Tice enhancing his contributions to Marion as mayor

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN LAURA CAMPBELL
Marion mayor Martin Tice has strong ties in Des Moines, Kansas City and Wichita, where his three children and seven grandkids live.

And he’s definitely left part of his heart in Lawrence at the University of Kansas, as anyone will testify who knows the diehard Jayhawk alum.

But after 35 years, Tice’s roots run deep in Marion, and for him, the town lives up to its motto as the “best place I’ve seen,” he said.

Since 1970, Tice has aided growth of the schools and larger community of Marion in what he considers a “supporting role,” first as high school principal for six years and now as school district business manager, school board principal and mayor.

The Iola native came to Marion with his wife, Margaret, following work as a high school principal in both Wichita and Florence schools.

After leaving his administrative position in the school system, Tice worked in private business for 10 years and put in a three-year stint as Marion mayor before returning to the schools in 1989 to serve in his current positions.

Tice has also served with the Marion Chamber of Commerce and Kiwanis Club, he said, and is currently on the hospital board.

He ran again for mayor last year and is in the middle of what he said may be his last term before retirement.

“It was time to go back and see if maybe I do could something at that point,” Tice said of his decision. “Hopefully the main thing we can do is help the community and help the people in the community.”

And now that Marion has a city administrator to oversee the daily decisions that Tice had to make as mayor almost two decades ago, he has a lot more time to “look at a bigger picture,” he said.

“Probably on a day-to-day basis, other than on Monday when the commission meets, I really have no responsibilities as far as the city is concerned,” he said, “unless something comes up that I’m needed to be contacted.”

The big-picture issue is definitely economic development, Tice said, as it is in any small town.

“We’re all small communities trying to survive at this point,” he said. “We’ve all got challenges of businesses that need support.”

Losing businesses like Kingfisher’s Inn at Marion County Lake definitely challenges the city’s work for economic growth, he said.

“Even though that’s not directly the city’s responsibility, it affects the city because it was something that was an asset for the city.”

Hiring an economic development director is part of the short-term plan to aid growth, Tice said.

“Not only can we grow with hopefully some additional business, but also help those who are here to maintain and grow, if that’s what they want to do,” he said.

While Tice’s devotion to the city’s growth is strong, even greater is his desire to spend more time with his family, he said.

“Probably the biggest priority at this point in my life would be my kids and my grandkids,” he said. “We’re at that stage in our lives that we’re looking to do less and travel more.”

He said they already do as much as they can to follow their grandkids’ activities, especially those who live closest.

“The ones in Wichita are close enough that we can follow them as far as baseball and softball on a regular basis,” he said.

But while an approaching retirement likely will bring transition away from full-time involvement in Marion, Tice and his wife are committed to the town for a while yet.

“We originally thought we’d be here for a couple years, and then we’d move somewhere else,” he said. “And we looked at one point at going elsewhere.

“But all our kids were raised here, they all graduated from school here and they’ve all been successful,” he said. “My daughter says, ‘You can’t move, that’s my home.'”

No matter what the future brings, Tice said small-town living is the life for him.

“When we came here, we were looking for a small community,” he said. “There’s a calmness here that you don’t find in the big city.”

And choosing to stay in Marion is a decision Tice will never regret.

“I’m here because I want to be here,” he said. “A lot of people in town are here because they want to be here, not because they grew up here, but because that’s where they want to be.”

Tice said he doesn’t necessarily want to make his presence known or leave any legacy for his work in Marion.

“I’m not looking to put my thumbprint on anything,” Tice said. “My job is to support teachers in doing what they need to do.

“And I think that’s really the job of the mayor and commission, too, to support the community and help it grow,” he added.

“I’m not looking for a legacy.”

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