A Kansas State alumna, former city and county politician and owner of an kitchen and bath remodeling business, Kathryn Focke is hoping to take her community involvement one step further with her run for Riley County Commission.
Focke is running in District Three as a Democrat, and said her background in local government prepared her for this race.
Serving as the Riley County Democratic Chair for 12 years, Focke has a long history of political activism with the party in Riley County and a hand in what the party is today.
When Kathleen Sebelius, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, ran for Kansas governor in 2003, Focke served as her coordinator in Riley County. Focke said this work inspired her to get back into politics.
The need for transparency in the county government is at the center of Focke’s campaign.
“There’s a lot that the county commissioners are responsible for, like the ATA busses, the health department, police department, etc.,” she said. “We need more transparency in this government and I’m a real open person.”
With Ron Wells, the current District Three seat holder, set to retire in January, Focke decided she wanted to make a run for the open seat. She started attending commission meetings and found that she wanted to change the agenda.
State statutes require county commissions to meet twice a week, but they don’t mandate what time or day. When in office, Focke said she wants to change meeting times from the current 8:30 a.m. slot to be more publicly accessible.
“[It’s] tough for people to participate when they are going to work or school,” she said.
Another way Focke hopes to use her platform is to advocate to use taxes and further the interests of Riley County.
“We are going to be facing a lot of economic issues going forward with the pandemic in small businesses, so I would be very careful with tax dollars,” Focke said.
To hear more voices in the community, Focke plans to open regular office hours and hold a public forum at the K-State Student Union if elected.
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“I plan to have open and respectful conversations, to respect everyone’s opinions and look at issues very carefully from all sides of the spectrum,” Focke said.
Taeler Roberts, owner of Kai Strategic Media, said it’s time for someone like Focke to represent the community of Manhattan.
“[Focke] shows up and will take any challenge head-on. She’s compassionate, objective and transparent,” Roberts said. “Those are all characteristics of a leader I want. She’s got my vote.”
Nathan King, Mosaic community relations manager, said Focke knows Manhattan.
“Whether it has been serving with the Common Table community meal or just walking through Anneberg park with her dog Rocky, Kathryn loves the town of Manhattan,” King said.
Focke’s love for the community extends from the town to K-State’s campus, King said.
“As your county commissioner, [Focke] will work to ensure that students have the best quality of life possible while they study here,” he said.
Because students make up a lot of the community, Focke said advocating for students in local government is essential.
“I really encourage students to get registered to vote here and get involved in local politics,” she said.
“I know that when I’m elected, I’m not going to be a ‘yes woman,’ meaning I am not going to just go along with the status quo. I want to question things and listen to people,” she continued. “I think with a new commission, we can make a lot of changes and do things in a different way. I’m not a person to sit back and be quiet.”
For more information about Focke and her run for Riley County Commission in District Three, visit her campaign website.