“We all have to benefit or it’s not good for anyone,” said Michelle Meiwes, a Democrat running for commissioner in Allen County’s second district.
Meiwes faces Republican David Lee in the Nov. 3 election. The seat is being vacated by retiring Bill King.
Meiwes works at Hope Unlimited, aiding survivors of domestic violence. She also raises cattle with her son, Joe. Her husband, Ed, passed away in 2003.
She also volunteers extensively, such as chairing the Allen County Multi-Agency Team (ACMAT), serving on the Allen County Drug Task Force and working with LGBTQ youth.
Efforts of this kind have provided Meiwes “an understanding of grants and grant management,” she said, which is noteworthy since commissioners are often tasked with approving the pursuit of grants as well as whether or not matches for them will be supplied with public funds.
“I bring a unique perspective to the table,” Meiwes remarked, along with a variety of life experiences, such as having been a single parent and widow. She would also be the first female commissioner since the retirement of Jean Barber.
In terms of educational and professional background, Meiwes holds a B.S.N. in nursing with a Kansas license, and by working in public health, has accumulated experience in public relations, management and budgeting.
GIVEN her background in nursing and public health, Meiwes isn’t shy about taking an assertive stance toward COVID-19 safety measures, whether it concerns reopening the economy or the requiring of masks.
“I’m very science-based, research-based,” she remarked, and emphasized the importance of “listening to the experts … when making decisions about the health and welfare of our community.”
Following guidelines for COVID-19, such as those recommended by the Southeast Kansas Multi-County Health Department, are the only way that society “gets out of COVID jail,” Meiwes joked.
“[Masks aren’t] the most comfortable thing in the world … but they aren’t going to hurt you.”
ANOTHER issue Meiwes is passionate about is rural internet, and “the expansion of broadband in this area.”
She remarked that we live in a changing world, and that in order to promote 21st-century forms of economic development and remote work, growing internet infrastructure is critical.
Digital access is especially important for education in the wake of COVID-19, said Meiwes, as “every child has to have equal access to the tools that are needed.”
She likewise highlighted the importance of internet infrastructure for today’s agricultural professions, and said she’d do whatever possible to help those “people working to feed the world.”
As commissioner, Meiwes vowed to “map out a plan” and “send money and brainpower in that direction.”
REGARDING economic development more generally, Meiwes is committed to taking measures to not only attract professionals to the community, but families of all shapes and sizes.
“We’ve got to bring people here and keep them here,” she said. “Our families are a huge asset.”
That means making infrastructure investments of a broader sort, such as in daycares, grocery stores and public transportation.
“A workable public transportation system in this area would be huge,” Meiwes said, especially because inadequate services are a detriment to local industries having workers arrive on time for shifts and more.
That said, “people work hard for the money they pay in taxes,” she noted, and so being a responsible steward of county funds is vital.
AS A Democrat running for office in southeast Kansas, Meiwes knows she has the deck stacked against her, but remains undaunted.
Regardless of party, “I would love to have your vote,” she said. She only asks that people vote based on “the person you know me to be.”
“I have no personal agenda. … It’s not about Republicans and Democrats,” Meiwes added. “It’s about people.”
“I genuinely care about this county, these people, this community. … I’ll do the best job that I can [to make this] the best place it can be for everyone, for the long haul.”