Archive for Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Fateful fever kept Highberger in Lawrence

February 13, 2007


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

City Commissioner Boog Highberger is pretty sure Lawrence is exactly where he belongs.

His body told him that long ago.

It was the early 1980s and Highberger was set to graduate from Kansas University with a degree in electrical engineering. He had already accepted a job with computer giant IBM as a programmer. He was packing his bags to move to Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Then the fever came. Doctors had no idea what was causing it, but it zapped Highberger's energy and kept him out of the classroom. It lasted for weeks and ultimately caused Highberger to miss enough class to not graduate that semester.

When Highberger called IBM to let them know that he didn't have the degree and that he wouldn't be able to take the job, the fever soon disappeared.

"I think something inside me told me that is not what I really wanted to do with my life," Highberger said. "I'm not one of those people who wanted to go to school and then move far away."

Highberger - who is one of nine candidates for the Lawrence City Commission - has been here ever since. And he's certainly done his share of activities that observers may call classic Lawrence. For example: As mayor, he chose 13 random days and officially proclaimed them as International Dadaism Month to honor the art movement that embraced chance, randomness and nonsense. As a KU student, he successfully ran for student body vice president as a member of the "Costume Party," a political organization that grew out of a street theater group. Then there was the REAL Dollar project, a system of Lawrence currency that Highberger was urging Lawrence residents to spend at local businesses rather than U.S. currency.

"I was raised to do what you think is right, no matter what other people may think," Highberger said. "My dad was pretty insistent about that. Plus, I think you've got to have a little fun."

Candidate profile

Name: Dennis "Boog" HighbergerAge: 47Address: 1301 Vt. Profession: Attorney for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment; chief executive for GEM Farm Center, GarnettEducation: Undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from Kansas University in 1986; law degree from KU in 1992Family: Single, no childrenPast political experience: Elected to a four-year term on the City Commission in 2003. Served a one-year term as mayor beginning in April 2005.

Small-town roots

These days, though, Highberger is working on more mainstream issues. He spends much time talking about his efforts to get Lawrence to adopt development codes that would make the city more walkable and would make it easier to build old-style neighborhoods with front porches, alleys and corner stores.

The concept is sometimes called New Urbanism. Highberger has been among its louder champions in Lawrence, even though he comes from a nonurban background.

Highberger grew up in Garnett, an agricultural community of about 3,000 people about 50 miles south of Lawrence. His family operated GEM Farm Center.

"I grew up in a place where you knew most of your neighbors and got a lot of positive feedback," Highberger said. "I learned the value of strong community there."

He also learned some tougher life lessons there. At 15 years old, Highberger broke his neck while diving into a snowbank. The accident paralyzed him from the neck down, and doctors believed he would remain paralyzed for the rest of his life. But his father came to his bedside everyday to work and massage his muscles, and Highberger eventually regained feeling. Today, he walks and moves with difficulty but does so unassisted.

Highberger, 47, eventually went back to KU and received a law degree. After a brief time in private practice, he began working as an attorney for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment more than a decade ago. He also continues to serve as the chief executive of his late father's farm implement dealership, but he said he is not actively involved in the day-to-day operations of the business.

The issues

Highberger was first elected in 2003 as part of a trio of candidates that ran under the umbrella of the Progressive Lawrence Campaign, an organization that promoted better planned growth. He brings definite philosophies on growth and government to the table.

"Although some people may not believe this, my preference is for limited government," Highberger said. "But I think there are things that the market, if left to itself, can't do or can't do right."

Sometimes, Highberger said, that includes development.

"The market is geared toward short-term individual gain, and my job as an elected official is to make sure decisions are made that give long-term values to the community," Highberger said. "There is a tension there."

Dennis 'Boog' Highberger discusses his goals as a city commission candidate


Highberger, though, insists that the anti-growth label shouldn't be applied to him.

"I'm certainly not for wild, uncontrolled growth, but I don't think we can build a wall around the city, like some people may like, and still keep the city that we all want," Highberger said.

On other issues, Highberger said:

l He would support a well-thought-out plan for a new downtown public library. But with the library's cost projected near $30 million, Highberger said, he's only comfortable moving ahead on the project if it is put to a citywide vote.

l He believes the city has made progress on improving the community's street maintenance and sewer capacity during his tenure on the commission.

