Archive for Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Financial officer says city’s biggest issue is lack of job creation

February 6, 2007


Editor's note: This is the second in a nine-part series of stories on candidates for the Lawrence City Commission.

At the age of 12, Rob Chestnut started doing his dad's taxes.

Yeah, it would be fair to say that Chestnut likes numbers.

"I like problem-solving," Chestnut said. "I like looking at things from a numbers standpoint. I knew going into college that's what I wanted to do. I feel really fortunate that I've known what I've wanted to do for a long time."

Now, what he wants to do is serve on the Lawrence City Commission. Chestnut - who today is chief financial officer for Lawrence-based Allen Press - is one of nine candidates seeking three at-large seats on the commission.

He figures knowing numbers won't hurt. For example, he can tell you off the top of his head that the city's 2006 budget has 237 pages in it. So, yeah, it has a few numbers in it.

"I know how to navigate the charts and pages," Chestnut said. "Sometimes financial professionals like to speak in a language all their own, and I understand that and can break it down."

A Lawrence life

Chestnut, 45, is a Lawrence native. In some ways, his childhood comes off sounding like prototypical Lawrence. His father worked for Kansas University for 36 years, his mother worked for the university for 15 years. He grew up in a traditional Lawrence neighborhood - Centennial - and used an open field just west of Allen Fieldhouse as his personal playground.

He then went to KU to get his undergraduate degree, and ended up staying to get a master's of business administration, in part because he wanted the additional degree but also because his future wife was two years younger than he was, and "she wasn't going to marry me until she graduated."

They married on a Saturday night, and she walked down the Hill the next day. It all adds up to a lot of Lawrence memories, Chestnut said.

"The cool thing for me is that there is not a neighborhood that I drive through in this town that I don't have some neat memory of," Chestnut said. "The streets of Lawrence mean a lot to me."

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Candidate Profile

Name: Rob Chestnut.Age: 45.Address: 5209 Fox Chase Drive.Profession: Chief financial officer for Lawrence-based Allen Press Inc. Education: Undergraduate degree in business administration and accounting, 1983; master's of business administration from KU, 1984. Family: Wife, Micki; three children, ages 15, 12 and 10.

But Chestnut left Lawrence for much of the 1990s when he worked in Kansas City for several large companies including Butler Manufacturing, Sprint and Farmland Industries. He and his family returned to Lawrence in 2001.

He said the time away was good because it exposed him to the world of big business, which he said could be helpful in city government because both seem to place a premium on process.

"An attribute I think I definitely bring to the table is that I'm used to learning process," Chestnut said. "Most large organizations have a fairly defined way to do business. To accomplish anything, you have to know two things: how it works and what people have to be involved in the decision-making process."

The issues

The number that concerns Chestnut most these days has to do with the community's job growth.

"The biggest issue we're facing right now is limited job creation," Chestnut said. "I'm really keen on developing strategies to market Lawrence better to employers."

He thinks his experience as a member of corporate management teams will help him do that.

"I've been on the other side," he said. "I've been on management teams looking for site locations."

What's needed to attract more jobs, Chestnut said, is a more proactive attitude. He said city leaders need to realize that in today's corporate world, it is inevitable that Lawrence is going to lose some existing companies to relocation.

"That's why you really have to have a philosophy of growing jobs on a continual basis," Chestnut said.

On other issues, Chestnut said:

¢ He doesn't think Lawrence's retail vacancy rates suggest the city is overbuilt in the retail sector, as some have suggested.

"I certainly don't think we're oversaturated," Chestnut said. "What I have seen in recent years is we have projects going through the process, and it seems they meet all the requirements. Then, for reasons that are difficult to explain, those projects are rejected at the City Commission level."

Q & A with Rob Chestnut


¢ A new library and new recreational facilities would be welcome additions to the community, but he's not sure how to pay for them.

"I recognize that we're at a point that if we pursue either one of those projects, we likely would have a tax increase as a result of that.I'm concerned about that."

¢ The city's planning process needs to be more "transparent."

"It appears to be very difficult to understand, and unpredictable," Chestnut said. "We need to focus on making it fair and efficient. Whether that means looking at simplifying processes or restructuring all the different departments, we need to do it. We have to commit to making it easier to do business here."

