As city commissioner, Rost would focus tax dollars on core needs

Michael Rost

Address: 1501 George Williams Way

Age: 27

Profession: Attorney

Education: Undergraduate degree in history from Kansas University; law degree from Washburn University

Family: Single

Michael Rost would like to add a little boredom to his life by becoming a Lawrence city commissioner.

You can’t really blame him. Rost, after all, is a competitive cyclist who recently had plenty of excitement flipping over the handlebars of his bike on a road course outside of Fayetteville, Ark. Rost has the cut on his forehead and the braces on his teeth to prove it.

“The oral surgeon knocked me out and wired my teeth up and pushed them back in place,” Rost said. “Hopefully we’ll give them a rest and they’ll heal.”

Rost is one of 11 candidates who have filed for a seat on the Lawrence City Commission. He doesn’t plan on bringing such excitement to the commission.

“My vision of what city government should be is that it should be boring,” Rost said. “It shouldn’t be sexy. There are a number of things when you live in a city that you expect your tax dollars to pay for: fire, police, schools, roads, basic infrastructure.

“What I’ve seen and read leads me to believe that we have gotten away from that in terms of what our core dollars should be invested in.”

Rost said recent discussions regarding whether the city should proceed with a $25 million recreation center in northwest Lawrence has reinforced that idea.

“I have met a lot of people who have moved here for school, and the first thing they complain about are the roads,” Rost said. “When you have potholes the size of a VW, it is crazy for me to think about spending $25 million on a recreation center or on issues like that.”

A competitive streak

Rost, 27, is a litigation special counsel for The IMA Financial Group in Topeka. Basically, he is an attorney who goes to trial for the company, which is in the commercial insurance business and other parts of the financial sector.

Rost said the courtroom work helps fuel a competitive spirit that he has had since his days growing up in Wichita as a track and field athlete.

Rost was a member of the Kansas University track and field team, specializing in the 800 meter run. He said track and field actually left him in worse shape than a recent cycling accident when he once dived across a finish line in an attempt — a failed one — to finish sixth in the race.

Now, cycling helps fill that competitive void. Most weeks he rides his road bike 10 to 20 hours, and it is not unusual for him to compete in multiple races in a month that are more than 80 or 90 miles each.

He said how he goes about competitive cycling might give Lawrence residents some clues about what makes him tick. He said he likes the sport, in part, because it is the type of activity where you can set a goal and keep meticulous track of how you are progressing toward the goal.

“I’m a big fan of setting goals and tracking them,” Rost said.

In fact, Rost actually rides with a special power meter attached to his bike. It records the amount of watts worth of energy he produces during a ride, and stores the data for him to study after each ride. That’s something else voters may want to know about him, he said.

“If it is something I’m interested in, I kind of want to know everything about it,” Rost said.

Rost said he thinks some of the mental toughness he gained as an athlete would help him as a city commissioner.

“I learned that everybody has an excuse to not do something,” Rost said. “But you just have to tell yourself that there is no justifiable reason to not do what you want to do, and then you go set out to do it.”


Rost said he plans to emphasize his conservative fiscal approach to governing during the campaign. Among the issues he plans to raise:

• He’s uncertain whether the city ought to be investing money in efforts to attract tourists to the community.

“I don’t see that as a great way to invest city dollars,” Rost said. “I think the way to invest city dollars is to spend it in ways that make people want to move here.”

• The need to create a long-term vision for the city.

• The proper use of incentives for economic development projects. “My perspective would be that you have to have a very, very, very compelling reason to give tax subsidies or breaks to a for-profit business,” Rost said.

A Feb. 26 primary will narrow the field of 11 City Commission candidates to six. The general election — where the top three vote winners will take a seat on the commission — will be April 2.