Three residents vie for city council seats in April 2 election

by Don Ratzlaff

The good news for busy voters in Hillsboro is that participating in next Tuesday’s local election won’t take much time.

The city’s two voting wards will each have one city council opening to consider on the ballot-and only in the West Ward is the seat being sought by more than one candidate.

Daren Arndt of 213 N. Main and Shelby Dirks of 612 S. Ash are hoping to fill the seat being vacated by Wendell Dirks, who decided not to seek re-election. For the opening in the East Ward created by Mike Padgett’s decision not to seek another term, one candidate has filed: Byron C. McCarty of 212 S. Madison.

Voters from the West Ward will cast their ballots at city hall and East Ward voters will do the same at the Wohlgemuth Music Education Center on the Tabor College campus.

The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Daren Arndt, West Ward

Arndt grew up in Wichita, then moved in 1985 with his family to California, where he completed his high school education.

After graduating, he joined the Marine Corps for two years, then returned to civil employment for about a year.

When layoffs hit, Arndt said, “I decided it’s time to come back to Kansas.”

He returned to the Wichita neighborhood of his childhood. But that stay lasted only a few years.

“The crime wave moved into my neighborhood and I decided it was time to move out,” he said. “I had a good friend at the time who offered me a place here in Hillsboro.”

Arndt moved to Hillsboro in 1992 or 1993, then purchased his home on North Main in 1995. He and his wife, Francine, include two dogs and a cat in their “family.”

Arndt worked for two in the sanitation and street departments of the city. He also has worked for area contractors. For the past 41/2 years, he has been employed with Parkside Homes, Inc., in the areas of maintenance and carpentry.

While working for the city, Arndt said he first became interested in city government.

“It’s been something that’s been on my mind,” he said. “With the way the downtown is beginning to look, maybe it’s time for a young face to get in there and see if he can make a difference.”

Arndt, 33, said he believes the city council has a role to play in attracting new businesses to the community.

He also said he believes he has the characteristics needed to be an effective city councilor.

“I’m a straight-forward kind of person, I work real hard for people, and I would do the best I can do in representing my ward for the city of Hillsboro,” he said.

Shelby Dirks, West Ward

Dirks, a Hillsboro native, graduated from the local high school in 1988. He then served in the U.S. Air Force for eight years.

Dirks returned to Hillsboro after his discharge and began working at Circle D Corp. He’s in his fifth year with the company and is vice president and sales manager. He also works part-time as an X-ray technician.

Dirks and wife Valerie have two daughters, Brenna, 8, and Alicia, 5.

An interest in city politics runs in the Dirks family. His mother, Raye, served on the Hillsboro City Council several years ago, and his father, Wendell, now holds the seat for which he is running.

“I’ve always been kind of interested in it,” the younger Dirks said of local politics. “With my father leaving the seat, we just kind of talked about it. A few people thought it was a good idea, so I decided to do it.”

He said he hasn’t received much political advice yet from his father.

“But I’m sure if something would ever happen, he would give it to me,” Dirks said with a chuckle.

Dirks said he believes his experience in business management will help prepare him for public service.

“Hopefully, my business experience that I’m having right now in Circle D will play a big part in handling some of the city business that goes on,” he said.

Dirks said he isn’t running with a particular agenda or concern.

“Basically, I’m interested in keeping on top of what the current city council has been doing and continue what they’ve done for now, and in progressing for the future,” he said.

Byron C. McCarty, East Ward

McCarty, known to many in Hillsboro for his 26 years of service in the police department, is making his second run at a council seat.

As last year’s local election neared and no one had filed for the East Ward seat, McCarty was one of three candidates who ran as a write-in. This year, he formally filed for the new vacancy.

“I just thought it’d be nice to help the people in town-to do something different than being a policeman,” he said about his continuing interest in city government.

Retired from the police force since 2000, McCarty now works as a paraprofessional at the high school and as a host at Olde Towne Restaurant in Hillsboro. He and his wife, Wendy, have two children, Megan 13, and Mason, 10.

McCarty said attending several council meetings over the past few months has changed some of the goals he has for the city.

“I had some things that I thought would be nice to be done, but after listening to the council, their priorities-like street repairs and water repairs-are very important. You’ve got to have that before you can do the other things.

“I did want to see the city build a new emergency center, but I think we probably ought to take care of some of the streets and water lines first.”

If it is financially feasible, McCarty would like to see a sidewalk or exercise path constructed from Willow Glen on the south edge of town and around the Sports Complex so people who want to exercise can do so safely away from city streets.

McCarty said he’d also like to see the city provide more activity options for youth.

“I know some kids at one time wanted a skateboard park,” he said. “That’s real expensive, so I don’t know it that would be a possible thing to do right now. But a place for people to walk would be one of my main goals right now-besides the basic things we need to get done.”

McCarty said he’d like to see the Rails-to-Trails issue permanently resolved.

“Either give the land back to the farmers and let them plow it under, or else fix it so it looks halfway decent instead of leaving it like a dump,” he said. “It doesn’t look very good, and I don’t blame the farmers for being upset about it.”

Likewise, he wants to see the city’s solid-waste issues settled with the county, and would like the city to explore creative alternatives, such as building an incinerator for trash.

“I’m not a great environmentalist, but you can’t keep putting trash into the earth forever,” he said. “Something’s going to give some time or another.”

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