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Dan Finnegan hopes to spark Ellsworth’s continued revival

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After high school I joined the Navy and became a diver. I had a great time, met all kinds of people, and was thankful for the experience. However, after four years of military life, I became restless and ready to take on college.

I received my Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Tennessee and a Master’s Degree from East Tennessee State University. I went on to become a public school teacher for 10 years, teaching 2nd, 7th, and 8th grades. It was rewarding to help kids grow in their learning and as young people.

It was also through teaching that I met my wife, Dawn. We have a fourth grader, Willa, and plenty of pets to keep us company. Dawn is a three-time cancer survivor. We understand the suffering patients and family members go through when they are afflicted with cancer. Cancer not only destroys bodies; it also destroys finances, relationships, and careers. If elected, I will carry on the fight against cancer. It may be something as simple as knocking on your door to see how the chemo treatment went ... sometimes that is all one needs to keep on fighting for another day.

In 2007, I made the leap into the business world. I started in Information Technology and migrated into larger roles in project management and sales. I was able to move into larger roles because I retooled my skill set by earning an MBA from Southern Wesleyan University in 2014. As the class representative for my cohort group, I was tasked with communicating with the faculty and the administration of the university on behalf of the students. It was through this experience that I developed my own leadership style. I can proudly say that every student that started the program, graduated two years later.

Throughout each phase of my career, I have always had a strong desire to start my own business. After this campaign has concluded, I will launch CrossPrairie LLC. I plan to provide the citizens of our area with an entertaining travel experience. We will offer trips to locations in Kansas that are interesting for those who live here and for those who are traveling through our area. Each trip will be unique and packaged in a way that hasn’t been tried before.

I decided to seek the job of Ellsworth mayor because I feel that I can help spark Ellsworth’s continuing revival as we transition out of the pandemic era. As I campaign around Ellsworth, it has become clear that everyone living here loves this town. Residents want to see it grow and offer more amenities. I believe my vision for Ellsworth’s future is in line with the feedback I am receiving. My leadership style is also a good fit. I listen well and I am a strong proponent of fairness. Any kind of influence peddling will not be tolerated.

As far as community involvement goes, I am involved in the Strategic Doing working series hosted by Ellsworth County Economic Development. This group of working professionals has been formed to help Ellsworth County rebrand and position itself for the future. I have gained immense knowledge as to the amount of work required to set the county up for growth and success for years to come. Between housing challenges and our inability to attract applicants for our jobs, we have our work cut out for us. It has been beneficial to be in meetings with members of other communities in our county. Wilson, Holyrood, and Lorraine all have success stories and challenges that this group is designed to address.

Besides being mayor, I look forward to joining other organizations. I am eager to do something more hands-on. I may wear a shirt and tie these days, but I am still that Navy Diver, unafraid to get dirty, sunburned, cut, scraped, nearly drowned, and dragged through the water.

If elected, my top three priorities will be:

• Keep my commitment to unite the different groups in our city behind the common purpose of keeping Ellsworth a great place to live; we won’t get sidetracked into national issues and wasteful politics that have no bearing on our goals and ambitions. Whenever anyone tries to fit this race into a political party, I let them know that this is a non-partisan election and that that kind of conversation runs counter to what we need to focus on here in Ellsworth. We are the Ellsworth Party pure and simple. Our police, fire, EMS, health care workers and teachers will have built in respect for their service. It will be part of the Ellsworth Party mentality.

• Become the best public relations person that I can be; prosperity happens when we tell our story in a positive way. We must be willing to do the hard work. When that happens doors will open. This campaign is just a sample of what we will have to do to get the word out there about Ellsworth. Social media, internet, newspaper advertising, social events, signage, and networking are just a few of the ways to be seen and recognized. We need to pursue opportunities with confidence and we can’t be afraid to try something new. The 16’ X 8’ banner along Lincoln Avenue was a mistake but people love it (now the banner even has a name – “Goliath”). People notice and appreciate the effort.

• Collaborate with the business community to make sure they have the best chance to grow and flourish; the more business growth — the less the tax burden becomes on all of us.

Our community’s top economic drivers are our larger businesses, agriculture, the prison, the hospital, our small businesses, the school system, city government, county government and state government employees. The greatest opportunity for growth is to support buying local, keeping open lines of communication with larger businesses as well as agricultural operations, and encouraging our citizens to start small businesses at a record pace. Small businesses become larger businesses.

Ellsworth’s top opportunity for growth is simple. If we work on becoming the most welcoming community in Kansas, business growth will follow. We all must become ambassadors for our community. If we tell our story, we will attract more population growth and business growth. This includes rebranding our town into an image that both shows respect for our past, but also points us in the direction we want to go in the future. We are missing the boat when we think too small. We need to focus on letting the world know we are one of the best towns in the Midwest and in the U.S. We all know this to be true and we have to go out and make sure others know this too. We can incorporate our great agricultural tradition into the story. Farm To Table is growing rapidly in this space.

Success for me as mayor looks like this…. if I walk down the street in Wichita in the future wearing an Ellsworth t-shirt and someone says “Hey, I really like your town, that is where the _____ is”. When we can fill in the blank with an attitude, an atmosphere, a destination event, or a destination place that is recognizable ... I will have achieved success. If they follow it up with “You know, I would really like to live there how can I make that happen?” I know I will have done a good job.

Defining success for Ellsworth is in the belief that life here is economically sustainable into the future and that the quality of life is only getting better with time.

I have gone to all the City Council meetings except one since beginning the campaign in early June. I have a firm understanding of the ongoing projects and challenges. The sidewalk project is slated for 2022 and resurfacing Douglas will occur in 2023. My number one takeaway is figuring out each council member’s strengths and personalities. They have the best interest of the city as their motivation which is encouraging. They are a strong group and we are fortunate to have them.

If I could wave a magic wand, in 10 years Ellsworth would keep its same charm but we would make sure there are no empty commercial buildings or commercial and residential buildings that are in disrepair. Instead, I would hope there is a waiting list for any residential home or commercial building. Of course, the old hospital will have been replaced by an attractive commercial building. The downtown area will have even more restaurants/safe entertainment nightlife options that will attract people to stop in when traveling on KS 156.

This area will be home to the renovated Drovers Hall of Fame. Plenty of tourists can take advantage of our heritage by visiting the completed multiuse historical building that is currently being restored for the Drovers Hall of Fame and maybe one day a theatre. The city will also have a place for most recreational pursuits including a dog park, skate park, and a place to ride ATVs. In ten years, a younger person would feel at home here and the need to go elsewhere would be greatly diminished.