Tammy Curtis, Managing Editor

Cherokee Village Suburban Improvement District has undergone massive changes since the 2021 lawsuit and it is embarking on a new chapter by electing new commissioners, something that was a right won in the lawsuit. 

Previously the commissioners were appointed, there was no transparency or representation of the tax paying citizens within the SID. Commissioners were appointed without benefit of advertising or making the positions known to the general public. This landmark election will change the structure of the board to reflect those interests.

The lawsuit resulted in the resignation of former SID General Manager David Webb and opened the door for new management by Betsy Waugh, who has been instrumental in insuring the public is aware and involved in the changes. Waugh has continually promoted an environment of transparency between the SID and the public since taking office. 

Part of the work has been preparing for the upcoming April 11 election. SID’s updated website has a massive amount of information about the candidates backgrounds and experience so voters can be educated on their candidate and what he or she stands for and how it aligns with their beliefs.

An election committee headed by DeeAnn Draper has been instrumental in the process and have mailed election notices and posted on the SID website. The group has taken into consideration many items that most pertain to the members of the SID and posed five questions for each of the  commissioner candidates to answer in a five minute video, which was also posted on the SID website. 

In addition, on March 21 a Meet the Candidates Forum was held at the Omaha Center which was very well attended and personally connected voters with those who are seeking to represent their interests.

The eight candidates include: Phillip Dedas, Dave Gruger, David Nebel, Joe Kaiser, Robert Dreyer, Ron Page, Susan Jett and Bill Matselboba. Their biographies are listed under the election information tab on the website. The following questions were posed of each candidate. Below is a summary of their answers.

Dedas was the only candidate without a video of his answers. 

What amenities do you currently use?

Gruger: lakes and pools

Nebel: Lives on Lake Thunderbird and uses golf courses.

Kaiser: Mainly the lakes for fishing. He has also been a member of the Omaha Fitness Center. His family plays on the tennis courts.

Dreyer: Dreyer uses Tohi Trail, Beach at Lake Sequoyah, Pools and mini golf at Thunderbird Center as well as South Golf Course and Papoose Creek. 

Page: The Omaha Center, the lakes and golf courses and Page is an avid golfer.

Jett:  said she uses all the SID amenities. She is a beginning kayaker, loves walking on trails and golf courses and attends functions, meetings and classes at Thunderbird Center and participates in health club at Omaha Center as well as the parks and beach. She feels the amenities are to be enjoyed even if it is just looking at them. 

Matselboba: Tohi Park and Omaha Center.

From our current amenities, what are the highest priorities for repairs and upgrades?

Gruger: Pools, community centers and believes SID should clean up and improve the RV park campground at Baseheart. 

Nebel: Omaha Center and pools “After 20 years of misuse and abuse, it is time for us to buckle down and put our straps on and get with the program.”

Kaiser: Boat ramps with pot holes. Pools at Omaha Center need to be back in order for residents and visitors. 

Dreyer: He feels the highest priority is to try to repair amenities that can be done quickly, cheaply and easily, the mini golf courses and playgrounds. He said for less than a few thousand dollars this could be done and also utilize local donated labor. He also feels the pools should be repaired and improved.

Page: Stated the 2022 Budget has a number of bids for Omaha Center and Lake Thunderbird Center.He believes that repairing the facilities and pool system at Omaha is a key item. He feels the lakes which have shoreline and weed issues as well as golf courses that also need addressed.

Jett: She has spoke with several people and feels her job, if elected as a commissioner,  isn’t her opinion of what needs repaired but what the residents she has spoken with feel is most important. 

Matselboba: Lake Thunderbird first because it is the center that is closest to the city, visitors and most activities in the city. The recreatiion center has the greatest potential to bring in income for the city and SID.

How would you increase income?

Gruger: Commissioners need to review user fees, including guest user fees, boat stickers and permits. Once assessment is paid off amenities should operate on user fees alone. Campground is already generating income and needs to remain. 

SID should look at current debt and look into paying it off as soon as possible and not go into additional debt unless a good reason for capital improvement, which would require a new assessment.

Nebel:  Reopen the South Golf Course Restaurant, open lower campgrounds on Basehart and upgrade it. He feels the contract for the Marina needs to be renegotiated and Gitcheegumee Beach needs upgrade to parking lot. 

Kaiser:  Guest fees need to be raised.

Dreyer: Once improved, he feels user fees should be slightly increased and also explore the possibility of installing donation boxes at Tohi Trail, the Beach or Lake Sequoyah to collect monies. Dreyer’s ideas also include opening the Omaha Center pool to the public after it is repaired since Cherokee Village has the only pools in the area and utilize it as a way to generate revenue for the city. He suggested Thunderbird remain for SID members and guests only. 

Page: Family oriented activities like tournaments with pickle ball, golf, badminton and tennis that the entire family can enjoy. Page also feels revenue could be generated by opening up these activities to the community at large.

Jett: Jett instead asked why there needs to be an increase but feels ways in which to maximize what the SID has and listen to what the members want, not herself if elected is the best way to outline needs. She feels her place, if elected, is to empower the people whose voices want to be heard. 

