Pastor Jeff Turner runs on the hope of bringing Christian, communitarian leadership to the city's government.
The Dodge City Commission is an ideal place for a Christian to engage with the people while practicing communitarian leadership, said commission candidate Jeff Turner.
Turner is the senior pastor at First Missionary Church, a position he has held for seven and a half years since moving his wife of 18 years, Angela, and two adopted children, Abigail and Benjamin, to Dodge City.
If elected, his term as commissioner will "bring a Christian perspective to governing," he said. A big part of that is allowing oneself to understand, listen, empathize and avoid rushing to judgment.
Turner will join six others as they compete for three seats on the city commission in an election on April 1. Fool's Day, Turner jokes.
The Dodge City Daily Globe sat down with Turner as part of a series of interviews with the candidates that will be published as they are completed.
Daily Globe: Why are you running for office?
Jeff Turner: I thought about it two years ago, I kind of toyed with the idea of it. It seemed interesting to me to be part of the community and be a part of the decision-making in the community. Not that I think things are going particularly bad, but I'd like to be a part of that.
It's just an interest in what's going on in Dodge City. I've been serving on the planning committee for three years. That was kind of a beginning place for me to get used to what goes on in the city and learning about what's happening in Dodge. I thought well, maybe I'd like to continue to get to know people in Dodge City and be a part of what goes on here and do that by way of the City Commission.
DG: What issues will you focus on?
JT: I think one of the main issues in Dodge is the streets. The streets all over the inner part of the city need work. I'm glad to see they're working on Trail Street. That will be good. But I think the inner part of the streets of Dodge need a lot of work.
I realize that means money. I'm not oblivious to that fact, but streets and infrastructure in the inner city of Dodge City need work.
I'm also really in favor of the water park. During the heat of the summer there's just nothing for kids to do in Dodge City. I think the water park will be a good draw to Dodge and be a good place for kids—and adults too—to cool off during the summer.
DG: The city and county governments seem to be going through a rocky point in the relationship. How do you think this can be fixed?
JT: I don't know the history of that. In my experience, if there is a disagreement between parties, it's usually rooted in some history, it just didn't happen yesterday. I don't know what happened between the city and county that made the relationship as strained as it seems to be.
I went to see the new county commissioner get elected: it was clear at that meeting all the candidates who were up for it all spoke and said there were issues between the city and county. I guess it doesn't surprise me that tax dollars and money are between that.
It needs to be worked out. I can't speak to the inner working, but I can say that relationship needs to be worked out.
DG: What leadership qualities would you bring to office?
JT: I'm not an autocratic leader. I'm more by-consensus, listening to people and getting ideas from people. As a pastor I do that, but there are times when I do things and have to go back and ask for forgiveness later. But just talking to people, getting ideas from people and hearing what they think. I don't particularly make decisions quickly. I need to think about things. I may hear something in a meeting and need some time to turn it over before I make a decision.
This is more of a personality thing: I think I'm pretty easy-going overall. I don't get too excited about things. Some people told me, "You know you do this and you're going to have people talking about you or saying things about you," but that's not any different than pastoral ministry. You get the same thing, unfortunately, in the church too. But I don't get too excited about things. I'm pretty even keeled for the most part.
My temperament tends to be more moderate. It's easy to live on the extremes. That's an easy place to live. You don't have to defend anything living on the extremes, whether it's left or right, whatever you want to say. It's harder to live in that area that's more nuanced, that's more in the middle. You can be a bomb thrower on the right or bomb thrower on the left and it requires very little thought. What requires more thought is living in the middle and understanding what people on both sides are saying.
DG: Would you have any issue with the casino?
JT: It's already here. I wasn't in favor of having a casino here—I just think it's a poor public policy. But it's here, and you know, you have to work with what's here. I can't make them move, so we work with what we have. Again it's that divergence of the sacred and the secular. I know there are people who are very militant against the casino, but the fact of the matter is they're here, so you deal with it.
DG: Aside from roads, are there any other issues in the city that you think should be addressed?
JT: I think the downtown area needs to continue to be improved. I don't know all the reasons why that Garden (City) is economically just thriving and businesses are going to Garden and not here. I don't knbow why that is. You'd think we'd be able to attract some large big box stores to Dodge but we just can't seem to do it. We need to figure out why. We need to attract some larger retailers to the Dodge area.
DG: I don't think I've ever seen a pastor run for office, is that unusual?
JT: A guy years ago ran, and got elected, too. I would concur, that is probably pretty unusual. The more I live in Dodge the more I love Dodge City, even being a west coast transplant. I love living in Dodge.
For me, it's not political. It's a great way to meet people, a way to be part of the community. It's not a political endeavor.
There's kind of an outreach aspect for me. I think Christians—some pastors can do it and some can't—we need to be involved to some degree in the community in which we live.
I'm not the next Mike Huckabee, that's not me at all.
But we live in a culture where—and the church is as responsible as this as anyone—we have a division between the sacred and the secular. That is not a biblical world view; that is not a Christian world view.
The bible teaches us that God created everything. In Romans, man was able to govern themselves. God gave the ability to govern themselves, and gave them governments. Even the apostle Paul talks about, "If you owe taxes, pay taxes."
You need to be careful. I think the Reformation is evidence of that. But that people who are pastors are prohibited from serving is kind of a misnomer.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.