Being mayor a learning process for Goessel’s Peggy Jay

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN LAURA CAMPBELL
Being skilled in communication, education and economics is so vital to a mayor’s work that it might serve him or her well to have a college degree in one or more of these areas of study.

Luckily for the town of Goessel, their mayor, Peggy Jay, earned a degree in economics and business administration from Bethel College of North Newton.

Not only that, but she’s also got a firm grasp on the importance of communicating with Goessel residents to educate them on her work with the city as its mayor.

“I’ve found that actually, it’s an education process,” said Jay of her public service position.

“As long as you explain to the community why you’re doing such and such, they’re pretty accepting.

“But if you don’t try to educate them and explain to them, that’s when the friction and the problems start,” she said.

A native of southeast Kansas, Jay has lived in Goessel with husband Larry since 1978.

They have two sons-one just east of town and one in Texas-and a daughter who just got married and now lives in Newton.

Jay began working part-time at Goessel’s Citizen State Bank in 1983, went full-time in 1989 and moved into her current positions as assistant vice president in 1994.

Her years at the bank working with factd and figures have helped her with the increasing amount of red tape involved in being mayor, she said.

“I think there’s a lot more paperwork,” said Jay of the most recent of her six years as mayor. “You have to do a lot more documentation of what’s done.”

The number of special city council meetings held each month has increased as well, Jay said, often to discuss a request or concern of a Goessel resident.

“Different people have different requests and things they’d like to see,” she said. “We just look at them and see if that’s something that all of the community would benefit from and be interested in.

“If it is, we’ll look at it more seriously,” she added.

Jay is no newcomer to this process, having served on Goessel’s city council since 1997.

“It just so happened that one of the council members was going to move out of the community and resign,” Jay explained. “The mayor at that time asked me if I would take that position.

“I finished out the term and I ran again for city council,” she continued. “And then somewhere in there, the mayor decided he wanted to resign.

“So according to the ordinances, if the mayor resigns, then whoever is the top vote-getter at the last election becomes the mayor,” Jay said. “And that was me.

“It’s all been a blur from there on out,” she added with a laugh.

Amid the blur of the last six years have been a few noteworthy accomplishments for the Goessel community, Jay said, including the completion of a civic center in 1999 that holds the library, city office and community room.

“That got started before I was mayor,” Jay said of the civic center. “I was on the council at that time.”

But other city projects have had Jay at the helm from start to finish.

“Two or three years ago we got a new water tower,” she said. “And we just got done putting in some new playground equipment in the park.

“Now we’re in the process of adding another cell to the sewer system,” she added.

Those aren’t the only cells Jay wants to improve in town, she said.

“The cell phone reception in town is lousy,” she said. “We’re looking to see if we can’t come up with something to present to Alltel.”

And while Jay said without hestiation that the town needs more new housing, she’s not so quick to say that it needs many more new businesses along with that.

“Yeah, it’d be nice if there were some other businesses in town,” she said. “But I really see Goessel as a bedroom community, in which they actually live here but yet they drive someplace else to work.

“We don’t have the land available and the infrastructure to support a manufacturing plant or (large) business,” she added. “And the population’s not big enough.”

And Jay would be perfectly happy if Goessel remained a cozy bedroom community.

“I grew up on farm,” she said. “It (Goessel) being a small community and everything, I can handle living here.

“There’s a few that would like to see more, and then there’s others that don’t want it to change,” she added. “They like it the way it is.”

Still, certain aspects of running a community must change with the times, Jay admitted.

“You can’t do things the old way,” she said. “Nowadays we’ve got to have a professional engineer onboard for the sewer projects and the water projects.

“And a lot of things that used to be that you could do yourself, you can’t do anymore,” she said.

But Jay said she’ll keep doing her job as mayor until she just can’t do it anymore or until someone comes to take her place.

“I always say that if someone wants to run against me, they can have the job,” she said with a laugh.

“But as long as I feel like I can do a good job, I’ll do it.”

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