Carthage Council Ward 1 candidates answer questions at March 29 forum

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Carthage City Council Ward 1 Candidates pictured are from left, Maria Marroquin and Brandi Ensor. John Hacker / CNO

CARTHAGE, Mo. — Two candidates are running for the two-year term as representing Ward 1 on the Carthage City Council in the April 5, 2022 election, Brandi Ensor and Maria Marroquin.

The two answered questions at a candidate forum hosted by the Carthage Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, March 29, 2022.

Here are their two-minute answers in the order they answered the questions at the forum:

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Briefly tell us about yourself?

  • Brandi Ensor

I am a lifelong Carthage resident and for over 20 of those years I’ve lived here in Ward 1. This is my 19th year in education I’m a special ed teacher in Neosho. I am also a small business owner of the Umbrella Stand which is a flea-market-based business. I have a dozen locations, three of which are in Carthage stores. I am a youth leader for Carthage Nazarene Church and I am known at kids camp as the craft lady. I am a former columnist for the Carthage Press and if you’d like to see more about my views on our town and how much I love it you’re welcome to look up my views online. It was called Through the Looking Glass. I am a master scarecrow designer and if you’ve seen the scare crows on the corner of Centennial and Grand, those are mine.

Maria Marroquin

I was raised in California and moved to Missouri in 1995 so I brought my oldest child this way because of the living that we were having out there wasn’t good enough for a growing child. Once we moved to Missouri we ended up here because of my parents they brought us here and I fell in love with the little town we’re in. Now I have four children, all of them which have been in the Carthage school district. The youngest two, one is a junior and my youngest daughter is in ninth grade. The reason why I am running for Ward 1, I think this is a great opportunity for not only me to help the community. I’ve been here over 20 years and I fell in love with the town because of how family-oriented this town is. We all help each other. I’m in a committee which is Hispanic Connections and I’m also on other committees in our community to not only communicate better because I speak both English and Spanish so I am able to help others as to getting what we need from our community to bring it to our council.

What makes you the best candidate to be elected to the office you seek?

  • Maria Marroquin

I’ve worked in the banking industry for over 20 years and working in the banking industry has also opened my eyes to different areas of our town not only because I have a family here and my kids have grown up here in Carthage but I think also I can be a help with not only our hispanic community but also translate the needs of all of our community in different areas because sometimes we do have families that can’t communicate as to what is needed in town. I think I can help with that as well not only with the businesses. I love our town, I helped in different non-profit organizations as well to help bring all this information out to help our community. I’ve been involved in school activities which have helped me get to know our town more and our people more to see what we are needing. Just like all the needs besides our streets and what we’re needing to get done, I’m also wanting to see more people come to visit our town because we have great activities and our kids enjoy it as far as maple leaf and things like that. And all these new activities that we have coming up, the more we get involved not only as a family member but also as a community member will help us do better for the community. I think also when our children see us getting involved helps them to get involved more and not just stay home and play games. I think I can bring a lot more and help as much as I can.

  • Brandi Ensor

I love this town. I believe the people in Carthage are special and they are diverse and the town has a rich heritage. I also believe we have a lot to offer both for our current citizens and for anyone who is wanting to relocate to this area. I am proud we have maintained a small-town togetherness even though we have grown and we are constantly changing, and as a council member I will put in the work to learn the information needed to make informed decisions for our town. I would like to protect our heritage, preserve our history and allow Carthage to grow in a positive direction.

A serious topic that is being discussed I the city is the replacement of the three North Garrison Street bridges. The projected price tag is $30 million to replace these bridges. Is this a priority for the city and how should it be funded?

