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Raymore Council, school board competitors face off at Chamber forum

In Raymore, this year's campaign season peaked as usual with the Raymore Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum, held at City Hall on March 23. Following are highlights from that event, beginning with City Council candidates. School board candidates followed.

Ward 1

Incumbent Reginald Townsend moved to Raymore in 2010 and has served the past six years on City Council. He is a retired US Marine and a Federal employee. Some of his community involvement activities include Kansas City Transit Authority Vice-Chair, MARC Transportation Committee, Ray-Pec Sunrise Optimist Club, and serving as a Deacon in his church.


Townsend is very mindful of the rapid growth in Raymore. He said that the population will surpass that of Belton in the next five years, and that we need to be very strategic in planning for the future, particularly regarding traffic. I-49 and the M-58 Highway bridge are critical to community access.

He said that the Community Conversations have been critical to the strategic planning the past five years and he hopes to continue the path that the City is on, receiving community input and making the City a better place for everyone. He wants it to be somewhere that people can age in place—live, work, and play through their lifespan, and everyone can thrive in their own way.

Townsend’s challenger, Aaron Fantasma, was not present.

Ward 2

Incumbent Tom Circo moved to Raymore in 2010 and has been on City Council four years. He is a retired Farmer’s agent and still works part-time in insurance. He is a Ray-Pec Sunrise Optimist, 21-year member of the Raymore Chamber of Commerce, and is involved in his church, the CAN Program, and Festival in the Park.


Circo said that Raymore is fantastic and going in the right direction—more restaurants, more parks, and is financially sound. People want to come to Raymore, and he believes that growth will characterize the next five years.

“Change is here,” he said, “and it’s going forward.”

His challenger, Tabitha Forster, developed a migraine and couldn’t attend. The bio that she submitted was read. She is a 10-year resident of Raymore and, with her husband Dave, owns Dave’s Bike Shop. She wants Raymore to be a place of belonging for all. She is involved in the Ray-Pec Public School Foundation, the Festival in the Park, the Raymore Chamber of Commerce, and other community activities.

Ward 3

Incumbent Jay Holman is a 28-year resident of Raymore. His career has been in law enforcement and has served the community on Planning and Zoning (7 years), Park Board (2.5 years), and City Council (8 years). He has also coached youth soccer.


Holman feels the next 5-10 years will bring improvements to the transportation system in Raymore and more Park amenities, while maintaining the same safe community. He would like to see more sit-down restaurants, better transportation, and well-managed growth.

He believes that fulfillment comes from service to others and wants people to spend time in Raymore besides just to sleep.

His challenger, Kenneth Pfeiler, is a retired Marine who moved to Raymore in 2017. He enjoys interactions in the community by working with youth sports, giving tours of his farm, and interacting with the public as a vendor at the Farmer’s Market.


Pfeiler knows that Raymore is growing, and he wants that growth to happen in a responsible manner. He would like to see more businesses to offset the tax levy. He commented on the quality of the roads in the City and said that he “wants to be part of the team to keep the ball rolling” for good in the community.

He said that the City has helped his farm grow, and this is his chance to give back and be a voice for the community.

Ward 4

Incumbent Sonja Abdelgawad is a 15-year resident of Raymore and has served on City Council for the past 10 years. She is the Director of the Belton Educational Foundation, in the Belton-Raymore Rotary Club, the Chamber of Commerce, has served on the Park Board and volunteered at the schools.


Abdelgawad has many goals for Raymore over the next 5-10 years. In addition to residential growth, she would like to see more businesses, making Raymore a place to work, as well as live and play. She would like to see housing opportunities for aging in place and for young professionals. Transportation and green space are important to her, along with community activities to help keep the small-town feel.

She has seen lots of change and wants to continue handling it in a proactive, rather than reactive, way. The biggest transportation problems for residents are outside the City, and she wants to keep working with other communities to alleviate these issues, such as widening I-49 and improving the M-58 Highway bridge.

Abdelgawad said that she is excited to continue to serve. Her phone number is posted and her door open. She reads surveys and brings the citizen’s voices to the table.


