2020 Primary Voters Guide: Ron Thacker wants to be voice for rural communities on Douglas County Commission
Ron Thacker wants to make sure rural communities of Douglas County have a voice on the County Commission.
Thacker, 52, lives in rural Douglas County in Lecompton Township. He said he noticed many of the candidates running for the County Commission this fall reside in Lawrence, which could make the county’s governing body city-focused.
“It’s all Douglas County, so I’m not trying to discount the people of Lawrence, but the City of Lawrence provides a lot of the things for them that more rural people need the county for,” he said. “We lose focus on that, I think. In my mind, it’s a traditional urban-versus-rural struggle.”
Thacker, who is also the Douglas County Republican Party chair, is one of two Republican candidates running for the County Commission’s 3rd District seat. The winner of the Republican primary for the seat will face off with one of the two Democratic candidates in the general election in November.
Thacker is one of the only County Commission candidates who supports the idea of expanding the Douglas County Jail, which the county estimates to cost about $29.6 million. When asked if he supported the county’s controversial plan to expand its jail, Thacker said “yes and no.”
While he supports expanding the facility, Thacker said he did not like how the County Commission went about the project. He said he specifically opposed the county’s original plan in 2018 to create a new sales tax to fund the project, which voters rejected in 2018.
The county’s current plan calls for using up to $9 million in funds it set aside for the initial cost of the project and then taking on debt to pay for the remainder, which would be paid off through an ongoing sales tax Douglas County voters approved in 1994. Thacker said he believes a plan like that should have been considered originally.
“I would like to see the law enforcement officers get the facility they need, but I think we need to look at the money we already have and the taxes we already have to pay for it,” Thacker said.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, Thacker said the county may also need to consider cutting its budget to make up for shortfalls in tax revenue. Additionally, he believes Douglas County should provide some tax breaks to people who lost their jobs during the pandemic, which would decrease the county’s revenue further.
“All the people the county health officer and the governor put out of work, they didn’t get a break on their taxes,” Thacker said, referring to people who lost their jobs during an economic downturn associated with the pandemic and the state’s stay-at-home orders. “In reality, we should be giving them some sort of tax forgiveness.”
With that in mind, Thacker said the county should consider cuts to the budget to create temporary savings, rather than consider finding new revenue, which would likely be done by raising taxes.
As for rural land use, a common issue commissioners need to consider, Thacker said he believes the best steward of rural land is usually the landowner. He said he wants to see the focus of rural land use decisions move back to landowners, but he believes many decisions will come down to a case-by-case basis.
Thacker grew up in Lecompton and graduated from Perry-Lecompton High School. He has earned many post-secondary degrees, including a master’s degree in public administration from Troy University.
He returned to Douglas County in 2012 after serving 20 years in the U.S. Navy, where he worked in logistics and maintenance. He said that background would be a strength when considering county issues related to the county’s vehicle fleets and road maintenance.