Home / Opinion/Editorial / Citizen Voices / CITIZEN VOICES: Smithville School Board and Board of Alderman Recommendations for the April 4, 2017 Election

CITIZEN VOICES: Smithville School Board and Board of Alderman Recommendations for the April 4, 2017 Election

Local elections are one of the best opportunities for voters and community members to make a true difference in their communities. Candidates for School Board and City Council are typically neighbors, friends, and co-workers. On April 4th, the Northland will be gathering at polling places to cast their ballots for School Board, City Council, and several tax issues. My hometown, the City of Smithville, will be electing three members to the school board and three members to the Board of Alderman.

This election is my first opportunity to vote in any election as I turned 18 earlier this year. I have always valued the voice voting offers citizens and am honored to practice my civic duty and vote in this local election. Not only does voting offer we the people a voice, I have also been offered the platform to share my voice through The Northland News. I take both the opportunities with the highest regard and respect and believe strongly that our voice matters. In order to make a true difference, we must vote.

I wanted to take the time and offer you the opportunity to know the pros and cons of each candidate from my research. I believe they come from an informed position, but acknowledge they are also my opinion and may differ from yours. Feel free to comment on this article, I’d love to know what you think.

Smithville School Board – Voters will choose 3 – Listed in order as they appear on the ballot:

Click HERE to see all the candidates at the school board forum last Tuesday.

Greg Chastain:

Pro – Chastain has served on the School Board for the last 9 years, serving on numerous different committees. He currently works in construction. With the new school building set to begin amongst several other capital improvement projects, Chastain’s guidance would be useful during the transition. Chastain has lived in Smithville for over 20 years and had two children go through the Smithville School District.

Con – Chastain has served on the board for nine years. In elected office it’s good to have fresh perspectives. He also has little classroom and educational experience.

Russell Fries:

Pro – Fries has served on the school board for the last nine years, serving as the President for the last five years. He has lead the board with integrity and intelligence, holding transparency and respect for the district to the highest regard. Fries was also heavily involved in passing the levy and bond in 2016. Fries had two children in the school district and has been an active member of the community since moving to Smithville in 2000.

Con – Like Chastain, Fries has served on the board for the last nine years.

Michael Till II: 

Pro – Till served in the military and seems to want to help the students of the district succeed. He works as a Respiratory Therapist and has lived in Smithville for three and half years. He has a step-daughter in 5th grade.

Con – Till is uninformed with some of the main problems affecting the School District including the evolving student behavior whether it be the district’s growing diversity or the need for further special education programs. His responses during the candidate forum were confusing at times.

Till would likely be obstinate if he were elected to the board and as previously noted, his social media has shown he may not have the integrity as his opponents. It’s important for me to see the leaders of my community as role models and although I know people make mistakes, I do not believe he would be the best role model for our students in our community. He also has no educational or classroom experience.

Earl Soetaert: 

Pro – Soetaert was a teacher in the Smithville School District for four years and a teacher for 15 years. He is currently a mentor for the Smithville Warriors Advanced Technology, S.W.A.T, Robotics team. He served as mayor and was a member of the board of alderman in the 1980s and 90s. Soetaert has been in the classroom and understands what it takes to create successful students. He has lived in the Smithville community for over 35 years. His wife taught in the school district and mentors the S.W.A.T Robotics team, as well.

Con – Soetaert has served in several different elected offices, often for only two to four years in the 1980s. He was defeated in his second and third tries for office, the latest defeat came in 2008 when Soetaert ran for Mayor.

Denney Fales: 

Pro – Fales grew up in Smithville and has lived here his whole life. He truly is passionate and cares about the School District and treats every student as his own. He attends nearly every event and is very supportive and proud of the Warriors. He has served on the Smithville Parks Board and now the school board for three years. He listens to everyone that wants to talk and was a large advocate in passing the levy and bond in 2016. Fales works for KCP&L and understands the importance of compliance and working with the community.

Con – Fales has a small amount of classroom experience.

Wade Kiefer: 

Pro – Kiefer is young and determined, at 24 years old, he is the youngest candidate in the race. He is fresh out of college and has a great connection to what today’s students need as he was one six years ago in Kearney. He has served the Boys and Girls Club of America, as an intern in the State Capitol, and has a desire to make a difference. He is currently an electrician at Shaw Electric.

Con – He has lived in Smithville for just over a year and does not quite know all of the problems affecting our school district. He has no family members in the school district and has not had a much classroom experience since his graduation.

Most of the school board candidates are qualified to serve in the position and choosing three will be difficult. Despite this, I am recommending and am endorsing Denny Fales, Russell Fries, and Greg Chastain for election next Tuesday.

