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The Kansan - Newton, KS
  • Public officials would like to see more people at meetings

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  • Tuesday the Harvey County Commission chambers were crowded with people interested in two issues - the Tallgrass Pipeline and bicycle signs. That they had standing room only was unusual though, as it is more likely that meetings have few if any members of the public present. Governmental meetings are open to the public and many people serving on commissions or boards would like for the public to attend meetings. "I absolutely wish more people would show up. It is a little dissapointing when the room is mostly empty (at meetings), Newton Mayor Racquel Thiesen said. County commissioner Marge Roberson said she would like to see more people at meetings, but she understands why people don't usually come. "Watching us pay bills isn't too exciting," she said. She added that it is hard to come to a meeting and know what is going on if you are not familiar with what has been discussed recently. "There are a few people who follow us on a regular basis," she said. "I like that. I think people feel like they can come." Thiesen said she believes peoole have a "right and responsiblity" to shape the direction the community is taking. "Those who are elected have some authority to exercise leadership at a different level, but when people come to meetings and talk about their concerns, they are also taking part in leadership," she said. Thiesen said there are a lot of ways to get engaged with the commissioners. Coming to a meeting is one way, and there are phone calls and emails that can be sent to voice concerns. "I would encourage people to do what they feel comfortable with," she said. "People should get to know the city, what services are available, what it provides." She, like many elected officials, welcomes public input. "I would like for people to contact me to find out who I am instead of making assumptions," she said. Roberson said she too gets calls and welcomes them from people who want to talk about issues. "I think it is important for people to know they can contact us, or the administration," she said. Roberson said she would rather people get informed on issues by talking to commissioners and adminstrators rather than them hearing or spreading rumors. "Sometimes people have half accurate information. That bothers me more than people not calling or coming to a meeting," she said. The county meets during the day normally, and some have suggested this keeps people who work during the day from being able to come. That might be possible, but County Adminstrator John Waltner was mayor of Hesston for years and they met at night. Attendance was about the same there as it is for daytime meetings at the county level. They have held night meetings at times when there was an issue that was of interest to a lot of people. Roberson's term will end at the end of this year. She said she would still be involved in the community and may eventually attend some meetings. 

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