Her challenger, Dillen Steeby, who is also running for the Ray-Pec School Board in this election, is a plumber, carpenter, entrepreneur, substitute teacher, and youth sports coach. He is concerned about things going on in the community and feels that it is threatened by outside forces. When asked about his qualifications for the position, he said, “The only qualifications necessary is that I be a citizen, pay my taxes, and not be a criminal.”

“People want to move here,” he said, “but if we don’t temper it, we’re going to end up looking like Grandview.”

He waved a $100 bill at the audience and said he would give it to anyone that could convince him that we should give discounts to get people to move here.

The improvements he would like to see are a higher voter turnout and more transparency, which he said is the only defense against corruption.

In his closing statement, he asked when the bathrooms would be open at Recreation Park and stated that he had no interest in being a politician.

Raymore-Peculiar School Board

The top two finishers in the eight-person race will win positions on the board. Both incumbents, Aaron Howlett and Bill Lowe, are running for re-election.

Challenger Valentina Houser said that she wants to make a difference. She has a master’s degree in Linguistics, has served on the Ray-Pec Children’s Advisory Committee, and is a Ray-Pec NEA choice among the candidates.


Houser’s goal is to not just be a good school district, but to be one of the best, providing a highly sought-after education. She wants more class offerings for life skills, like balancing checkbooks and doing taxes, and wants the schools to provide more social and emotional supports. She wants to make sure the kids are prepared for life and that the teachers love their jobs.

She said that the responsibilities of a school board member are to be advocates for the children and to put aside differences to work as a team for the students, parents, and staff.

Aaron Howlett is one of the incumbents, having already served 2-1/2 years on the board. His wife is a 19-year Ray-Pec teacher and his daughter is a 4-year Ray-Pec teacher. He is a strong believer in public education, wants to see kids succeed at every level, and is methodical and analytical in his decision-making.


Howlett would like to help kids navigate career options before high school, to see more done with special education, and to continue encouraging students to solve real-world problems through community partnerships.

He said the responsibilities of a school board member are to provide oversight of the superintendent, serving as a sounding board in goal setting and bringing community concerns to the superintendent. They set the budget and work to maximize student learning.

He wants the opportunity to continue serving and being a part of the things happening at Ray-Pec.

Challenger Janet Jones has a background in accounting, finance, and real estate development. Her focus is on providing the best opportunities for the students and retaining employees. She said has attended 28 of the last 31 school board meetings and knows the issues.


Jones wants to see the district continue to invest in hands on learning, like the LEAD Center, and feels that the district is doing great things. She wants to keep that going.

She said that she looks at facts and data before making decisions.

Incumbent Bill Lowe has been on the school board for the past 3-1/2 years. He has served as a Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper for the past 16 years. He gathers facts before making a decision and feels he has a good leadership skill set. His focuses are student success and an environment conducive to learning.

Lowe sees the responsibilities of a board member to include hiring the superintendent, overseeing the district finances, and making sure the goals in the strategic plan are met.


He wants the district to look closely at what businesses are wanting and needing and to focus on providing that in the classroom. The LEAD Center is a giant step forward for non-college students. He wants avenues of success for all students. His goals are to consider and manage growth and teacher retention.

Challenger Dillen Steeby is also running for Raymore City Council. He is a plumber, carpenter, business manager, entrepreneur, fitness instructor, handyman, and coach. He is concerned about what he’s seen in the schools as a substitute teacher. He said that a large number of fifth graders can’t read and comprehend or count change. He is concerned about district finances and feels that there is too much consensus on the board. He said there

needs to be more dissent.

He said it’s the school board’s responsibility to ensure the interests of the electorate, prepare the next generation to be productive citizens in a fiscally responsible manner, and to meet the expectations of the parents.

He wants to ensure that teachers focus on reading, writing, and math. His other focuses are to have safe and trustworthy staff and lunchroom choices that are healthier, tastier and cheaper. He wants a low student-teacher ratio in order to keep crime rates low.

He said he wants to meet students where they’re at and set the districts own way of doing things.

Challenger Carol Barnes was not present but provided a brief bio. She is a retired speech pathologist for Ray-Pec. She will make student learning a priority in school board decisions.

Challenger Cheryl Bland was not present but provided a brief bio. She was a Principal in Raytown School District and then worked as an Educational Consultant. Education of children has been her life work.

Challenger Thomas Walsh was not present.


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