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City election draws near

3/24/2013

By DAWNE LEIKER

dleiker@dailynews.net

In less than two weeks, voters will go to the polls to select new city leaders.

Advance voting started Monday and continues until noon April 1. Qualified voters can vote at the Ellis County Clerk's office in the Ellis County Courthouse from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The courthouse will be closed Friday for Good Friday.

"We sent ballots out last week, and a few of them are coming back, which we're real pleased with," said County Clerk Donna Maskus. "It seems like there's been quite a bit of campaigning in the city of Hays, so we'll see if that stirs up more interest."

Voter turnout in local city and school board elections, she said, has hovered around 20 percent in the last two elections, which were in 2011 and 2009.

Three positions are open on the Hays City Commission, and five candidates have stepped up for the April 2 election.

Filing for the positions are Shaun Musil, Dominic Pianalto, Todd Gabel and incumbents Ron Mellick and Eber Phelps.

The two candidates who receive the most votes will receive four-year terms, and the third place vote-getter will receive a two-year term. The successful candidates will be sworn in at the April 11 city commission meeting.

Voters can get a handle on where local candidates stand on city issues by attending a candidate forum at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Fort Hays State University Memorial Union's Cody Commons area.

Hays City Commission candidates will take the stage from 6:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m., followed by Hays USD 489 Board of Education candidates at 7:45 p.m.

Each candidate will give a brief opening statement. Six questions will be asked of each candidate, with one minute allowed for each answer.

Moderated by Joe Romance, FHSU political science professor, the event is sponsored by FHSU American Democracy Project, Student Government Association, department of political science and the Hays Area Chamber of Commerce.

It's the first time Romance has moderated the local forum. He encouraged residents to attend and said the event will provide an opportunity for them to see government in action.

Questions for the forum have been filtering in, according to Tammy Wellbrock, Hays Area Chamber of Commerce executive director. This year's format will differ from past forums, as the city commission candidates and school board candidates will appear the same evening.

"That in itself, I think, is an improvement," Wellbrock said. "I know it's going to be a long night for people, but there's just so many busy nights, we opted to bank on the hope that people would prefer to just commit to one evening versus several evenings.

"I think it's going to be really streamlined and work really well."

Other city elections in Ellis County include:

* Ellis: Two candidates, Lyle Johnston, council member, and incumbent David R. McDaniel, have filed for mayor. Four candidates, Terry Redetzke, Brian Raub, Jolene Niernberger and John Leiker, have filed for the three available spots on city council. Raub, Niernberger and Leiker currently serve on the council. Incumbent Faith Scheck filed for city treasurer.

* Victoria: Three council members and the mayor position are open. Curtis B. Unrein, incumbent, filed for mayor. Three incumbents, Kenneth A. Pfeifer, Jan Piesker, and Leroy J. Schmidtberger, filed for the three open council seats.

* Schoenchen: Incumbent Richard L. Klaus filed for mayor. For the five open council seats, Thomas Cole Dinges and incumbents Kevin J. Bieker and Jason Schneider filed.