Mike Dever knows that his life, at first glance, reads a bit like the Chevy Chase comedy "Caddyshack."
"I really did come to KU on a golf caddy scholarship," said Dever, one of nine candidates for the Lawrence City Commission. "You're only eligible if you are a caddy at a country club. You've seen the movie, right? It wasn't exactly like that."
Not nearly as funny, either. Dever - the second youngest in a family of six children who grew up in the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge - needed the scholarship because his father had died.
"That makes you take some responsibility at a young age," Dever said. "You learn the importance of hard work and effort. I had to earn a scholarship if I was going to go to college."
The fact that the scholarship was at Kansas University was more happenstance than anything else. The caddy scholarship program had one open bed, and it was at a scholarship hall on Stewart Avenue. Dever didn't hesitate to take it, although he said he knew next to nothing about the university.
Today, the scholarship hall is gone, and the caddy program no longer uses KU as a host school. But Dever remains, and he said he still uses what he learned on the golf course to help him.
"Caddying teaches you a lot about life," Dever said. "It taught me a lot about listening because caddies are meant to be seen but not heard. But it also taught me a lot about hard work. A lot of the ladies and gentlemen I caddied for at the club had made their own way in life. Seeing them made me want to aspire to higher things."
Dever now owns his own business: GuideWire Consulting, a Lawrence-based business that provides a variety of environmental assessments for property owners or those looking to buy property. The assessments include everything from opinions on how long a road or building may last to more complex appraisals of soil and groundwater conditions.
Mike Dever discusses his goals as a city comissioner
He has degrees from KU in environmental studies and geography, and said he's long loved the sciences and was affected by the strong environmental movement of the 1970s.
"I think I have some skills that would be useful on the commission," Dever said. "I know how to read maps and technical documents and assess and build models for growth. Those are the things I'm classically trained to do.
"I'm a technical person, but I'm able to explain things in a nontechnical way."
Dever said that ability, he thought, would be particularly important to the city.
"I want to try to create some real broad-based community involvement, not just the vocal minority on both sides," Dever said. "I hear a lot of people who just say, 'this is way over my head.' That's sad. It shouldn't be happening at City Hall. We should do a better job of explaining it.
"I want to provide clarity. I think that is really what has to be done."
City commission race 2007
City commission race
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Dever said he's a scientist at heart who likes to study data. He said he's concerned about some of the city's data, especially its growth numbers. Even though the city successfully challenged the U.S. Census Bureau's estimates that showed the city's population was basically stagnant during the last five years, he's not so sure.
"The fact that we have to dispute the Census Bureau on our numbers is concerning," Dever said. "It is clear that there is a question, and if there is a question, there could be a problem."
Dever said it is the small number of new jobs in the community that is most concerning to him. He said his No. 1 priority would be to create more jobs that do not require Lawrence residents to commute to other cities.
But how? By the City Commission becoming more involved in the recruitment and deal-closing process, Dever said.
"My impression from the outside is that we could be more welcoming to business," Dever said. "Generally speaking, you need somebody within the City Commission who makes it their job to bring new businesses to the community. They need someone who makes it their passion and their job really."
On other issues, Dever said:
¢ He sees the need for both a new library and new recreational facilities, but stopped short of saying he would support the city moving forward on either project.
"I have kids who could definitely use them," Dever said. "I care about it, but I don't know how we would pay for it. On the commission, I would be able to look at a lot of data and try to come up with those answers."
Mike DeverAge: 43Address: 1124 Oak Tree DriveProfession: owner of Lawrence-based GuideWire Consulting.Education: environmental studies and geography degrees from Kansas University, 1986. Family: wife, Lee Beth; two daughters, ages 14 and 12.Political experience: first run for political office.
¢ The city needs to spend more time evaluating its current infrastructure, everything from streets to buildings, to determine what resources will be needed to maintain them.
"It is clear that someone has taken their eye off the ball on that issue," Dever said. "That is just human. It happens but we need to address it now."
¢ Commissioners need to show strong leadership on planning issues and not be afraid to make tough decisions.
"You will always have infighting on those type of issues, but you have to have someone say 'I get it and it's time to move on,'" Dever said.
The primary will be Feb. 27, when voters will narrow the field from nine candidates to six candidates. Voters will elect candidates to 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; Rob Chestnut, a chief financial officer for Allen Press; 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.