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Candidate takes active role in discovering city issues

By DAWNE LEIKER

dleiker@dailynews.net

Shaun Musil has been on a path of discovery as he campaigns for a seat on the Hays City Commission.

At 40, Musil said he has seen many residents his age and younger "turned off" by politics, but he would like to see that change.

"We should care what happens in Hays," he said in an interview earlier this month. "That's why I've been going to the (city commission) meetings.

"You get a different grasp."

Musil will go up against four other candidates for three commission seats in the April 2 election: Todd Gabel and Dominic Pianalto and incumbents Ron Mellick and Eber Phelps.

From doughnut shop talk to conversations at his kids' ballgames, Musil has been hearing residents' concerns that run a broad spectrum including a proposed convention center, taxes and wind energy.

Water, he said, also is a topic that has come up repeatedly.

He said he is encouraged about the potential of new city water conservation programs.

"I would love to be part of helping spread that word (conservation)," he said. "I think it's important people my age want to live here and raise a family; they need to understand to conserve."

In addition to conservation efforts, Musil said he is proud of what Hays has accomplished through its recycling program.

The city has made a habit of keeping some contingency funds, and Musil said it is important to keep "rainy day" reserves, but if funds are available, infrastructure improvements should be a priority.

Although the city has seen increases in sales tax collections the past few years, Musil said he thinks it's important to acknowledge not all those collections come from Hays residents.

"One thing I want to make sure is, we rely on our draw factor, but I think we need to be careful we don't alienate people from Norton, Phillipsburg, Plainville," he said. "Those people are a big part of that."

Musil has made it a point to gain insight through visits with city officials and hopes to spend time with department heads and staff members.

"From what I've heard, (city manager) Toby (Dougherty) is doing a great job, but you need to talk to the people down below, the people who are physically doing the work, and ask, 'Are you being taken care of?' " he said.

A willingness to "listen to anyone," is part of what Musil said sets him apart as a candidate for city commission.

"I hope that people vote for me and look at it as someone with a new, different perspective," he said. "But I also very much want to listen to people who have lived here all their lives.

"The future of Hays is extremely important to my family. What happens in Hays will definitely affect me."