The chief financial officer for one of Lawrence's larger employers is seeking a seat on the City Commission after watching the community struggle with planning and job creation issues.
Rob Chestnut, the CFO for Lawrence-based Allen Press, on Monday became the second announced candidate for one of three at-large seats on the five-member commission.
"I think the business background I have will be very helpful," said Chestnut, who previously worked for several large Kansas City companies, including Sprint, Butler Manufacturing and Farmland Industries. "Working in bigger organizations, like Fortune 500 companies, developing consensus is very, very important.
"You can't move forward on any initiative you come up with in your head without creating consensus on it. I think it is going to be very important at this juncture in the community to create some sort of consensus on where we are moving."
Commissioners Boog Highberger, Mike Rundle and David Schauner are up for re-election, but none has announced plans to seek another term. Highberger, however, has said he's strongly leaning toward running again. Mike Dever, owner of a Lawrence-based environmental consulting firm, is the only announced candidate.
Chestnut, 45, is a Lawrence native and Kansas University graduate. He left the community in 1985 to work in the Kansas City metro area but returned in 2001. What he's seen since returning to Lawrence is a community that hasn't produced enough new jobs.
He said he supported current economic development initiatives but wanted to add to them.
"One thing I see lacking is how do we figure out what our core competency is?" Chestnut said. "How do we figure out what we do best? We are competing with every other community out there for jobs. We have to figure out a game plan and be more proactive in seeking those opportunities."
He also said the community's planning process needed revamping. Current work by city staff to review the planning process was fine, he said, but city commissioners need to focus on making it more "user-friendly."
"It is almost like we have to start from scratch and ask ourselves what we can do to create a process that is simpler and that works," Chestnut said.
On other large issues, Chestnut said the community must discuss priorities as it considers proposals for a new library or additional recreation facilities. He also said the city needed to solve the traffic problem on east 23rd Street, but he stopped short of endorsing a route for the uncompleted South Lawrence Trafficway.
On growth issues, Chestnut said he didn't support putting artificial limits on the amount of retail growth that could occur in the community, but he also said Lawrence had to recognize it was competing in a regional retail market that stretches from Topeka to Kansas City.
Chestnut is married and has three middle school-age children.
The City Commission election will be April 3. If more than six candidates file for election, there will be a primary on Feb. 27. Candidates have until noon Jan. 23 to file.