By Travis Mounts
A vote for a change in leadership at Haysville’s economic development group has led to some controversy surrounding the group and the city of Haysville’s future involvement.
At last Friday’s meeting of Haysville Forward, Inc. (HFI), members of the 16-person board voted USD 261 superintendent Dr. John Burke as its new president.
It was a decision that the old president, Haysville mayor Ken Hampton strongly disagreed with. Burke and Hampton were the only people nominated for president.
Several people at the meeting said that following the vote, Hampton told the other board members he felt the mayor should lead the group because of the city’s financial support of Haysville Forward. He then threatened to dissolve the group, they said.
As an independent entity, Haysville Forward could only be disbanded through action from its board.
The mayor also threatened to cut off the group’s funding. The city has been a major financial supporter of Haysville Forward, most years giving between $5,000 and $10,000 per year. The city recently committed to Haysville Forward $23,000 in revenue from the city’s transient guest tax at hotels.
On Monday afternoon, Hampton said he could have chosen his words better but that his feelings were unchanged.
“During last Friday’s HFI meeting, I did not clearly articulate my concerns that resulted from the decision of HFI to leave the city out of HFI’s leadership position. HFI has recently been 100 percent funded by the city of Haysville; city staff has prepared the agendas and minutes and provided all other support, and HFI meetings have been hosted at city facilities,” Hampton said.
Hampton said he believes the city’s strong involvement in Haysville Forward – and the fact that tax money is used to support it – warrants having a city representative in leadership roles.
“I am unhappy that my concerns about this issue were not clearly stated at the meeting, but would chalk up my comments during the meeting to the 12-hour night shift I worked before coming to the meeting,” he said.
Hampton said it was his understanding that the sitting mayor had been president of Haysville Forward since it was founded.
That’s not what’s in the bylaws, said another member.
Forrest Hummel is a member of the USD 261 Board of Education and a board member for Haysville Forward. He said any of the board’s 16 members can be elected to leadership positions, and in the past it has been headed people other than the mayor.
“HFI was originally set up to be a think tank to come up with ideas to stimulate growth in the city,” he said. “It’s always been independent and separate from the city.”
While the city has been a big financial supporter – maybe the biggest – support has come from other sources including Haysville School District.
Both sides seem to have calmed their rhetoric from when this story first broke Friday afternoon.
After initially saying that city would withdraw all its support, Hampton said Haysville Forward can continue to meet in city facilities and that city staff will continue to provide support. But the mayor and Will Kurth – a fellow HFI board member and Haysville city administrator – will not be part of the board’s efforts. Hampton said it was up to planning commission chairperson Tim Aziere as to whether he’d continue his involvement.
Hummel said he’d like to see city representatives come back to the table.
“Of course, we would like to have the city as part of this. They’re an integral part of what we do,” he said. “This is a critical community that could really help the community grow.”
The events at last Friday’s meeting meant the HFI board did not finish electing the rest of its officers. Hummel said that would happen at the next meeting.
The financial impact of this situation on Haysville Forward is not known. Any future funding from the city would have to be approved by the members of the city council.
In addition, Mayor Hampton is currently up for re-election and facing a pair of challengers. If Hampton loses the election, a new mayor may reverse the city’s position, making all the moot. Or a new mayor could choose to support Hampton’s position.
What is HFI?
Haysville Forward, Inc., is a private, non-profit organization that was found to help with economic development of the city and to stimulate growth. Several organization play key roles in HFI, but the board is an independent entity.
There are 16 members on the HFI board. Nine of those members are position-based, meaning that those spots on the board are filled by whoever holds various jobs with other Haysville entities. Those positions are Haysville mayor, Haysville city administrator and Haysville planning commission chairperson; USD 261 superintendent, USD 261 community relations director and a USD 261 board member; the director of the Haysville Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber’s president; and HFI’s past president.
The other seven at-large positions are filled by area business owners.
According to a page on the city’s website, Haysville Forward is a private, community-wide, non-profit organization that assists companies who are considering Haysville for a business location or expansion. Haysville Forward, Inc. is a one-stop source for the latest information about Economic Development and doing business in Haysville.