KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Three conservative candidates in Kansas City’s Northland were elected to school boards earlier this month, much to the credit of a city councilwoman’s mission to get “freedom-loving” individuals elected.
Whitney Carlisle (Smithville), Dan Currence (Liberty) and Mike Matousek (Platte County) were elected to their respective school boards after being recruited and supported by KC Councilwoman Heather Hall’s “Build Our Bench” (BOB) initiative.
Hall started BOB in the fall of last year to find a qualified and trusted candidate to replace her on the city council once her term ends next year. Although it began as a smaller initiative with only her seat in mind, BOB quickly gained momentum as she saw an immediate interest from the community.
“We’re not saying ‘You must be a Republican’ or ‘You must be a Democrat,’” Hall told The Heartlander. “We’re saying, ‘You must believe in freedom.’ If you believe in the Constitution, that’s step one.”
Build Our Bench’s top priority when recruiting candidates, Hall says, is a passion for public service.
“The first thing that I look for in a candidate through Build Our Bench is a passion for running for office, because if they don’t have a passion for something then they’re not going to be successful,” Hall said.
“We look at all the open positions and we start networking with people that are hungry and have a passion. Then we start finding out where their skill sets lie and might fit best.”
Build Our Bench had 12 total candidates running for school board across Kansas City’s Northland. But just because only three were successful in their bids doesn’t mean BOB is slowing down anytime soon.
“We have not said, ‘Ok, we tried, everybody go home. We played and we lost,’” Hall said. “No. These people are so hungry they’re ready to go out there and do it again.
“What I’ve told everyone is, ‘This is a marathon, not a sprint.’ We did not expect to win all of the seats. But we needed to put people out there to show people that we’re serious about changing the course of how children are being taught in schools. We must not let any seat go unopposed.”
Once recruited by BOB, candidates are encouraged to attend the group’s monthly meetings where they discuss campaign strategy and often bring in professionals to train candidates in marketing, speech preparation and navigating public perception – all free to the candidates.
The monthly meetings aren’t the only assistance BOB offers, either. The group also helps with fundraising efforts, knocking on doors and creating mail pieces with candidate information.
Next up on BOB’s agenda are county commission and state representative elections. Hall says BOB has a candidate running for commission seats in both Platte County and Jackson County, and even has five candidates running for Clay County Commission – one for each open seat.
“Now we’re working on county commission and state representative seats for the August election. Then, with the winners of that August election, we will just keep moving as hard as we can into the November cycle,” Hall said.
But just because the August and November elections are next up on the to-do list, doesn’t mean they’re the only elections BOB has set its sights on.
“All the while, parallel to this, we are out and about right now interviewing candidates for next April’s school board and Kansas City City Council elections. We aren’t stopping. Our heads are in it all of the time.”
Even with a great deal of work still to be done to prepare for the August and November elections, Hall says BOB also doesn’t just move on from candidates after they win.
“The fourth and final thing that Build Our Bench wants to do is retain,” Hall said. “We want these people to win, and then we want them to win again. Maybe they’re not going to win again for school board. Maybe next time they’re going to run for city council or county commission or state rep.
“We are working on ways to build our bench so that people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond have a path forward.”
As Hall and Build Our Bench continue scouting candidates and preparing for upcoming elections, she doesn’t want the work and passion of candidates who didn’t win to be forgotten.
“All of the candidates who stood up and raised their hand to run, all 12 of them, I admire them and am proud of their courage for standing up in year one,” Hall said. “That is not easy to do. Every single one of them, without fail, put in all the work. They all persevered, and that’s what I asked.”
Those interested in getting involved with Build Our Bench are encouraged to reach out to Councilwoman Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org.