Earl Soetaert is a great choice as well. He has served this community well and his educational experience would be beneficial to the District during the next few years. Wade Kiefer is incredibly passionate and driven but his lack of experience in the school district and community are what is holding me back on voting for him. I do think we will see his name again on the ballot in the future. Michael Till has exhibited a lack of integrity and his lack of knowledge of the issues that are affecting the school district are a major concern.

Board of Alderman

The City of Smithville is represented by six aldermen that is split into three wards. During this April election, one alderman position is open from each ward. Here is a copy of the Ward map so you can see who would represent you in the April election.

Below are the pros and cons of each candidate, again, I feel these endorsements are well-researched and come from an informed position, but they are also my opinion and may differ from your thoughts.

Candidates for Smithville Board of Alderman – Ward 1 (as they appear on the ballot):

Click HERE to see some of the alderman candidates at the school board forum last Tuesday.

Melissa Wilson:

Pro – Wilson has lived in Smithville for 16 years. She has worked at Platte Valley Bank and works hard every day to make a difference. She is the newcomer in the race and is running to help Smithville grow, keep the city transparent in their work, and most importantly, make intelligent spending decisions by not wasting taxpayers money. Her husband, Ken, is the State Representative for our District. They have two grown children, pastor a church in Northern Missouri, and always strive to make a difference in our community.

Con – Wilson is an outsider to the inner workings of the political process in our city government. She has attended many City Council meetings and offers her thoughts through public comments, but she is still learning the inner workings of the city administration.

Judy Clough:

Pro – Clough has lived in Smithville for years. She has worked in City Hall as the City Clerk and has served as the Alderman in Ward 1 for 6 years. She is involved in the community and attends the First Christian Church in Smithville.

Con – Clough has never had an opponent in an election and has served on the Board for six years and is running for her fourth term. A new vision is definitely needed for Ward 1 as Clough has exhausted many of her ideas.

Candidates for Smithville Board of Alderman – Ward 2 (as they appear on the ballot):

John Chevalier, Jr:

Pro – Chevalier is running unopposed but I can assure you he is the man for the job. He has lived in Smithville for 12 years and has a vision of growth for the City. He wants to utilize modern methods of communication and allow the citizens voices to be heard and to have influence on future projects. He is passionate about the community, has served on numerous committees and invested numerous hours already. Chevalier has two students in the Smithville School District as well.

Con – Chevalier does not have a lot of political experience as this will be the first public office he will fill.

Candidates for Smithville Board of Alderman – Ward 3 (as they appear on the ballot):

Jeff Bloemker:

Pro – Bloemker is one of the most qualified candidates for this position I have ever met. He served in the Office of the President during September 11th and understands emergency management as he experienced it first hand. He also worked with the executive office on different budgets and personnel management. Prior to his service with President Bush, he worked as a Senate staffer in the offices of Senators Fred Thompson (R-TN) and Rod Grahams (R-MN) and currently serves as a hospital executive. His vision for the city is clear – updating strategic planning and efficient management. One could say that Mr. Bloemker is overqualified for this position.

Con – Bloemker has only lived in Smithville for ten years.

Charles R. Baker:

Pro – Baker is a respectable guy who wants to continue to treat the citizens of Smithville with kindness and respect. He wants Smithville to become a great place to live as well as lead several new projects in the community including the downtown streetscape.

Con – Baker has seemed uninterested in his campaign and has not attended any community events during his campaign. He is not as active in the community as others and completely new to holding public office.

Grant Sportsman:

Pro – Sportsman served as an alderman in 2000 and has been involved in the community his whole life. He also had a son who attended the School District.

Con – Sportsman was not reelected in 2002 and hasn’t voted in the last three April elections. He is running on a goal of keeping Smithville’s “Small Town Charm” which is not really what the community needs if we want to grow. Sportsman also wants to dig into the communities reserves before attracting businesses or looking for other ways to garner economic development.

Similar to the Smithville School Board Candidates, many of our Board of Alderman Candidates are qualified to serve in the positions but once again, each ward can only pick one. My recommendation for Ward 1 is Melissa Wilson, for Ward 2, John Chevalier Jr. and for Ward 3, Jeff Bloemker.

I truly hope you choose to join me at the polls on April 4th and vote for those who are going to grow our community, serve our students, and represent all of us with integrity.

About Nick Hartman

Nick Hartman is a senior at Smithville High School and has taken a vested interest in the community for the past few years. He is the Student Body President and is heavily involved in the School District and community. He enjoys being informed and writing stories that matter to the people of the Northland. He will be attending William Woods University in the fall of 2017 to study Political/Legal Studies and play golf. In his limited free time, he enjoys reading and hanging out with friends.