Lawrence City Commission candidate profile: Dustin Stumblingbear
The dais at City Hall may be a far cry from combat zones in Iraq, but army veteran and Lawrence City Commission candidate Dustin Stumblingbear said it requires the same mental flexibility.
“You have to adapt to each situation as it arises,” Stumblingbear said.
Stumblingbear, 38, said he served as a platoon leader in basic training and as a truck commander in combat patrols in Iraq. After serving six years in the army, which included two tours in Iraq, he retired as a specialist in 2009.
Born in Tucson, Ariz., Stumblingbear lived in Lawrence a few years growing up before moving to town for good in 2009. Stumblingbear, a member of the Kiowa tribe of Oklahoma, moved back to Lawrence to take classes at Haskell Indian Nations University and later the University of Kansas.
A varied background
However, Stumblingbear said it isn’t only his army experience that has prepared him for a role on the commission. Over the years, he’s worked at a factory and in the service industry and interned at the Kansas Statehouse.
“It’s all of them,” Stumblingbear said.
Stumblingbear spent most of his youth living in either Albuquerque, N.M., or Lawrence. He later lived in North Dakota, where he worked as a team leader on a factory floor at American Woods Inc., which makes lawn furniture, and as a dining services supervisor at the University of North Dakota.
Last legislative session, Stumblingbear served as a legislative intern for state Rep. Dennis “Boog” Highberger, of Lawrence. He said his time as an intern taught him a lot about the different ways people can interpret state laws, which he said applies at the municipal level as well.
“We have to think about that when we’re coming up with codes and policies,” Stumblingbear said.
Currently, Stumblingbear serves on the board of Independence Inc., which provides advocacy, support and training for people with disabilities. He said being on the board has given him experience with budgeting and planning.
While at KU, Stumblingbear studied secondary education, but he said he left school before obtaining his degree to help care for his son.
Stumblingbear said a main focus of his campaign is the shortage of affordable housing, which national health rankings have designated as “severe” in Douglas County.
Stumblingbear said that Lawrence residents — including those working in lower-paying jobs — don’t just need affordable places to live, but also quality places to live.
“Most of Lawrence is service-industry jobs,” Stumblingbear said. “These are the people who work in our gas stations, our restaurants, our hotels. They deserve to have the same access to quality housing as anyone working in a white-collar job.”
Stumblingbear said he thinks the city should continue to work with nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity and Tenants to Homeowners to help fund affordable housing projects.
“It’s a good direction,” Stumblingbear said. “I would love to do that and continue that expansion.”
On Nov. 7, Lawrence voters will also decide whether to renew the 0.55 percent citywide sales tax, 0.05 percent of which would be devoted to affordable housing and is projected to generate about $1 million annually. Stumblingbear said he is in favor of renewing the tax.
Another issue Stumblingbear is focusing on is infrastructure. He said the city needs maintenance plans to ensure the long-term quality of water pipes, sewage lines, roadways and sidewalks. He said the city should focus on projects that will lower maintenance costs over the long run.
“This includes projects that will allow our roads to last beyond just two to three years,” Stumblingbear said.
A third issue concerning Stumblingbear is economic development. He said he’d like to increase the city’s tourism by bringing more sporting events — such as the USA Track & Field Junior Olympic Championships taking place this week — to Lawrence. In addition to sporting events, he said the city should focus on attracting more arts and culture events.
“We need to look at ways that we can generate the buzz for Lawrence for events like that,” Stumblingbear said. “That way it’s minimal spending of our dollars, but the benefit to Lawrence all across the city is massive.”
Also relating to tourism, Stumblingbear said he thinks the city needs to update its ordinances to allow short-term home or apartment rentals, such as those offered through the online platform Airbnb. The number of bookings for short-term rentals in Lawrence more than doubled last year, helping to make the city the most popular Airbnb destination in the state.
Stumblingbear said updates to the city’s code to include short-term rentals would allow the city to start collecting transient guest taxes on those stays. He said increasing tourism and the money collected from sales and guest taxes will give the city more money for infrastructure — including sidewalk repair — that will help make the city more inviting.
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, Stumblingbear, Ken Easthouse, Mike 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: 211 Mount Hope Ct. #4
Occupation: retired veteran
Education: Fisher (Minn.) High School graduate
Family: wife, Rachel, and one son