  • Brandi Ensor

I am not sure exactly which avenues for funding the current governing body has explored, but the options I see are to look for federal grants, try a state 50-50 matching grant and ask residents to pass a no-tax-increase bond issue or look into having the state assume the responsibility for the bridges. Exploring funding options is a priority for me but based on the costs associated with funding options, replacing the bridges might not be a priority unless it is important to my constituents to save the bridges. If it is not financially possible to rebuild the bridges then as a last resort the city could choose to close them. We would still have access to I-49 from the north side of town by using the Francis Street exit or the exit to Central and the residents north of the bridges can use V Highway to get to town without adding much distance to their commute. This is why I’m not viewing the bridges as a high priority compared to the costs. In the event of closing, I would want to look into the feasibility of keeping the first bridge open so the residents in that part of Carthage are not having to detour to Francis Street to get to the businesses in town. The other two bridges could remain open to bikes ad foot traffic and incorporated into a walking trail and park area to promote wellness within the community. I do want to see the bridges saved, but knowing we could feel the repercussions of such an expense for decades, I believe it is appropriate to look at all options to determine what is best for the city of Carthage.

  • Maria Marroquin

I also think we need to get our city of Carthage involved. And also as a city council putting all our heads together to determine which way we need to go as far as funding goes. We all need to hear from our community as to what they’re wanting to see and how to better our community here. Looking at different areas we may have to look at different numbers and different funding options of course. Having all that information at hand is what best helps us instead if making a quick decision on something like that. We all need to get together not only as a council but also seek more funding if there is more funding available to help with the bridges.

Our community has a very low stock of single-family and multi-family housing. There is also a need for child care for families in our community. With these limitations, this impacts our work force and many of our businesses are struggling to fill positions within their company. What do you think is the city’s role in helping solve these issues and what do you think is a top priority?

  • Maria Marroquin

I still think we need to get our community involved because usually the community are the people who shop in town and we have more employees coming into town to work than the ones we have in town. I’ve noticed some people travel an hour, two hours, just to come and work here, so I know its very important for us to get our community involved as to what their needs are and also put ourselves together and work together to be able to help our community and make it grow. Housing is important but also there’s a whole lot of our community that does not know what’s available for them. They don’t know what we can offer and they don’t know what to ask for because they may not have technology, they may not have anything that they can go by to know what’s going on in our community. But I think by going out and talking to our community and finding out what we are able to do to help and maybe bring it to the table, we can probably make some good changes in the community.

  • Brandi Ensor

I believe that housing and child care are important but I believe it is the responsibility of the city council to enact ordinances and change zoning where needed, sign off on HUD grants for developers and work to provide low cost utilities and taxes so that facility expenses are not a hardship for anyone hoping to open a daycare or possibly provide in-home childcare. I don’t believe it is the responsibility of the city to open a child care facility or to build the houses. I believe we should work with anyone who is taking the initiatives on these causes and support them when they’re doing things for the good of Carthage.

Every year during the budget process, more money is requested by our city department heads than the city can fund. In other words, there are typically more needs than there are funds. If this were to happen, as an elected official, how will you or how do you decide funding priorities within the city?

  • Brandi Ensor

This is something that I run across each year in the education world, I’m given a budget for my classroom and then I’m tasked with wisely spending the funds available. When there’s not enough funds, I prioritize the needs of my current students and I start at the bottom crossing off things that cannot be afforded. Things that are priority for me in budgeting for the city are providing competitive wages and benefits for city workers, ensuring safety for each department, whether it’s equipment needed by the department or repairs and maintenance. Traditional operating costs are also a must in the budget. Past that I believe we should look at what is best for the majority of the community and how many residents are served with the items requested in the budget. We should prioritize things that are good for the most people when there are shortages in items that make a negligible difference may need to be put off until funds are available.

  • Maria Marroquin

I also think funding is important but at the same time, I’m going to go back to the community, we have to get the community involved. They need to understand where the funds are going, why certain decisions are made, and by them voicing their concerns, it has to come to city council to make those decisions for the best of the community so that we can make our community better. Partnering with other non-profits, for them to give us their ideas of what is needed, what the community is looking for, I think once we have all the information and we all get together and look at that information, then we can make concise decisions and see which way we can help our community be better.

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