City Commission candidate profile: Stuart Boley
Here was Stuart Boley in 1977 — freshly armed with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and modern European studies — with two job offers in Houston. One was with the Houston library, and the other was as a tax auditor with the Internal Revenue Service.
Logic made it clear which one he had to take: the IRS job.
“I went to Houston to work,” said Boley, who got his degree from Kansas University, but noted the job market in the area was suffering at the time. “I figured if I got on with the IRS there would be a lot better chance I could transfer to bigger and better jobs. If I went to the library, I figured I would be at the library for a very long time.”
Address: 1812 W. 21st Terrace
Occupation: retired IRS agent; part-time administrative officer for the Douglas County Community Foundation
Education: Bachelor of Arts in English and modern European studies from Kansas University
Family: wife, Lisa, and three grown children
Boley, one of 14 candidates vying for a spot on the Lawrence City Commission, had the chance to use logic often in a 32-year career with the IRS. But a job with the IRS isn’t all about the analytical stuff. You learn about more than just numbers at the IRS. You also get a lot of opportunities to learn about people.
“We were dealing with people who did not solicit our contact,” said Boley, who retired from the IRS in 2009. “We were there to audit them, and a lot of people were intimidated by that and some were irritated by it. You learn how important it is to treat people with respect. People generally respond well when they are treated with respect.”
But, you do also learn a lot about numbers working for the IRS. By the end of his career, Boley was a revenue agent who was assigned to cases that involved tax returns of $200 million or more. The job gave Boley a chance to see the inner workings of large businesses and important organizations. The job drove home a point, one that Boley thinks would be useful as a city commissioner.
“It is important to have standards, and sometimes I wonder if the city’s standards are rigorous enough,” Boley said.
Boley was concerned about what he was hearing about Rock Chalk Park and how the City Commission had approved the project. He wasn’t alone in Lawrence, but how he reacted was a bit different than the ordinary citizen: He requested the audited financial statements of the city and its approved budgets, and studied them for about a month. Soon thereafter, he filed for the City Commission.
He said he was disturbed that the city was using a countywide sales tax approved by voters in 1994 as the funding source for Rock Chalk Park.
“I don’t think we voted on Rock Chalk Park in 1994,” said Boley, who has lived in Lawrence since 1983. “You have to pay respect to the citizens, and letting them vote pays respect.”
Boley said studying the city’s process for approving tax incentives also has created a lot of questions. He questions whether some of the more recent incentives are creating high quality jobs for the city, and he has raised concerns about whether the city is doing sophisticated enough analysis when considering whether to grant financial incentives.
“I have heard that our process isn’t there to review these requests, but rather is there to approve them,” Boley said. “Right now, the public gets the feeling that they’re being taken. They just don’t know how.
“The ability to ask the right questions is a skill you have to develop. And with the background of a financial analyst, I think I can sometimes even understand the answers.”
Boley thinks his ability to understand complicated financial matters would be useful on the commission. He said he also would bring a significant understanding about how business operate and function. As an auditor of large firms, Boley said he often was embedded inside a company for months at a time. Near the end of his career, a single audit could take up to two years, much of which was spent getting to know the company.
“You had to learn the business in order to understand the financials,” Boley said. “The learning was what made the job so interesting.”
Boley said he believes there is a need for improved police facilities, but the commission has significant work to do in answering the questions of “where, what and how much.”
“But it is a definite priority,” Boley said. “We need to find those answers soon.”
On other issues, Boley:
• Believes “the jury is still out on the effectiveness of the city’s new rental registration and licensing program.” He said standards for rental properties are important, but wants to withhold judgement on whether the current plan is the correct way to create those standards. He said there is a concern unnecessary burdens could be placed on responsible landlords.
• Thinks the city needs a better understanding of what retirees need in terms of taxes, transportation and other issues, if the city is serious about becoming more of a destination for retirees.