A primer on Garden City Commission candidates


Melvin Dale

Melvin Dale

Age: 71

Occupation: Retired local law enforcement, Kansas Fire Marshal's Office fire investigator

Dale served in the U.S. Navy for 20 years, 16 of which were spent serving on submarines. He is a Garden City Community College graduate, served on the board of directors for the International Arson Investigators Kansas Chapter, and helped start and served as past board president of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization. Dale was appointed to the city commission in January to fill state Rep. John Doll's unexpired seat.

Janet Doll

Age: 55

Occupation: Owner of Janet Doll Goldsmith

Doll is a graduate of St. Mary of the Plains College with a degree in medical technology. She has served on the Garden City, Holcomb, Finney County Planning Commission, Board Chair of the Garden City Housing Authority, Garden City Downtown Vision Board, 20 Year Master Plan for the Garden City Regional Airport Committee, the Garden City Downtown Master Plan, and the Garden City Capital Improvement Program.

Doll and her husband, John, have two children, Hayley and Ethan, who both graduated from Garden City public schools.

Chris Law

Age: 50

Occupation: Resource Technician with Southwest Kansas Groundwater Management District.

Law has a bachelor's degree in agriculture from Kansas State University. He is married with two sons. Law was first elected to the city commission two years ago.

Harold Starr

Age: 77

Occupation: Retired teacher

Starr taught industrial arts for many years in the Holcomb and Ingalls school districts.

Troy Unruh

Age: 49

Occupation: Insurance Agent/Program Officer

Unruh is a graduate of Garden City High School, and Baker University with a bachelor's degree in business administration and computer science. ¬ He has served in several organizations including Western Kansas Community Foundation, Garden City Teachers Federal Credit Union, Garden City Leadership Foundation, Santa Fe Trail Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Kansas Leadership Forum, Finney County Community Health Coalition and the Garden City Rotary Club.

Unruh and his wife, Brenda, have four children: Maggie, Emily, Elizabeth and Drew.¬ 

The Telegram asked each of the city commission candidates the same five questions. The following are their submitted responses.

On Monday, the candidates will appear at a candidate forum where a moderator will ask additional questions about city issues. The forum is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday in the city commission chambers at the City Administrative Center, 301 N. Eighth St.

Question 1: What would be your top three priorities as a city commissioner?


I will work hard to review all items that are on the agenda so that I can make an informed decision.

I am willing to meet with members of our community, listen to what they have to say and leave with them the feeling the city is concerned with everyone.

I will treat everyone with respect and let them know I will work for them every day.


The most critical issue Garden City faces at this time is housing. We need affordable housing, both rental and owner-occupied, and this demand is growing with new industry and businesses moving into Garden City.

Continued economic growth would be another priority for me. Garden City is the retail regional hub of western Kansas. I would like to see this continue to grow as it not only helps with the new retail development on the east side of town but assists our current local businesses in many ways.

The third priority is infrastructure. To accommodate housing and growth, we need adequate streets, four-lane highways and utilities


Steady growth to increase revenues and relieve the pressure on property taxes.

Industrial and manufacturing development opportunities.

Transportation issues including tri-modal development at the airport and tower service for air traffic.


Have a clean town for all to live in.

Support local business and do what I can to make them successful.


Strive to make Garden City the best for business through excellent customer service from city departments.

Continue to provide excellent city services at an affordable cost while updating utility infrastructure.

Promote Garden City, Finney County and our region throughout the state of Kansas and surrounding states, through leadership, partnership and collaboration.

Question 2: What is or will be your fiscal approach to the city budget?


My fiscal approach will be to see we use every penny wisely, ensuring we continue to provide services the people have come to enjoy and need, such as fire and police protection, safe drinking water, electrical, trash service, parks, zoo and good streets.

Using long-range planning allows us to continually update our infrastructure.¬ Using the present sales tax dollars wisely, we can meet the city's growth in the future and continue to make our city a place we can be very proud of.¬ 


Most importantly, I feel that we must work within our budget. It is very important to utilize every taxpayers' tax dollar in the most effective, conservative manner to provide the most beneficial outcome for our community.


I am fiscally conservative, but see the benefits for the city to partner on some projects.


Encourage people and business to want to come and be part of Garden City. The workers are doing an outstanding job with our city and it looks like the main budget would be to plan on keeping them with a raise each year.


