Archive for Monday, February 11, 2013

Candidate Leslie Soden hopes to generate more community input as part of City Hall process

February 11, 2013


In the summer of 2011, Leslie Soden said yes, but she may not have known everything she was saying yes to.

She was sitting in a circle of members of the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association, and the question of who was going to be the organization’s next president already had gone around the room once. After hearing another round of ‘no’s,’ Soden reluctantly agreed.

Then, a few weeks later, plans for a new multistory hotel at Ninth and New Hampshire — on property that abuts East Lawrence homes — was filed at City Hall. Suddenly, Soden found herself as the spokeswoman for a major neighborhood opposition group.

That’s kind of an odd place for a self-described introvert who would just as soon shy away from public speaking.

“I have never felt a need, even when I was little, to be famous,” Soden said. “I like to be listened to, but I don’t like to be in the spotlight.”

After months of opposition and negotiation, developers compromised on the height of the proposed hotel. But revised plans weren’t the only thing to come out of that project. Somewhere along the way Soden realized she had quite a bit more to say.

Leslie Soden, City Commission candidate

Leslie Soden, City Commission candidate

Leslie Soden

Address: 619 E. Eighth Street

Age: 41

Profession: Owner of pet care business

Education: undergraduate degrees in anthropology from Kansas State University and computer information systems from Friends University.

Family: Single

Soden is one of 11 candidates seeking a seat on the Lawrence City Commission.

“I still don’t enjoy public speaking, but I think it is very important to voice your opinions,” Soden said. “I felt like instead of waiting for somebody else to step up, I should step up.”

Soden now has been a part of City Hall debate enough that she says one of her campaign issues will be to make the City Hall process less confrontational.

“I don’t want to put one group of people on one side and another group of people on the other and have them duel it out in the middle,” Soden said. “I have felt like I’ve had to do that before, and I don’t like it. I want more of a big melting pot.”

Longtime independent

Soden, 41, is founder and owner of Pet Minders, a Lawrence-based pet-care business that watches other people’s pets while they are away. Soden said she’s grown the company from scratch in 2006 to the point where it has about 350 clients currently.

“I come from a family of small business owners and entrepreneurs,” Soden said. “I really can’t imagine not using creative problem solving and initiative as part of my daily life.”

Soden’s parents divorced when she was young, and Soden said she grew up with her single mother in a relatively poor household in Topeka.

“My mom found the only trailer park in the Shawnee Heights school district, and we lived there,” Soden said. “We were a very poor family. I was a latch-key kid and all those stereotypes. I’ve been independent for God knows how long.”

After graduating from Kansas State University, Soden lived in Phoenix, where her father was in the printing business, and later in San Francisco. But ultimately she wanted to come back to the Midwest.

She ended up working in the information technology field for Connex International and later for Lawrence-based Martin Logan, the high-end speaker manufacturer. When that company had a change in ownership, Soden began to realize something else about herself.

“That is where I started to realize that more money a lot of times means more problems,” Soden said. “I was making more money than I ever had, but more stuff wasn’t making me happy.”

So, Soden booked a trip to Europe, struggled to find someone to watch her dog, made the journey, and then came home and started her pet care business.

“My first business has been a success and, from what I hear, that is an accomplishment,” Soden said. “I was dedicated and committed to it, and those are good characteristics to have in spades, if you are going to be an entrepreneur.”


Soden, who loves to “ask questions and analyze things,” said she wants to run a campaign that talks about how residents can become more involved. Among the issues she plans to raise:

• “I think everyone is really starting to see that there is a lack of community decision-making at City Hall,” Soden said. “We go through these processes of creating big plans, and the City Commission just comes along and overrules it too often. I think that has a direct impact on citizen engagement.”

• She wants to study ways to increase the amount of green energy produced in the city, perhaps by creating incentives for “green districts” in parts of the city.

• She hopes to help create a vision for downtown Lawrence that capitalizes on its “historic small-town charm.”

“To screw that up now when our history is finally being appreciated would be disappointing,” Soden said. “That doesn’t mean we can’t do any development in downtown. It just means we have to be very mindful of the area surrounding it.”

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


SouthernMan 5 years, 4 months ago

Fortunately for the community, she's unelectable. Too bad, because her experience as a pet babysitter would be a tremendous asset for City Commission. (sarc)

Catalano 5 years, 4 months ago

Fortunately, for the community, she isn't a rich white guy who has a day job that allows him to be salaried and able delegate to subordinates to have the time to be a city commissioner AND collect $750 from the city each month. Not saying that's the case with all commissioners, but for a majority and for a long time it sure seems so. I see Leslie in kind of the same position as to have a flexible work schedule and be available to be a commissioner as well.

Just sayin that only paying $750/month sure excludes a lot of people who have real jobs and are expected to show up every day and don't have the luxury of taking off during the day for meetings, phone calls, emails etc (not ALL city commissioner work is conducted on Tuesday evenings).

Did you know the county commissioners are paid around $30K each? Why the big discrepancy between them and the city commissioners?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 4 months ago

It's also very unlikely that any of the votes she'd take as a city commissioner would have any effect on her business, or vice-versa. Imagine that, a city commissioner without conflicts of interest.

Catalano 5 years, 4 months ago

I dunno...the city might want to recycle pets some day in specific sized containers. Or maybe build a pet village for all the older pets to live together. Or perhaps create a pet rec center somewhere on the outskirts of the city. You really just never know.

Bob Forer 5 years, 4 months ago

I judge a candidate on two qualities:

1) Do they have the intellect and maturity to handle the job? I have never met Leslie, but my educated guess is that she is a competent and reasonably intelligent person. .

