Gene Myrick understands he hasn’t made everyone happy in his four years on the Iola City Council.
“If I was making everybody happy, I wasn’t doing my job,” Myrick said.
He hopes he’s satisfied enough Third Ward voters to garner their support in Tuesday’s general election, where they’ll decide between him and challenger Nich Lohman. The Third Ward roughly covers the southwest quadrant of Iola.
Myrick said his philosophy is simple. “I’m here to try to curb spending any way that I can,” he said.
He points to the four budgets the Council has approved since he’s been in office. Twice, he refused to support the spending plans. “If I’m gonna save the citizens money, I’m gonna do that.”
Myrick says a key to Iola’s future comes in economic development.
He is a member of a small group of Council members who meet on a regular basis to help come up with a formula to determine, what, if any, support the city should supply to developers who hope to build or improve properties in town.
“The biggest challenge facing Iola right now — and it’s been going on forever, you hear about jobs — but until we can figure out the housing issue, jobs are not going to come,” Myrick said. “Until we can figure out a way to help fund or help developers, we’re not going to get housing development in Iola.”
For example, Myrick would favor seeing the city allow developers the option to prorate the costs to hook onto Iola’s utilities grid over a five- or 10-year period.
“If you come into Iola and build a new home, chances of you up and leaving are slim to none,” he elaborated. “If you sign a five-year contract with the city, we’ll get our money back over the long-term period.”
Likewise, Myrick is developing a formula he hopes to see the Council endorse to determine if businesses should receive additional incentives, either utilities or otherwise, based on employees hired or revenue generated.
“Before, when we’ve given out cash assistance, there have been very little strings attached,” he said. “I think we can come up with some sort of solution. It’s not gonna suit everybody, but I think we can come to a happy medium to maybe get started on something like this and see how it works.”
MYRICK has been among the most critical of the county’s decision to end Iola’s contract to provide countywide ambulance service after Dec. 31. In response, Iola will revert to its own city-only EMS.
“I have fought hard and will continue to fight hard on this EMS to be sure the citizens of Iola get the best service possible. And if it goes back countywide. I’ll continue fighting for the county citizens to make sure they have the best service we can offer. Our service is outstanding now and will continue to be outstanding, either citywide or countywide.”
Myrick’s efforts have drawn the support of Iola’s firefighters union, which endorsed Myrick.
Myrick also was among the Council members opposed to the purchase of a Darley Vision fire truck over the summer at a cost of $629,000, a proposal that ultimately was voted down.
“It wasn’t the right one for the money and what we needed,” he said. “Granted, we’re getting a grant to help pay for it. Just because we’re getting the grant, doesn’t mean we should get one that’s not in the best interest of the citizens.”
The Council subsequently purchased a Spartan brand fire truck from Feld Fire of Grain Valley, Mo., for $618,231 earlier this month.
MYRICK sees other challenges facing the city, including a rebuild of U.S. 54 through town within the next few years.
He anticipates the project being in the engineering phase by the end of the next four-year term.
Whatever happens, he hopes the project is done in phases, to allow traffic access to Iola’s downtown business district for the duration of the project.
“I’ve enjoyed serving the citizens of Iola,” he said, “and I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to serve another four years.”