For the first time in 40 years, the Overland Park mayor’s office will soon be occupied by someone not named Eilert or Gerlach. In selecting the office’s new denizen for the next four years, Overland Park residents are also determining the city’s direction: Move toward the future or crawl to the past.
With such stark differences between the two remaining candidates, the choice is not difficult.
Both candidates are local businessmen. But Curt Skoog is a seasoned councilman with a long track record in City Hall, while Mike Czinege is a newcomer to civic service who did not attend a single Overland Park City Council meeting during the primary campaign. Skoog is a former Republican from its shrinking moderate wing who unaffiliated to become independent before announcing his candidacy. Czinege is a conservative Republican supported by Donald Trump and Sam Brownback enthusiasts, and he has taken the untraditional step of running on a party platform in this nonpartisan race.
Although many traditional conservatives were turned off by Czinege’s deliberate partisanship, others will be drawn to his messaging. But his policies cater to the fantasy that Overland Park is and should remain a bedroom community reserved for the well-to-do. Such policies are unhealthy for the reality of our industrious city and should be rejected.
Centrists, moderate and traditional Republicans, and most Democrats should flock to Skoog. Even more liberal Democrats will find him palatable, given the alternative. While Curt has his roots in Johnson County’s old-guard Republican establishment, he embodies what many say they want in an officeholder: nonpartisan, unbeholden to party interests, and not an extremist. Of the two candidates, these descriptors are unique to Curt Skoog.
Skoog understands what makes our city great and will use his experience well. First, he understands that we must protect our most-prized asset — our top-in-the-nation public schools. They provide a quality workforce, attract businesses and help raise our standard of living. Second, Skoog appreciates the importance of fostering good relations with the business community. He will continue partnerships with local chambers and businesses of all sizes to help ensure quality jobs and a diverse offering of goods and services for our residents.
Third, Skoog is the only forward-focused candidate. He has committed to investing in our future, such as addressing our infrastructure needs in a changing climate, increasing our stock of attainable homes, maintaining safe neighborhoods, tackling mental health issues, supporting law enforcement, pledging civilian oversight for all police misconduct allegations, and fixing the flaws in officer-involved shooting investigations. We need to remove the inherent bias that infects that current process. I trust that Skoog has learned from the tragic mistakes surrounding the police shooting of teenager John Albers, and will work to prevent future loss of innocent life and ensure full transparency of future investigations. I have offered to work with him to see this through.
Ultimately, our city does not have the patience to tolerate extremist ideology in our local government. We simply want good men and women dedicated to civil service who will do the best for the people — not what best aligns with national-level politics. We are a fast-growing city with big-city issues that must be addressed before they become big-city problems. We cannot pretend they do not exist or wax on about making things “like they used to be.”
We must look forward, plan forward and execute forward. Without a doubt, Curt Skoog is the best choice in this election to move us forward. Please join me in supporting him as the next mayor of Overland Park.
Clay Norkey is a former Overland Park mayoral candidate, a Blue Valley Recreation commissioner, a longtime community advocate and an attorney. He lives in Overland Park with his wife, Sherri Martin.