2) Are they committed to representing the best interests of the citizens of Lawrence as opposed to being a shill for the wealthy folks who stand to make even more money depending on how the Lawrence City Commission votes? Here, Leslie's leadership of the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association clearly demonstrates that she does not represent the monied interests of the community.

Leslie passes my litmus test with flying colors.

Moreover, I have a lot of respect for her life story. She comes from a working class family, graduated from college, and after spending some time in two large metropolitan areas, returned to her midwest roots, where she successfully started a small business.

Leslie is exactly what this city needs. A person who will represent all of us instead of the elite who view government as a commodity that is bought and sold to further their financial interests.

You go, girl.

Alyosha 5 years, 4 months ago

The candidate has a Facebook page you can use to contact her:

You can directly ask her questions there, one would suppose.

5 years, 4 months ago

I enjoyed our conversation today, thanks Les!

seriouscat 5 years, 4 months ago

Leslie, best of luck to you. Sounds like just the kind of change Lawrence needs in City Hall.

irvan moore 5 years, 4 months ago

i am also leaning toward voting for leslie, maybe she can speak for those who have been without a voice for to long

5 years, 4 months ago

Visit my website if you would like to learn more about my campaign platform:
or on facebook

bearded_gnome 5 years, 4 months ago

from the article: “My first business has been a success and, from what I hear, that is an accomplishment,” Soden said. “I was dedicated and committed to it, and those are good characteristics to have in spades, if you are going to be an entrepreneur.”

---Ms. Soden, that is an accomplishment indeed to be proud of!

"green" is mostly a scam these days, beyond direct energy savings, so I discount a lot of that.

so, you're a bit well ... err ... to the left to my liking, and I normallywouldn't consider voting for you. however, being a successful entrepreneur, and the fact you are from east Lawrence makes me actually consider casting perhaps one of my votes for you.

we live in what is supposed to be a representative republic, the United States, however in the city of lawrence, far too often our commissioners come from west, old west, or far west Lawrence, and nowhere else.

I am tempted to vote for you because you at least are from another part of Lawrence.

5 years, 4 months ago

well I would be honored to get your vote! :-)

bearded_gnome 5 years, 4 months ago

and, thanks for reading and responding to all these comments. makes you a stand up gal.

oops, maybe "gal" isn't PC anymore.

5 years, 3 months ago

"Gal" is perfectly acceptable to me. :-)

Richard Heckler 5 years, 4 months ago

The City Commission NEEDS new faces.

It will do no good to bring back Mike Amyx and Rob Chestnut because these two have had their moments and they are too eager to provide local corporate welfare to the same groups over and over and over. If yard signs are any indication Judy Bellome is seen with Rob Chestnut so there you have it.

Bringing back incumbents usually brings back more the same old nonsense. The big spenders win while changing nothing.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 4 months ago

My choices may well be judging by their comments over the past week or so.

Scott Criqui / Leslie Soden / Mike Rost

All of these people have the intelligence to carry on and they are NEW faces. Not voting and bringing back incumbents certainly changes nothing

doggymom 5 years, 3 months ago

Leslie is an incredible young woman who is intelligent, thoughtful and, most importantly, ethical. She will never compromise her integrity and Lawrence needs that in all its leadership. Although I no longer live in Lawrence, I can say without a doubt that Leslie deserves to be elected. I would be voting for her if I could!!

Leslie, you'll remember me from LJKC as the lady with keeshonden.

scaramouchepart2 5 years, 3 months ago

Leslie acknowledges she doesn't understand economic development. She only supports east Lawrence. She has stated west Lawrence should have commercial everywhere along 6 street, while the neighborhoods there are fighting it. She doesn't suuport west Lawrence's rights to equal amenities. She is not forward thinking. She admits to not caring about issues until they happen.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 3 months ago

Lots of straw men. Did you make them up yourself, or did someone else feed them to you?

scaramouchepart2 5 years, 3 months ago

Just because you don't like it, doesn't mean it's made up. Check city hall minutes. Blogs with her leslicia (above) name.

scaramouchepart2 5 years, 3 months ago

. I have been at city meetings where even the city commission questioned why she was talking about something unrelated and when she said she represented east Lawrence and one of the commissioners showed she did not. I reconize her handle in the JW blogs, and she did write that there should be commercial all along 6 street. For someone who is a member of a group supporting neighborhoods that was very unsupportive of a neighborhood that has been fighting commercial all alon 6 street. Again, just because you don't want to believe does not mean the truth is made up. She has even said she does not know much about economic development to the paper.

5 years, 3 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 3 months ago

I believe it's against the terms of agreements of this forum to "out" anonymous posters.

Unbecoming of a prospective public official?

5 years, 3 months ago

guess i just need to get used to this kind of thing, it's hard to sit on my hands though. wisdom, eh?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 3 months ago

So, you just want to reinforce that you're just making stuff up, eh?

5 years, 3 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

5 years, 3 months ago

Thank you "doggymom" for your kind words, hope you are well! :-)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 3 months ago

That's why we need you in there. You'd do whatever you want without any input from any knowledgeable sources whatsoever.

Margaret Elberson 5 years, 3 months ago

i cast one of my three votes allowed for Leslie....and here is the snow coming down that will stop others from voting tomorrow.

Go Leslie Go!!

Richard Heckler 5 years, 3 months ago

Leslie and East Lawrence have for many years supported mixed use development in the neighborhood. Leslie supports economic growth absolutely. East Lawrence likes small business ventures in their neighborhood.

She brings with her plenty of knowledge pertinent to the above statement that was learned through experience. Leslie is definitely intelligent and pragmatic.

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