To create civic buy-in, the understanding that the community's represents the individuals in it, one has to listen and listen intently, City Commission candidate Jan Scoggins said.
In her job as a long term care ombudsman for the state, she is a professional listener. She and her staff of 12 volunteers are there to advocate for the residents of nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other long term care facilities in the 21,000 square mile southwest Kansas district.
Doctors, nurses and staff members work in homes, she says, residents don't live at their work. It's not her job to make residents fit into the institution, but to make the institution fit around the residents.
The Dodge City Commission could use more communication, more listening, and more answering. When she was Dodge City's representative to the Kansas House, not a single question or letter went unanswered, she said.
She has a background in helping at-risk populations, currently nursing home residents, but in the past she helped abused women and families pushed to breaking at the Crisis Center.
Scoggins and six other candidates are running for one of three seats on the Dodge City Commission in an election on April 1.
Scoggins sat down with the Daily Globe to describe her goals for the city and the style of leadership she hopes to bring to the community.
Daily Globe: What made you decide to run for the office?
Jan Scoggins: I'm really very interested in what's going on in Dodge City. I was born and reared here; it is my home town. I often saying of the commission, "Why are they doing this?" and trying to find out what's going on. If I'm going to have an opinion about something, then I need to be willing to step up to the plate and do something about it.
Dodge is doing a lot of good things and there are a lot of things that could improved, certainly, and I'd like to be part of that.
I'd like for us to use a vision of 20 years from now. If someone comes back to Dodge I want them to be able to say "Wow, look at what they've done! This is great!" I think we need to look that far forward at least and try to do something that will keep us really progressive and keep going, and make us an impressive part of southwest Kansas.
DG: What would that 20-year plan look like?
JS: I know we have to do some infrastructure. I want us to throw out a really good welcome mat. The brick streets really need to be worked on. Though it's easy for me to say the streets need to be done. I don't know what all is planned and what is being done without being on the City Commission.
I know we have a very rich history. I like us to utilize that, and we do. I think we can improve on that a bit more, but we need to realize not everyone is interested in history and we need to do some other things for the citizens who live here who will make them stay and have their children come back and say, "This is where I want to rear my family, where I want my kids to go to school."
DG: In a conversation with one of the commissioners, he said one of the major challenges is getting young professionals to stay and buy into the community rather than use Dodge City as a career springboard. What could be done?
JS: We need to really focus on some good quality of life issues. We need to make sure there are things available that will keep people here and will attract people. I have some thoughts on what could be done; I've seen it done in another community. It was a way to use some of the older buildings and older homes, and I believe the word is re-gentrification. I would share those ideas if I think that is something that would spark the interest of developers and home owners. I think it could be done in a way that would attract the young professionals.
DG: What types of things could the city do to draw people and businesses to the community or keep them here?
JS: I have a picture of my grandfather with Judge Miller clear back in the 30s and they were out in front of that airport. You know, it hasn't changed a whole lot.
It's kind of disconcerting, even flying out once you get through security. If you have to use the bathroom you have to go through security again.
I think there are some real improvements we could do at the airport. I would like to see the streets improve. I would like to see this water park here. There have been a lot of people who have worked really hard on that, and they've researched that, and I give them great credit for that.
We have something above and beyond any other area because we have our rich history and we can make that water park with a really cool western theme. We can make it a little step above the others and we need to make it where we can have good competitive swim meets here. That would attract people; that would help the businesses.
DG: How does a city government go about making people care about what happens in the community?
JS: They have to feel like it's their community and the only way they'll feel that way is if they feel like their voice is being heard. If their voice isn't being heard or their not being acknowledged or they don't feel like they can call and talk to a commissioner, then they won't buy into a community.
I had a phone call a few weeks ago and the caller spoke for 45 minutes extremely upset about many things and I said "You need to call the commissioners." They said, "I don't think I can do that."
I want to bring a feeling about our community that if someone wants to call they can call. This person felt like there wasn't a single commissioner they could call. So, they're not buying into the community if they feel like they couldn't call someone. That's not to say one of the commissioners wouldn't have listened for 45 minutes, it's that they chose to call me.
We're not sending that message to people, we're not sending that message to people that have lived here a long time. We're not making them feel like they're worthwhile.
Everyone needs to feel like they are part of the community.