Stan Rasmussen definitely knows how to look back in time.
Rasmussen, one of 14 candidates seeking a seat on the Lawrence City Commission, is an amateur paleontologist. His most impressive find was the skull of a saber tooth tiger in Wyoming, a find that he later donated to Kansas University.
But looking back in time is just a hobby. What he does for a living — as a land use and environmental attorney for the U.S. Army — is look to the future. That’s what he also wants to do as a city commissioner.
“If you look at Horizon 2020 (the city and county’s long range plan) there is no vision or mission statement included in it,” Rasmussen said. “We really need one of those for our community.”
Address: 4701 Turnberry Drive
Occupation: Attorney for the U.S. Army
Education: undergraduate degree in political science from Kansas University; law degree from University of Denver
Family: wife, Teresa; two college-aged daughters
Rasmussen has been a civilian employee for the U.S. Army for that past 13 years, and it is hard to walk down the hall in that organization without bumping into a mission statement. He said if Lawrence had an agreed upon common goal it would help the city in a variety of planning areas, and might help avoid some controversies.
“I think that is why there was some frustration over the timing of the police department, library and Rock Chalk Park projects,” Rasmussen said. “Where was the police project in our list of priorities? Did we even have a good list of priorities?”
Some of Rasmussen’s first memories of Lawrence are running through the halls of the Natural History Museum at KU. Rasmussen’s father was a professional paleontologist, and brought his family to Lawrence as he pursued a doctorate degree.
Rasmussen lived in Lawrence during his elementary school years, and then moved to Colorado during his junior high and high school years. But he came back to Lawrence to attend KU to get a degree in political science.
“Lawrence always felt like home,” he said. “It was the first place where I really got out on my bike and rode around town.”
But Rasmussen credits his time in New Orleans, the city he lived in just prior to moving to Lawrence, as a big reason that he developed an interest in politics and public service at an early age. He remembers as a six-year-old watching his mother cry about the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. He watched the CBS Evening News with his parents that night, and watching the news with his parents soon became a daily routine.
He also remembers one of his first days in New Orleans. His parents had stopped at a gas station and were taken aback by the separate bathrooms for whites and blacks.
“My parents took me out of the car and made me look at those signs that showed colored and whites for the bathroom,” Rasmussen said. “They told me to never forget it. The racism down in New Orleans really made my parents uncomfortable. They talked to me a lot about what was going on in the world.”
Today, Rasmussen makes a living keeping an eye on the law. Specifically, from his office at Ft. Leavenworth, he oversees a nine-state territory. His responsibilities include watching for state and local regulation that may impact the ability of Army and Department of Defense installations from carrying out their missions. Primarily, he monitors new legislation in the area of land use and environmental regulations.
Before his time with the Army, he served as an environmental attorney with the giant engineering firm Black & Veatch. While there, he was responsible for guiding power plant projects through the regulatory approval process.
“I have been in meetings where hundreds of people are interested in the project I’m presenting,” Rasmussen said. “I have seen how you develop good community relations.”
Rasmussen said he’s also seen it while serving stints on a variety city-appointed boards, including the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission, the historic resources commission and the board of zoning appeals. He said his time on those boards has taught him the importance of being a “thoughtful listener.”
“I strive to consider everybody’s comments equally,” Rasmussen said. “Everybody who gets up to speak thinks their comments are important. That is why they are speaking.”
Rasmussen said he plans to talk about some issues during the campaign that he thinks may be overlooked by others. For example, he said the city really needs to get busy on developing a plan for the type of development it wants to see along the eastern leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway, which is now under construction. He said the city also needs to start thinking now about how it wants to fund its public transit system for the long term. The sales tax that currently funds the T is set to expire in less than five years.
“That is something you can’t wait to have a discussion on until it is about to expire,” Rasmussen said. “You have to reinvigorate the community discussion and start getting ideas from the public.”
On other issues, Rasmussen said:
• He “wants to work on building community support” for a new police facility. “We also have to get them the equipment and the staff they need to adequately serve our community.”
• He wants to work on ways to see a conference center built in downtown Lawrence. (Full disclosure: members of The World Company, which owns the Journal-World and LJWorld.com, have proposed building a project that includes a conference center on property owned by the company.) “I think that is something that would really benefit downtown,” Rasmussen said.
More election coverage
- Catch up on City Commission candidate profiles, chats, questionnaire responses and more before the April 7 election.