Full ballot of aldermanic races in Grain Valley
Editor's note: This story has been changed to include comments from Shea Bass and Tom Cleaver, who were reached after the story was published.
All three incumbents on the Grain Valley Board of Aldermen face challengers as they seek re-election on April 6.
Grain Valley has two board members for each of the city’s three wards, elected in alternating years.
In Ward 1, former alderman Dale Arnold is again running against Tom Cleaver. Darren Mills is challenging Ward 2 incumbent Nancy Totton, and Kristen Rising is challenging Ward 3 incumbent Shea Bass.
Arnold, a retired firefighter, served on the board frin 2012 to 2018 in the other ward seat before he was voted out. Cleaver, a longtime business salesperson and development manager, was first elected in 2019.
Arnold said he sees the need for some more fiscally conservative views on the board with some of city planning. For the long-discussed community campus project that voters turned down in June, he says the city should scale back its new construction on the Sni-A-Bar farm site and remodel the existing city hall and community center buildings to fill the space needs. That would save money, he said, and the city “would not walk away from Main Street.”
“We need to continue to focus on economic growth as far as mercantiles in the community, including some sit-down restaurants,” he said.
Cleaver said he loves the community and enjoys seeing it moving forward in a positive way.
“I feel can help the city and guide it in a positive direction,” he said.
The city has boosted street repair efforts as citizens asked, Cleaver said, and he believes the biggest priorities moving forward are attracting additional police officers and figuring out the community campus question in some way after the voters turned down an initial plan.
“We’ve outgrown our current city hall and community center; they’re showing the signs of (age),” he said.
Totton, a former board member and longtime community volunteer who was elected back to the board in 2017, said she is running again because she believes she can continue to help people.
“I’ve learned from everything I do when people ask for help,” she said. “When someone brings me an issue, I’m supposed to try to help them, and I do try.”
She said police and city employees have been doing a good job and she hopes the city continues to grow. After voters turned down the community campus project in June, she believes the idea will be revisited.
“If we all work together, we will get something accomplished,” Totton said. “I grew up here, and I do like Grain Valley; I like that it still has a little small-town effect.”
Mills is an RV salesperson and Navy veteran who has been part of Grain Valley Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS) and is the current president. In a social media post, Mills said he aims to focus on adding sidewalks along Eagles Parkway that also connect to trails, as well as finding a solution to the community campus question.
Mills was on a citizen committee promoting it and says the project is worth revisiting, with perhaps a slightly different approach.
“The city’s kind of outgrown itself” with the current facilities, he said. “We did a poor job as a board of getting the facts out – what is it going to cost each taxpayer in Grain Valley, and what will happen with the land the city already owns?”
Mills said there are too many instances of division in government and civic matters, even in small cities such as Grain Valley.
“It’s time to get on common ground and on the same page,” he said. “We need to put the needs of the city first, but we also have to listen to the citizens, and I think you can do both.”
Rising, who started her own business for traffic control equipment rentals, is a first-time candidate. She said she “finally got to a point where griping on your couch at the TV doesn’t do anything.”
“I feel like the only way you can make change is to get out and have a platform,” she said.
Specifically, she believes the city could do better to attract businesses that will keep citizens’ spending money more local.
“I know we are starting to have different businesses in Grain Valley, and any business we get is good business overall,” Rising said, “but it needs better direction of things we should be wanting to have.
“If you leave the house, you shouldn’t have to go to another city for everything.”
Bass, a construction manager, was elected unopposed in 2019 after he’d been appointed to fill an open seat. He said he enjoys being a voice for citizens.
“I’ve enjoyed the discussion we’ve had and have enjoyed being involved,” he said. “I want to make sure the city continues to grow and moves forward in a direction that sets the city up to continue growing.”
Figuring out how to move forward with a plan for a community campus is foremost, he said.
“What’s the plan, how are we going to best set up the city and how do we make sure facilities are sustainable,” Bass said.
The city also needs to support first responders, he said, including finding a way to hire more officers.
“To be honest, I don’t think the staff of sworn officers has grown in relation to the population,” Bass said.