Archive for Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Bail bondsman has big ideas for community’s future

February 7, 2007


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

Sam Fields has never been able to get the big ideas out of his head.

That's probably why Lawrence residents will hear Fields talking about Egypt during his campaign to fill one of three at-large seats on the City Commission.

"The problem with a lot of people is that they just live in today's world," Fields said. "They don't think 20 to 30 years down the road."

Fields said making sure the city doesn't fall into that trap is one of his major goals. So, enter Egypt.

Here it is in a nutshell: Lawrence is looking to build a new public library. Fields thinks it should be along the banks of the Kansas River in the former Riverfront Mall - which is owned by members of The World Company, which owns the Journal-World. The location would be unique, but Fields wants to go further and dedicate the whole library to the lost Library of Alexandria, Egypt, which was on the banks of the Nile.

Fields can see it now: international publicity, a new Sister City relationship and, in short, a new icon for Lawrence.

'Tough to lie to'

Fields knows it may sound a little risky or a little out there to some. But he deals with out-there ideas every day. He's the owner of two Lawrence-based bail bond companies: Applejack's and AJ's bail bonds. The profession, he said, has taught him not to judge people or ideas too quickly.

"I'm not afraid to take chances on someone," Fields said. "I start off with a clean slate on everyone. But I'll tell you, I'm a hard man to lie to because I almost expect it. They all tell me they're innocent, and then most of them a few months later are in court taking a plea. But I don't judge them for the crime they are charged with or how the public feels about them."

Candidate profile

Name: Sam FieldsAge: 46Address: 1201 OhioProfession: Owner of Applejacks and AJ's bail bonds. Education: Associate degree, Butler County Community College Family: Single, no childrenPast political experience: First run for office

Being a bail bondsmen, though, hasn't always been the big idea Fields had for his career. But it is in the same ballpark. For the longest time, Fields wanted to be a lawyer.

But growing up the son of a factory worker in Birmingham, Ala., didn't open a lot of doors in the education arena, said Fields, 46.

"Being educated in Alabama in those days, they basically provided you the rudiments and they provided some basic trade skills," Fields said. "You know, after ninth grade I never had to take a math class."

That's a shame, Fields said, because he later realized he had a real love for science and for figuring out how things worked. But instead of learning about it in a university, he learned in the oil fields near Yates Center and later as an assembly line worker for Boeing in Wichita.

Fields came to Kansas in 1980 to look for a construction job at the Wolf Creek nuclear power plant after picking up blue-collar work in New Orleans, Houston and several spots in between.

But then at age 27, he decided to take another turn. He enrolled in classes at Butler County Community College and received an associate degree. He came to Lawrence in the late 1980s to attend Kansas University but left after struggling to balance work and school, plus shifting his focus back and forth from science to prelaw courses.

"Basically, I have 130 hours and no degree," Fields said.

Instead he went to work selling cars, and later started selling insurance. Twelve years ago, he got into the bail bonds business, in part because he already had much of the licensing needed to sell bail bonds. He founded Applejack's, and then in 1998 bought AJ's bail bonds.

Fields said it is a tough way to make a living.

"I've been doing it for 12 years, and I know I'm never going to become wealthy doing it," Fields said. "I'm basically a public servant who risks his own money to provide a needed service."

Q&A with Sam Fields


The issues

Fields said Lawrence's economy is one of the best and most consistent of all the cities where he has lived. But, he said, the community needs to spend more time thinking about bigger-picture issues that will play out in the next 30 to 100 years.

"I really want to stress how important it is for our local leaders to make good business decisions now that will reflect on the prosperity of our town 100 years from now," Fields said, pointing to how some Kansas communities are still paying the price for frontier-era decisions related to keeping the railroads out of their community.

On issues of the day, Fields said:

¢ He would support moving the proposed route for the South Lawrence Trafficway farther south and out of the wetlands. He said he does not see a day when American Indian interests will stop fighting the idea of running the road through the wetlands.

¢ He would support creating a property tax credit or property tax rebate program for landlords who agree to put their properties in Department of Housing and Urban Development programs designed to create affordable rental options. He likes that idea better than talk of raising the mortgage registration tax to fund a Housing Trust Fund that would work on affordable housing issues.

"If we're going to do something, let's do something that directly impacts housing," Fields said.

The primary election 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; Rob Chestnut, a chief financial officer; Jake Davis, a local musician and data entry operator; Mike Dever, owner of a Lawrence-based environmental consulting firm; 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.


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