Lawrence City Commission candidate profile: Mike Anderson
Editor’s note: The Journal-World will run similar stories on each Lawrence City Commission candidate in the days leading up to the Aug. 1 primary election.
Lawrence City Commission candidate Mike Anderson wants the public to know that he’s more than just a talk show host.
This is Anderson’s second run at a seat on the commission, following a candidacy in 2015. He said he thinks that because of his show some people thought his past candidacy was a joke.
Anderson, who has hosted “The Not So Late Show” on Channel 6 for six years, said that perception couldn’t be further from the truth.
“I’m very serious about my ability to research, to communicate, to listen, to work with the city, to work with the county,” Anderson said. “I’m very serious about my commitment to this town that I love, and I hope when people look at me or meet me, they see that. And they don’t just see (a) talk show host.”
The company that owns Channel 6 was recently bought, and the new owners will be discontinuing the channel and Anderson’s show at the end of this month. Anderson said he will stay in Lawrence, where he plans to pursue acting work here and in the Kansas City area.
Originally from St. Paul, Minn., Anderson moved to Lawrence in 2004 to attend the University of Kansas, where he earned his doctorate in communications. While studying at KU, he taught courses in problem solving, research methods and public speaking, and also worked as an adjunct professor in the communications department of Haskell Indian Nations University.
If elected, Anderson said he thinks his background in research and ability to synthesize information will help him be an effective commissioner. For any decision, he said commissioners are flooded with information from studies, city staff, the parties involved, organizations, neighborhood associations and the public.
“To me, the biggest job for a city commissioner is to be able to synthesize information,” Anderson said. “To be able to hear an argument, take it apart, understand it and put it back together again.”
Anderson said that he thinks his skills will also help him to make the best decision for all of Lawrence, even if some don’t agree. He said his worry is that sometimes commissioners make decisions to please their base or to please their friends.
“Unfortunately, sometimes people speak very loudly against what you might believe in,” Anderson said. “But you have to say to yourself, ‘You know what, I researched the issue, I understand the issue, and right now all the information I have, by golly, this is the best decision for Lawrence.”
Anderson said the main focus of his campaign is the economy and the arts. He said that he thinks some people think those issues are mutually exclusive, but that he sees them as very correlated.
Anderson said he thinks the most special thing about Lawrence is the arts, noting that nationally recognized artists such as director and screenwriter Kevin Willmott and crop artist Stan Herd have chosen to live here. He said the city can do more to encourage the arts and entertainment industry in Lawrence.
As an example, he said the city is losing money by not having a conference center. In addition, he said the commission’s choice to scale down the East Ninth Street project from an arts corridor to a more basic design is a missed opportunity.
“I was a little disheartened with the process that that went through, and I think we need to look at projects on the macro level as well as the micro level,” Anderson said. “I believe that corridor project would have been good not just for East Lawrence, not just for West Lawrence, but something that all of Kansas could look at.”
In addition to the arts, Anderson has other ideas to improve economic growth in Lawrence. Specifically, Anderson said that he thinks the city could do more to encourage entrepreneurship, including providing a revolving loan program or philanthropic scholarships.
He said other economic issues include increasing the focus on technical training, attracting retirees, good use of economic incentives, access to high-speed internet, and improving the city’s walkability.
“One builds off the other and it’s a process,” Anderson said. “If we put all of these things in place, not only are we going to be stronger economically, but other businesses with better paying jobs are going to look at Lawrence.”
In addition, Anderson said he thinks local leaders can look more to what other cities similar to Lawrence are doing and learn from their successes. Overall, he’d like to see Lawrence move away from the status quo and make decisions that focus more on its long-term future, with a vision for what the city can be like in five or 10 years.
“I’m so excited for the future of Lawrence and that’s one of the big reasons why I want to be involved in its future,” Anderson said.
The terms of commissioners Lisa Larsen, Mike Amyx and Matthew Herbert are expiring this year. Eight candidates have filed for the election: Herbert, Larsen, Jennifer Ananda, Bassem Chahine, Dustin Stumblingbear, Ken Easthouse, Anderson and Christian Lyche.
The primary election on Aug. 1 will narrow the field to six candidates. The general election will be Nov. 7.
Address: 811 New Jersey St.
Occupation: talk show host
Education: doctorate in communications