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, chief financial officer for Allen Press; Mike Dever, owner of a Lawrence-based environmental consulting firm; Sam Fields, a Lawrence bail bondsman; Carey Maynard-Moody, a retired school social worker; Michael Limburg, a Lawrence forklift operator; and Commissioner David Schauner, general counsel of the Kansas National Education Association.


cutny 10 years ago

Boog is one of the finest elected officials this city could ever hope to have. Only the ignorant and uninformed believe otherwise.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years ago

"What has Boog accomplished?"

Well, you're disatisified, and most of us much better off than if he had met your pave-it-over expectations.

jafs 10 years ago

FYI - There will be a debate on Thursday night at LHS at 6:30pm between candidates for city commission.

pelliott 10 years ago

Boog has been great. He has kept the tone civil and showed he is a man of honor. I especially appreciated that he continues to do his job with care. He might not agree with something but he listens with respect and I think an open mind. He has my respect, he has earned it.

These comment forums are a great opportunity for the people in the community to share differing views or to find they share goals and can come up with strategies to make Lawrence work. One should be responsible for how they say things and what they say. I know that the people who constantly go nuts with name calling don't care that I don't respect them.

Bladerunner 10 years ago

If we give him some aspirins will he go away? LMAO!

The Costume Party? Perhaps he can run for office in the State of Confusion.

Mike Blur 10 years ago

If Boog can rile half-wits like Bowhunter, blue73, et al. then he's doing something right!

Rationalanimal 10 years ago


"I love it when idiots have an open forum, they show their true colors."

I guess the open forum was just too much for you to resist then.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years ago

"Boog has done absolutely NOTHING to build consensus about this issue or any other issue in this town."

Maybe he could have done more, and if so, I wish he would have. But it's just dishonest to exclude from that discussion the fact that the movers and shakers who want to pave over Haskell's wetlands weren't interested in any sort of consensus, and got Sen. Roberts, and KDOT, among others, to essentially say they were doing it their way, and screw any consensus.

bearded_gnome 10 years ago

so, maybe the "fever" was a hysterical conversion? he's still here because of mental disorder then? hmmmmm.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years ago

Perhaps if "conservative" bloggers such as yourself, consumer1, could show any proclivity for being anything but petty, boorish, childish a**holes, your complaint would be more than mere hypocrisy.

countrygirl 10 years ago

Looks like lots of name calling on both sides..........

imastinker 10 years ago

I think countrygirl is the only one that got the story right here.

antikoolaiddrinker 10 years ago

Posted by just_another_bozo_on_this_bus

"Perhaps if "conservative" bloggers such as yourself, consumer1, could show any proclivity for being anything but petty, boorish, childish a**holes, your complaint would be more than mere hypocrisy."

I guess your not part of the intelluctal elite if you claim conservative views. What's so intelluctal about calling people childless a**hole? I guess that makes a person look more righteous when they post something like that.

antikoolaiddrinker 10 years ago

oops you're not your.

See I am not intelluctal enough to post or comment in this forum.

ASBESTOS 10 years ago

"so, maybe the "fever" was a hysterical conversion? he's still here because of mental disorder then? hmmmmm."

Bearded one I thought the same thing when I read this at 6:30 AM. Hysterical illness because of facing "The Big World".

Couldn't get far from the family based implement dealership? HMMMM! Now we know the connection between KDHE and the KLA here it seems. Is that why KDHE goes out and helps the farmers ignore the Environmental Regulations?

rhd99 10 years ago

What precisely has Boog done to attract higher paying jobs? Seems to me the economic infrastructure in Lawrence should be at the very top of this election cycle in City politics. The problem with the current infrastructure is that companies, except at East Hills (right of wrong?) pay lower wages because of the college student population willing to take jobs for less money. The current commission has so far of a road to travel to make economic conditions for ALL Lawrence residents, that Boog & Schauner just don't add up in terms of quality leadership as Lawrence tries to move ahead. Do I have any preference as to who would be better? Probably not, but I think that Boog & Schauner have done a wonderful job in alienating their supporters & all residents because their priorities at City Hall are WAY OUT OF WHACK! Time for these two guys to go bye-bye!

bearded_gnome 10 years ago

right on asbesty, rather than graduate it was easier to have a convenient illness? maybe deeper psychological issues about seperation and object relations, including relation with his father?

jonas 10 years ago

I'm not sure I feel comfort in the idea that our mayor (he is our mayor right now, right?) sees portents in illnesses. Next he'll be checking the stars, and then were back to ruling based on supernatural and unprovable implausabilities, and if I want that, I'll listed to a religious conservative.

