The Sedgwick County Commissioner elections are quickly approaching and two Newman alumnae are running to represent District 2 that includes part of Wichita and the southcentral section of the county.
Kathleen Garrison is a 2019 graduate and currently works for the Department of Justice as a contractor data analyst in the Asset Forfeiture Department. She also owns and operates a wedding venue in Haysville, Kansas.
She graduated from Newman with an interdisciplinary degree and is on track to obtain her Executive Master of Science in Diplomacy and International Affairs from Seton Hall University in New Jersey online in December 2020.
Garrison is confident in her ability, desire and leadership qualities to make a positive difference in the community as a county commissioner.
“I wanted to do something in public policy to make use of my degrees and to fulfill a lifelong desire to serve others in the public forum.
“I have always been interested in politics for as long as I can remember. I love how what we do makes a difference in the lives of others — hopefully for the better. My dad was a big influence in this regard. He talked to me about the importance of leaders in our democracy and how it is crucial that we have people that we can trust,” she said.
Her three main goals as commissioner are to:
- Develop a plan for better mental health services for the public and inpatient long-term needs and to alleviate the stress on the court system and jails. This will also help address the homeless population in Wichita.
- Devise a plan to assist small businesses to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 shutdown and reduce regulations that prohibit their ability to thrive and prosper.
- Find a way to save Century II either by refurbishing it or selling it to a third-party for alternate use. She believes Wichita still needs the building and doesn’t want to see it torn down.
Garrison has been active on the School Advisory Board for St. Cecilia Catholic school and is a part of the Parish Council at St. Cecilia and St. John’s Clonmel Catholic Church to help make decisions for the building projects. She also served as a volunteer at the pro-life pregnancy crisis center in Wichita and Kansas for Life.
Cindy Miles, who graduated from Newman in 2007 with a Master of Business – International Business, currently works as the chief executive officer at the Nonprofit Chamber of Service in Wichita.
The Chamber provides training, services and resources to help nonprofits build their capacity to serve. She feels that working in this capacity has prepared her well to work as a county commissioner.
“I have been serving the county in many ways for many years, working hard to make a difference in the community and in the lives of others. I’m passionate and committed to making an impact and I believe a county commission seat will allow me to make even more of an impact,” she said.
Two of her main goals as commissioner will be:
- Addressing mental health and substance abuse issues in the county. “Currently our system is overwhelmed and we aren’t able to provide affordable accessible mental health services to meet the growing demand,” said Miles. “The Sedgwick County jail and others are being used to house a high number of people with mental health and substance abuse issues. It is considerably overcapacity as are the prisons around the state. We need to be addressing the mental health and substance abuse issues with treatment and in some cases long-term inpatient treatment. Lack of addressing this issue is causing an increase in crime, domestic violence, child abuse, poverty, homelessness and other issues. These all come at a high cost to the county.”
- Addressing issues related to the care of children in the county. “There is a huge gap for adequate child care for children in the county as well as a lack of homes for the growing number of children in foster care. Identifying what role the county has in helping to keep children safe and assure that they are cared for is a priority. Expanding mass transit to other areas in the county is important to me as well. We need an expansion of our mass transit system and I believe we need creative solutions to provide access to other areas and towns in the county,” she said.
Her community service efforts go beyond a list of 25 items and include many community organization chair and co-chair positions, board positions and volunteer work. She is part of the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, Wichita/Sedgwick County Comprehensive Planning Committee Co-Chair, Delano Plan Advisory Committee Chair, Kansas Hispanic Education & Development Foundation Education Committee, League of Women Voters, Rotary Club of Wichita and more.
Miles has been recognized with awards by the Wichita Business Journal for leading in philanthropy and business, the Kansas and Wichita Society of Professional Engineers and various others for her work ethic and leadership.
Both women said they are thankful for their Newman education.
“I feel so very fortunate to have had the opportunity to study at Newman University,” said Garrison. “It is a wonderful community and the faculty there went above and beyond what I expected from them.”
Miles and Garrison both expressed appreciation of the faculty and the real-world experience they gained in their academic programs.
Miles said, “My education provided me a different, more well-rounded view of the world and the ability to look at things from different views.”