The Kansas Insurance Commissioner sees a need for his leadership style and calm demeanor in the governor’s chair.
Ken Selzer, who was elected insurance commissioner in 2014, said his background in business and agriculture gives him the right qualifications to lead Kansas out of its spiraling economic woes.
“We talked about bringing the rural and urban parts of the state together,” Selzer, who grew up on a Kansas farm and was an accountant before entering politics, said. “All my career I have been a business man up until four years ago when I ran for Kansas Insurance Commissioner. I have deep roots in rural central Kansas by Goesell. People understood the business background, understand I am a calm and thoughtful person who can bring good things to state government. Being calm and thoughtful as you make tough decisions is good in any environment. We brought that style to the Kansas Insurance Department.”
Selzer, who owns property next to the Louisburg Cider Mill, has been married for 37 years and has two daughters. He is a fourth generation Kansan with Kansas values, he said. Selzer said he will bring a sensible approach to the governor’s office, if elected.
“We have not had that in a governor for quite awhile now,” he said. “We were asked to run for that reason. They saw how we were managing a complex department, not doing everything for political reasons.”
He said a governor should be out-front on issues facing the state.
“The governor needs to be the chief sales person for the state and for the issues that are critical to the state,” Selzer said. “Ag is huge. Aviation is huge. We have the service economy that is around here. It starts with a governor who is going to be a champion for Kansas.”
He said Kansas needs a governor that will fight for farmers and the agricultural businesses. Selzer said agriculture makes up 42 percent of the state’s economy. International trade is so critical to Kansas and the governor needs to pair with other governors and be in the ear of President Donald Trump’s administration, Selzer said.
“I don’t see that happening [right now],” he said. “We have been languishing below the national average on growth. That means making ag grow again. There has to be a focus on trade and market development in Kansas.”
He said workforce is a huge component to making agriculture and businesses grow.
“Getting a workforce that better flows into the job market through having the skills and certifications that are needed by industry or by having them better college ready,” Selzer said. “Focusing on retaining them once they get their degrees. Over half our students are gone after five years. Once they are gone, focusing on how to bring them back.
“Technical schools in Kansas are the only ones that grew last year. Community colleges were about level, universities were down. We need better alignment with industry needs.”
Selzer said state government and leaders need to be transparent and accountable.
“If we demand more accountability, more understanding of whether the money is being spent according to law and audits from an operational and financial perspective, a lot of those issues will go away because we will know departments are functioning as they are supposed to function,” Selzer, who cut the number of employees in the insurance department by 20 percent, said. “You need to be transparent as a leader in order to run a transparent organization. We will change the attitude in the state about how we manage state government. It is a large, complex organization. It will not be an easy job for anybody. If we don’t try, it won’t happen.”
Gun control, school funding and mental health issues need to be addressed, Selzer said.
He said loop holes in background checks need to be closed, and he is not for arming teachers, unless they have a background in handling firearms.
“Giving somebody cash incentives that is not adequately trained or comfortable with the weapon is really a very poor, poor decision on leadership’s part,” he said.
Selzer said the school funding issue is complex, but everybody should demand more from schools.
“We need to focus on demanding output and value for those education dollars, including a governor that is championing an outcomes focus on money that we put in,” he said. “We put in quite a bit in the last session (2017) with very little requirement for the 25 percent of under-performers that it was designed to address. That 25 percent could go up and schools would still get that money. We need to provide incentives to drive that number down rather than just giving schools additional dollars. We need to incentivise schools to create values in the dollars we give them. It is one of the highest cost systems around.”