Mike Amyx knew early on he had a particular talent to be a barber.
"I love to talk," said Amyx, owner of Amyx Barber Shop in Downtown Lawrence.
It also is not a bad attribute to have in the political business, to which Amyx also is no stranger. He is a former two-term city commissioner and one-term county commissioner. After more than a 10-year absence from the political stage, Amyx is back on the campaign trail as one of nine candidates seeking three at-large seats on the Lawrence City Commission.
And just like his previous public service, he thinks his barbering job makes him well-qualified.
"There is not a day that goes by that I'm not amazed by what I learn about this community from folks who come in here," Amyx said. "My business has been an incredible educational tool."
When in public office, Amyx's shop, near the corner of Ninth and Massachusetts streets, became a bit like a City Hall annex with all the people who came in wanting to talk about city business.
"I always said I had as much public comment in the shop as I did in the meetings," Amyx said. "That's good because I think it is a little bit easier for some people to talk to me at the shop instead of at a meeting because they don't feel comfortable with all that formality."
Amyx, 52, is a lifelong resident of Lawrence. His grandfather opened the downtown barber shop in 1942. His father later took over the shop, and Amyx continued the tradition.
Even though he's been away from city government nearly two decades, his message hasn't changed much from its simple tones of the early 1980s.
"I think the most important issue of this campaign, and most campaigns, has to do with jobs," Amyx said. "We need more jobs, and we need better jobs. We have to do everything we can to give people the chance to earn as much as they can and have as many opportunities as they can here in Lawrence."
On other issues, Amyx said:
- The city needs to base its budgets off increases in the community's assessed valuation not increases in the property tax mill levy. Amyx said residents should be able to expect the mill levy to remain stable unless the city faced an emergency.
- Although he is a smoker, he supports the city's smoking ban because it appears to be very popular. He said the city should work with businesses to expand outdoor smoking areas. He also said the city needed to look at ways to fine actual smokers instead of business owners who had tried unsuccessfully to stop smoking in their establishments.
- He does not support the use of traffic roundabouts.
- He is a "big supporter" of the Lawrence Public Library but said it was too early to say whether the library needed to be expanded.
|Address: 515 Lindley DriveFamily: Married, one childAge: 51Religion: MethodistOccupation: Barber shop ownerPrevious political experience: Lawrence City Commission, 1983-1988; Douglas County Commission, 1989-1993Quotable: On the need for addressing infrastructure repairs in older neighborhoods: "We must assure that our city does not rot from the inside out."|
Amyx said it was a good time for him to re-enter the political process since he and his wife's lone child is now grown. He also said that he was beginning to miss the process.
"I still had a lot of people talk to me about city government," Amyx said. "I always tried to be helpful in showing people how to get through the City Hall process. I got to thinking that I could start doing this again.
"And I had a lot of people asking me how things used to be. I was afraid I was turning into a historian."
Amyx, though, is touting his history as a selling point to voters. He said his previous experience on the commission would be helpful in some very practical ways.
"Within the first month after you are elected, you are right in the middle of the city's budget process," Amyx said. "You have so many people asking you for money. Those are really tough decisions. You have to be prepared to make those decisions and move on."
One other advantage Amyx is touting goes back to his job. He thinks he's as good a listener as anyone in the field. After all, he notes that you can't wear earplugs in the barber shop.
"I guarantee you that I will listen to people until the last person wants to speak," Amyx said.