Rationalanimal 10 years ago

Dang. It is shocking to know that Lawrence was a mere fever away from collasping into the ashes of capitalism, imperialism, growthism, pollutionism, and all the other isms out there. Whew, good thing we have the vanguard of socialism, protectionism, environmentalism, libraryism, litigationism, anti-Walmartism, anti-SLTism protecting our City and the Baker man-made wetlands by day and by night. Watch out all you evil capitalist pigs, here comes High-burger to save the day.

Rationalanimal 10 years ago

"Perhaps if "conservative" bloggers such as yourself, consumer1, could show any proclivity for being anything but petty, boorish, childish a**holes, your complaint would be more than mere hypocrisy."

Yes, bozo, and we all know how kind and diplomatic your comments have historically been relating to President Bush, Phill Kline, the "christian conservatives" in the State of Kansas, and every other topic. I mean, you are the poster-boy of civility and decency. The Euthyphro might be a good read for you. A nice simple dialogue on piety. No doubt you are an expert in the subject.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years ago

RA-- That you could even attempt to compare Boog with the likes of Bush or Kline makes your latest post as eminently flushable as all the rest.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years ago

"I guess your not part of the intelluctal elite if you claim conservative views."

No, the problem around here is that most of the self-professed "conservatives" confuse "conservatism" with stupidity and ignorance.

bearded_gnome 10 years ago

jonas, Boog was the lord mayor last time. now, mike is the mayor.

asbestos, suppose the pot use is just to self-medicate the psych pain?

bozo on the wrong bus, the comparison was not boog vs bush kline, etc., was comparison of you and your shallow defamatory posting style. if you're the best the PLC/GRA can do posting on here, we got nuthin' to worry 'bout. your postings consistently demonstrate a depth of political argument about as deep as ana "bimbo" smith.

daman 10 years ago

Boog is a a nice guy with a good heart and is an idealist. However, he cannot, should not, never should have entered into the real world of politics. The "costume" party thing in school is cool and all but he should have stopped there before he joined forces with the clog dancing bagger from the merc and the other knucklehead. Personally, I just think it's all a joke, these guys know nothing, do nothing (unless you count Real dollars and dada days) and get paid accordingly. Bring on the new guys who have some real life experiences and common sense. Vote for Dever and Chestnut.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years ago

BG-- calling idiots for what they are is not defamatory. I'm sure that hearing the truth about yourself is not exactly ego-lifting, but if you can't take the heat, don't post your angry, putrifying drivel on a public forum.

"Bring on the new guys who have some real life experiences and common sense."

God, talk about putrifying drivel. You obviously don't know either Highberger or Rundle. And what exactly is a "real life experience," Daman? It would appear to me that you must mean sucking up to the movers and shakers to promote your own "career advancement" -- even if that comes at the expense of everyone else in the city.

Rationalanimal 10 years ago

RA-- That you could even attempt to compare Boog with the likes of Bush or Kline makes your latest post as eminently flushable as all the rest.

Bozo, if my posts are "flushable," you're the septic tank of my dreams. Would you be my Valentine?

bearded_gnome 10 years ago

once again, bonzo-0n-the-wrong-bus, you prove my point with your own behavior. thanks. QED.

you are vacant, vacuous, and vapid. as I said, if you're the best PLC/GRA can muster on these boards...nuthin' to worry 'bout.

nice image RA!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years ago

Like I said, bg, if you can't stand the heat, keep your cognitive disabilities to yourself, rather than displaying them here for all to ridicule.

Sigmund 10 years ago

A little known fact is that during that fever, Boog had a vision where all of Lawrence would accept money with his face on it. Strange, but true!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years ago

And the sad fact is you probably even believe that "little known fact," Sigmund.

Richard Heckler 10 years ago

He did not turn out to be the no growther as was predicted.

More building permits went out in 2006 than 2005....

SoupBone 10 years ago

Boog is incredibly intelligent. As pelliott pointed out, he also LISTENS.

One thing I think EVERYBODY can agree on...there is no questioning Boog's motives. He is not on the Commission in order to line his pockets or the pockets of his friends.

Boog has clearly been a moderating influence on the Commission.

Remember, you do not HAVE to vote for candidates with the exact same views. Diverse viewpoints on the Commission can be a good thing.

Why not, say, Boog AND Dever?

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