by Mary Rupert
Mark Gilstrap, a former state senator in the Piper area of Kansas City, Kan., has filed for Unified Government Commission, 1st District, at large.
Gilstrap, who filed Dec. 18, said he was running to be an asset on the UG Commission with his experience in finance.
Gilstrap, 62, retired Dec. 17 from the UG Finance Department, treasury division, where he worked 33 years. He is a former city treasurer, former deputy county treasurer, and his last title was deputy revenue director. He said at the current time, there isn’t much experience on the UG Commission in the accounting field.
“We need somebody to jump in and take the bull by the horns, look at the budget, and see if everything is being spent wisely,” Gilstrap said.
Gilstrap served in the state Senate from 1997 to 2008, and he was the Wyandotte County Republican chairman until recently, when he decided not to run for re-election. The current chairman is Joe Ward. Gilstrap still is a precinct committeeperson.
He said while in the state Senate, he voted to allow the people to vote for the casino, and they did vote for it heavily. He noted that at the time of the vote, it was expected that funds from the casino and developments would be used to reduce taxes here.
“I’m asking myself, with all this money coming in, why are we still having to raise taxes, and why are we one of the highest counties in the state for unemployment, when a couple thousands people are working at the Legends and the casino?” Gilstrap asked.
STAR (sales tax revenue) bonds from The Legends were supposed to help reduce taxes, but instead, it appears that other STAR bond projects were created, he said.
He said those are questions he would like to look into if elected.
He said that he does not support property tax increases. He said he supports more efficient management of government departments, and finding ways to collect delinquent tax money that is owed to the UG.
While he supports the idea of a new convention center being built in western Wyandotte County, perhaps near the casino, he would look more closely at the mayor’s downtown Healthy Campus proposal, he said. He said he did not feel confident that he would support it unless it had strong non-UG funding behind it. He said he was not sure of how much use the downtown development would receive.
Gilstrap said he was confident that he could work with everyone on the commission. As a state senator, he was in the minority party and had to work with the majority party, and could work with both, he said.
He said that he expects to have some name recognition when he runs for office. It will be the fourth election for the 1st District, at large seat, with a Gilstrap on the ballot. His brother, Mike, previously ran for the office and served in the office in 2003. Mike Gilstrap ran for re-election in 2007 and lost to Mark Holland by 31 votes. Mike Gilstrap was defeated again by Holland in 2011. The Gilstrap name has been on the ballot for this seat four times.
“I think it’s a good thing because a lot of these races are name recognition,” Mark Gilstrap said.
Gilstrap has stayed involved with the Kansas City, Kan., Chamber’s Congressional Forum luncheon, Bonner Springs Chamber of Commerce, Polish-American Club, Community Housing of Wyandotte County, and Leavenworth Road Association.
He is a graduate of Rockhurst College with an accounting majority, and is married to the former JoAnne Mantel, who is the pharmacist in charge at the Legends Walmart. They have three adults children and three grandchildren.
Gilstrap is the second person this year to file for the 1st District, at large seat. The first was Christal Watson.
There is no incumbent in the 1st District seat, as it was formerly held by Mayor Mark Holland. The commission deadlocked on filling the seat, unable to reach six votes on the finalists for the appointed position, and it has remained vacant.