities for people to achieve.
"Individuals need to be successful," Dixson said.
Whatever happens in Topeka, Barnett said he has been hearing from his constituents that they want to see results from their tax dollars.
People have to decide if something is an expense or an investment. If it's an investment, it requires a long term commitment. But with a vision and goal, its easier to market to the public, Dixson said.
There are opportunities for growth in Kansas. The state has come through a difficult time but now it has a good Legislature and it needs a good governor, Barnett said.
"Whatever happens, it has to be a collaborative effort. There's no easy answers. We didn't get into this situation overnight and we won't get out over night," Dixson said.
Barnett also visited with Gene West, Kiowa County farmer, during his time in Greensburg.
Taxes are always an issue with property owners. West said since 2010, his property taxes had doubled in the last few years. He knew landlords that had to negotiate higher rent in order to pay the increased tax on their land.
West said he wanted a governor that would be willing to work with everybody in the state legislature. There is no cooperation in Topeka. Candidates tell the public one thing but it never gets done.
"People got elected and they are not getting the job done. No one is working for the good of the state," West said. "We need some common sense because nothing ever gets accomplished."
Barnett said he had been hearing similar words over and over during his visits across the state: One, Unit, Work Together. From this he developed his "One Kansas" philosophy for his campaign.
"Only by working together can we get things done," Barnett said. "People are frustrated. They want real solutions for real problems."
West said the state needs to rework regulations to encourage more businesses to come to Kansas so the state can grow at a faster rate. Infrastructure is a key to growth and Kansas needs to find a way to improve highway funding.
Kansas needs jobs, better infrastructure, better education funding, good access to health care and economic development for growth, Barnett said.