Featured Ads

Political novice hopes to bring fresh perspective to Mission City Council

Sollie Flora will be sworn in as a Mission, Kansas, councilwoman on Monday, Jan. 8.

Sollie Flora defeated long time Ward IV incumbent, Mission City Councilwoman Suzie Gibbs, in the Nov. 7 election. She will be sworn into office on Monday, Jan. 8.

 

The 32-year-old said she’s excited to be elected to the Mission City Council. For the first time, the Council will be majority female. And she said it will be split age-wise, with about half under 40 and half over 40.

“We should have a good mix of people,” she said. “We have a new mayor taking the helm (Ron Appletoft), so it will be interesting to see the direction of the city moving forward.”

Flora said initially she was not too optimistic about her chances of winning because she was running against an incumbent who had served 20-plus years, which is always an uphill battle. But by the end of the campaign, she thought the election could go either way.

“I felt like I had done all I could do and put in a lot of work, knocked on a lot of doors and made a lot of calls,” she said. “And I’d followed through with my campaign plan, which was to get out and talk to people and see what issues were really important to them.

“I ran a positive campaign, and my message of improved communication and increased citizen engagement resonated with voters.”

A self-proclaimed news junkie, Flora said she has always been interested in following politics. Growing up, there was always a lot of political talk at the dinner table. Her dad worked for the EPA and before that was a city manager. When she was in high school, her dad ran for the Water One board and for city council in Overland Park.

Flora ran for the Mission City Council because she was seeking to get more involved and give back to the community, she said. She moved to Mission about two years ago from Chicago. Last year around this time, she began attending City Council meetings to get up to speed on what was happening in the community.

“It all just seemed really interesting and a good way to give back,” she said. “I think with the national political sphere, or even the state, it is much more difficult to discern how you as one person can make a meaningful impact; it can be a bit overwhelming. So that was part of why I decided to look at local government. It’s a smaller universe you can wrap your head around, and you can make a big difference in your community.”

Flora plans to prioritize holding quarterly town hall meetings where residents can talk to their councilmembers and neighbors regarding any shared concerns. The town hall will also be a way for people to get regular, more comprehensive updates on what’s going on in the city.

She said she hopes to get a first town hall on the calendar shortly after her swearing in and get everyone together to see what their priorities are, what’s important to them and get more direction from her new constituents.

“In Ward IV there hasn’t recently been that opportunity,” Flora said. “I want to emphasize that communication is really important to me and to make sure Ward IV residents know they can come to me with problems and we can work through things together.”

In addition, Flora wants to focus on integrating with her new colleagues and also getting up to speed on any behind-the-scenes information regarding Mission’s redevelopment projects — some of which are already in progress and some just starting.

Flora said she believes it’s important to critically evaluate each project, thinking through whether it fits the city’s goals and is a good match.

“And the same with infrastructure — just making sure we’re working to get to a place in the city where we can be proactive about things, more than reactive,” she said.

Flora said she didn’t run on a platform of any radical policy changes.

“It was more a philosophy and approach, a view that we need to be more forward-looking and thinking through our planning decisions in a comprehensive manner,” she said. “Also communication, both letting people know how to get keyed in to what’s going on in the city and really listening to their ideas.”

The Mission Gateway project is one development deal Flora will be keeping an eye on. It’s to be built where the old Mission Shopping Center was and will include apartments, hotels and mixed retail. The developer is to break ground in October 2018. If he doesn’t follow through with his commitments, Flora said the deal is structured such that he risks losing certain financial incentives.

Another apartment project is to be built on the other end of Johnson Drive. Flora said it’s going to be a five-story building with a restaurant on the bottom. They are due to break ground in the near future.

“The idea is there will be two big anchor developments on opposite ends of Johnson Drive that will pull people into the downtown business corridor,” she said.

Flora said her Jewish upbringing has a lot to do with her passion to give back to the community.

“Judaism emphasizes doing mitzvahs and being a good citizen, not just through your words but by being actively involved and taking action,” she said. “Those values were instilled in me both by family and growing up at Congregation Beth Torah where there was a big social justice bent.”

Flora’s parents are David and Elaine Flora, who reside in Overland Park.