My fiscal approach to the city budget would be operate on less than we collect, something Congress has yet to grasp. I would also make saving for larger projects a priority. This is not the time to entertain debt as a city. No one is coming to bail us out; we must be fiscally responsible.

Question 3: What is the city's top economic development priority?


When thinking about economic development, I have to give credit to the city management and city commissioners whose great vision led us to where we are today.¬ Good planning has brought much prosperity and desirable growth to our city. We, as present and future commissions, will have to occasionally think outside the norm to promote, encourage and explore opportunities needed to continue to grow the city.


Any and all economic development is a priority. I would hope we would not have to choose one over another. While continued growth is very important to Garden City, we must also remain mindful of the sustainability of existing businesses and industry in our community.


To promote our existing businesses and be the best choice in our region for new businesses.


Getting new business and keep the ones we have happy by giving them clean streets and good city services and asking for their input to be helpful to all.


The city's top priority should be to continue to make Garden City the best place for business, both in manufacturing and retail.¬ Support of local businesses through partnership with the Finney County Economic Development Corp., Downtown Vision and the Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce just makes sense, as it is an important key as we continue to grow as a city.

Question 4: What do you see as the top infrastructural concern for the city, and how would you address it?


All infrastructural services provided by the city to the residents are very important to maintaining present living conditions and to meeting the needs of future growth. No one service can be more important than the other.

As a commissioner, I will seek to approve continual upgrading of current services and expand those services as the budget will allow.¬ 


I believe the top infrastructural concern for the city is developing utility services and streets for housing developments and new businesses. I believe the most effective way to accomplish these is to work as a collaborative group with the developers, builders, city commission, city manager, city planners, city engineers, department heads of utilities, streets and parks and the city chief financial officer.


Water infrastructure. The city has a good track record of identifying and planning for infrastructure repairs, replacement and enhancements. A recent concern voiced by a resident asked what the city planned to do and it was good to hear that city staff was aware of the problem and working toward a solution.


Roads, schools, transportation. To have services for (the) community that are needed.


The current city commission took a bold step in choosing a different electric provider. They also made the decision to begin to produce some of the city's own power, a process that will take a lot of careful management. I would not want to add any additional infrastructural changes until this project was up and running smoothly.

The only other infrastructural emphasis for me would be to continue to promote sidewalks and trails, which encourages active living.¬  Sidewalks and trails allow the opportunity for people to travel safely for recreation and shopping. Many visitors make positive comments on our trail system and the amount of sidewalk in our downtown area.

Question 5: What would you as a commissioner do to be inclusive when it comes to representing, communicating and engaging the many diverse cultural groups in Garden City?


As a commissioner of Garden City, I will treat all citizens living in this community with the highest respect. I believe treating everyone with respect is the first step to opening lines of communication leading to trust and understanding.¬ 

A couple of months ago, we had an open commission meeting where citizens could come and voice their concerns. I encourage people to express concerns. This will allow us to hear directly about issues of importance to our citizens.


All members of the community of Garden City are Garden Citians and regardless of our ethnicity, the issues and concerns people have are mostly based on quality of life. Therefore, I believe it is the responsibility of an effective city commissioner to be engaged in the community. It is important to attend events and activities in the community, to be readily available to speak with and actually listen to individuals in our community with a truly open mind and open heart. If someone takes the time and effort to speak with you, it is a matter of great importance to them. I would make every effort to be that kind of city commissioner.


Be available to respond to people's concerns and to encourage anyone with an interest to participate in the process.


Have open doors to all. The city commissioner should help out. I worked for the police department and traveled for the Red Cross. Help get things started for the youth and be willing to be present to give help. I am a member of the local chamber of commerce and give their gift certificate to help our businesses.

Help others and listen to their comments. Do not talk how good you are; prove it by doing and helping others.


I have had the privilege through work to be a part of many diverse cultural groups and have enjoyed the opportunity to learn from them. I am a part of the Finney County Community Health Coalition which provides the community with access to information and services that promote good health. The coalition and its members focus on the well-being of all residents through their programs and services.

The other organization that has developed my ability to interact and include other diverse people has been the Garden City Leadership Foundation. Their leadership training program, Every Voice, provides participants with the skills and capacities to exercise leadership and encourages them to engage civically.

Being a part of many great initiatives, Underage Drinking Prevention, Healthy Community Design, Violence Prevention and a facilitator for Every Voice has allowed me to interact with many diverse people and cultural groups.

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