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The Weight of Your Words | Protecting the Brand

Great leaders must understand the weight of their words. Consider the influence a person's choice of words has on their leadership and their capacity to share a vision and lead others to make the vision a reality.


Part of my responsibility as a candidate is to differentiate myself from my opponent, the current appointed Mayor of Olathe, John Bacon, who is completing the unfinished term of Mayor Michael Copeland who died unexpectedly in 2020. John is a good man who has stepped up to help us after the tragic loss of our beloved long-time mayor.


Even with great gratitude for his service during our time of need, I must provide a contrast between the two candidates on the ballot, and explain what voters can expect with regard to the Mayor of Olathe understanding the importance of word choice and the weight of a leader’s words.



*I admit, I struggled over the focus of this post…should I contrast our positions on immigrants or the bigger overarching issue of Bacon saying things out loud that negatively impact our great city. Ultimately, I landed on the overarching issue.


“As a leader, your words are heavier, make sure they are worth their weight in gold!” William Faulkner, Ph.D.

BACON’S WORDS: “BUSLOADS OF IMMIGRANTS”

According to the Olathe Reporter (McLaughlin, 2/16/22), “On February 15, 2022, during the planning portion of the council meeting, John Bacon expressed the desire to join the “push” for “order on our southern border" as one of the city’s federal legislative priorities.” State and Federal legislation can impact the City of Olathe. The Olathe City Council regularly adopts legislative priorities to communicate the legislative preferences for state and federal legislation. Mayor John Bacon made comments about immigration during the untelevised portion of council meeting, the planning session during a presentation Federal Legislative Priorities for 2022.


“Some things he expressed specific concern about in Tuesday’s City Council meeting were drug-related and about a perceived risk of immigrants being funneled to Olathe in the future. “It affects cities and I mean, [the police chief] has talked about illegal drugs that we deal with here in our community,” Bacon said. “We haven't had busloads of immigrants being dumped on us. I don't know, that could be in our future” (Olathe Reporter, McLaughlin, 2/16/22).


The unusual comment led to awkward moments of silence from other council members, as discussion about securing the nations’ border and immigration aren’t routine municipal issues, and they were not included on the list of proposed priorities presented. Personally, at first, I thought John was referring to the border between Olathe and the cities to our south…thinking, “Gardner?!?”…it was so out of the usual routine considerations for such a discussion. I was speechless after hearing the words, “busloads of immigrants” said out loud by a mayor of a first-class city. Seconds after the words were said, a student from the Olathe School District who is the child of immigrants and was in the audience, left the council chamber in tears. The words John said not only harmed our brand…it harmed one of the finest students I know.


VS


FELTER’S WORDS: “We are made better because of the immigrants that call Olathe home.”

As reported in the Olathe Reporter (McLaughlin, 3/1/22), “Both at-large representative Wes McCoy and Ward 3 council member LeEtta Felter voiced their support for Olathe’s local immigrant populations and appreciation for their contributions to the community.

“I have a little bit of a different perspective than our discussion last [meeting] on immigration,” Felter said. “We’re richly diverse. We are made better because of the immigrants that call Olathe home.” She discussed specifically the community benefits and supports immigrants can bring to a city, including skilled workforces that support local businesses during worker shortages and in periods of economic growth.


Rather than to look for ways to keep immigrants out of Olathe,” Felter said, “I believe that we need to look for ways to make Olathe an attractive community for immigrants to move to.” McCoy echoed some of her statements, outlining his own family’s history of coming to the U.S. generations ago. He said he’d support a motion now or in the future to affirm the city’s commitment to making a home for immigrants.”


Fact is, the vast majority of us are immigrants, or come from immigrants. Part of the beauty of Olathe comes from our rich diversity and our large population of immigrants. Johnson County, from 2010 to 2020, according to the U.S. census counted an increase of nearly 40% in the self-reported Hispanic or Latino population, many are immigrants.


I believe the U.S. immigration system is broken and must be fixed. I believe we should have secure borders. Neither of these issues are the job of a city council in Olathe, Kansas. It is our federal elected officials who are the appropriate governing entity to make an official statement on the subject and to create such policy. Seeking to add such a statement to our legislative priorities was inappropriate and the words that Mayor Bacon chose to use were divisive, damaging, and unnecessary.


Part of the mayor’s responsibility as a leader is to protect the brand Olathe…our reputation. Our brand matters as it impacts everything from economic development, to our ability to attract/recruit/retain employees and businesses, and our city brand communicates Olathe’s values, offerings, and identity to the world.


Electing a mayor that understands the importance of tasting your words before you spit them out is critical to Olathe, and protecting the brand Olathe. I am the candidate who understands the weight of words, and I ask for your vote on November 7, 2023.


Resources

McLaughlin, K., 2022. Olathe Mayor says he wants to put order at U.S. -Mexico border on the city's federal legislative agenda. February 16, 2022. The Olathe Reporter.


McLaughlin, K., 2022. Some Olathe City Council members dissent with mayors past comments about U.S. -Mexico border, immigration. March 1, 2022.

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