The primary will be Feb. 27, when voters will narrow the field from nine candidates to six candidates. Voters will fill three at-large seats on the five-member City Commission when they go to the polls in the general election April 3.

Other candidates in the race are James Bush, a Lawrence minister; Jake Davis, a local musician and data entry operator; Mike Dever, owner of a Lawrence-based environmental consulting firm; Sam Fields, a Lawrence bail bondsman; Commissioner Boog Highberger, an attorney for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment; Michael Limburg, a Lawrence forklift operator; Carey Maynard-Moody, a retired school social worker; and Commissioner David Schauner, general counsel of the Kansas National Education Association.


oldgoof 11 years, 4 months ago

...and Bozo just wants to be counted.....

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 4 months ago

This shows up as having one comment, but has none. I guess that means that the JW staff wants us to comment.

don_burgess 11 years, 4 months ago

Employment is an issue for Lawrence? NO WAY!

I have had TONS of great paying jobs with a solid foundation for upward mobility here in Lawrence. This is a city of golden opportunity for anyone looking to get a decent job and really work from the groud up to build a career.

Like that telemarketing center by Ousdhal and 23rd that has had 4 different names. . .

Like the rich selection of quality pizza delivery jobs that allow gratuities galore!

The plethora of gas station attendant jobs peppered throughout the city which all begin at a hefty salary. . .

And for the more serious, dedicated employee, there is the vast array of tavern/bar jobs where a fortune can be made from college student tip money!

If you REALLY put some effort into it, over the years with some elbow grease and a good work ethic, you can obtain that coveted job waiting tables at FREESTATE. Yes. That's how you KNOW you've got it made!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 4 months ago

Yea, don't we all.

Mainly just saving people the trouble of tracking down a link to the article-- not that commenting on articles on this forum actually requires reading them.

I've been counted twice now, without commenting on the article.

KsTwister 11 years, 4 months ago

He can add the millions. Finally, someone who can and insight to go with it. More common sense in his short overture than I have heard from any commissioners in 20 years.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 4 months ago

Oh, come on, KsTwister. He just through out the same old meaningless platitudes we hear every election.

KsTwister 11 years, 4 months ago

Bozo, you really need to jump off that short bus.

Rationalanimal 11 years, 4 months ago

"The biggest issue we're facing right now is limited job creation," Chestnut said. "I'm really keen on developing strategies to market Lawrence better to employers."

Here's a real easy tip to market Lawrence to prospective employers, stop suing them.

Jamesaust 11 years, 4 months ago

"He just through out the same old meaningless platitudes we hear every election."

Hardy-har-har - if ONLY we heard several worthless members of the Commission (those who shall not be named) espousing these "meaningless platitudes" themselves perhaps (a) something would have been accomplished in the last few years, and (b) certain unnamed someones wouldn't be retiring - voluntarily or not.

Yes. Its obvious that job growth, and therefore business growth, is a problem lying at the heart of most of the City's problems. Its probably easier for the proverbial leopard to changes its spots than for Lawrence to lose the (antibusiness) attitude.

If only Lawrence could be though no more antibusiness than say Berkeley, Boulder, Cambridge or Austin.

don_burgess 11 years, 4 months ago

Rational animal-

Which suits are you referring to? Do you agree that Employers who break the law need to be penalized?
Have you been sued recently? Are you a business owner? - sounds like a sore spot for you , personally.. . .

budwhysir 11 years, 4 months ago

Creativly speaking about this political matter, I must agree that there cannot be a creative politician in a picture of politics

gccs14r 11 years, 4 months ago

Interesting that he worked for Farmland. Do we want any Farmland execs in charge of anything around here? Haven't they done enough damage?

Chestnut should recuse himself from the library debate, since one of the proposed building sites belongs to his current employer.

Rationalanimal 11 years, 4 months ago

don_juan. re earlier comments: did you just move to Lawrence in the last 24 hours?

don_burgess 11 years, 4 months ago

No, rational. I didnt just move to Lawrence in the last 24 hours.

MyName 11 years, 4 months ago

Rational: if you're talking about Wally World, they sued the city, remember?!?

Otherwise, you might want to be a little less cryptic.

don_burgess 11 years, 4 months ago

Rational has severe mental problems. Give him a break.

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