Matselboba: Two amenities he feels are in the in best condition are the golf courses. By holding more tournaments that are run properly, the income generated could be shared with city, schools and businesses as well as SID. He feels functions like entertainment and activities have proven effective based on an event he hosted with the Cherokee Village Senior Center, bringing in $5,000 revenue for tornado warning system. Matselboba feels classes, entertainment and other items like Bingo, poker tournament, baking and cooking classes would bring in people from the outside to help generate funds. 

How would you work to build stronger relationships between SID and the City of CV?

Gruger: “First, I don’t see a relationship between the two other than we are encompassed by the same boundaries.SID is governed by a specific law and there shouldn’t be any co-mingling of any funds or monies between the two. With that being said, they should have a good working relationship with the city because the better the amenities, the better it is for the city to promote itself for future residents. Gruger  feels the SID can have better sales of property,  he feels the cities responsibility is to improve the streets to make the lots more marketable. He feels SID needs to focus on itself and get amenities up to where they should be and what the property owners expect. 

Nebel: “We have several candidates that have expressed and done damage kind of between the city and SID and there are accusations that have been made to several city employees. How we can build that relationship for that, I don’t know if they get elected.” He has served on the Airport Commission and Village Pride. He said he has walked the ditches with some of the people who run the city. “They have everything in good faith for the city the same that I will do. I will do everything I can for SID, make sure our facilities are in proper working condition. We have a gem here that needs to be shown to the world.”

Kaiser: “Being open and transparent and open our ears and find out what their concerns are and maybe offer a free weekend or week out of the year.”

Dreyer: He said he has no hidden agendas or axes to grind and currently attends city council meetings to gain knowledge on their issues and challenges and bring that back to SID. Developing a mutual trust between himself and the city is another way he feels to prevent conflict. 

Page: Page is a current commissioner and has great relationship with almost all Cherokee council members and elected officials.  He used to do presentations for both entities on airport issues. By using the same coalition of people, he believes they can create a team across the board to be mutually beneficial to both entities. 

Jett: She feels block parties within the city will help build a team sharing mutual goals.She also said she feels it is important to for SID and the city of Cherokee Village have a good working relationship. “We can’t have a locked room full people doing something and the city in a locked room doing something. We need to know what each other are doing so we can maybe be on the same page. How many things overlap that we could be doing a better job at?”

Matselboba: A vacation rental building program, a joint venture vacation rental will produce immense amount of fees and said he feels the SID is capable of working with the city on these ventures. All groups need to establish an advisory committee partially comprised of a councilman and a commissioner in their advisory group and could be brought to the meeting for vote and would cause less argument and confusion. 

How would you handle conflict between commissioners?

Gruger: If elected Gruger feels conflicts between commissioners should be minimal and put in order by the Chairman of the board using Robert’s Rules of Order. “I will be one of the people on the commission that is a voice for you and will be fighting to make sure we stay on the right and narrow path.”

Nebel: “Some candidates have had an agenda in the past. I am here to listen to you and to take all your matters into serious consideration. We have to do something that has not been done in a long time around here and that is compromise.”  His skills to do this include his experience in working on federal contracts and contracts between management and the unions. He feels his skills will help do the job.

Kaiser: He said he doesn’t see having conflict between commissioners but if there is ,the commissioners should respect one another. If they have to, agree to disagree but at the end of they day they will work through them and remain friends.

Dreyer: He doesn’t think it will be a problem but in the event that there is a conflict, Dreyer plans to respect the opinions of others and  avoid conflict. He feels his 20 years military and six years as a commander lends to his ability to resolve potential conflict among commissioners

Page: He says he has seen people who want to dominate across the board, but feels listening and seeking to listen before being heard and renegotiating through teamwork is most important.

Jett: Jett said listening is the key to conflict resolution.

Matselboba: Majority rules is the main way to resolve conflict after the board listens to ideas and votes. 

Since the candidates posted their videos, a Cherokee Village City Council member created a “mock ballot” and circulated it on social media to inform voters of his choices for commissioners. Many residents have thanked Councilmen Rob Smith for his advise, and insight,  numerous others have voiced their concerns about the ethics involved in the act. These concerns included  the possibility Smith could have access under his title as a city council member to addresses of non resident voters and utilize that information to obtain the votes he feels are best on absentee ballots. 

The SID quickly responded after the mock ballot was posted and drew a great amount of attention, both positive and negative. “It has been brought to our attention that a mock ballot is being distributed.  The Cherokee Village Suburban Improvement District is not affiliated with this form nor has our office participated in any campaign or electioneering for the upcoming election. We have taken security measures to ensure only our official ballot will be used for voting.”

Smith staunchly defended his choice to publicly post the mock ballot marked with his choices stating, “It would seem that some people feel that I should not have an option because I am an elected official. I do not share that view. I have served the City of Cherokee Village for the last six years as a council member. SID has operated separately from city government since the city was created. I feel now is the time for the two entities to work together for the betterment of the citizens of the SID and the city. The gentlemen that I have chosen, I feel confident will do that.  He also encouraged voters to visit the SID website and watch the interviews. He added,  “I put this list together for friends who own property in the village but do not live here and are not able to attend meeting and decide for themselves for whom to vote.”

Early voting began on March 28 at the Omaha Center . Voting times will be from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. weekdays. Election Day voting will begin at 8:30 a.m. and end 6 p.m. All voting will take place at the Omaha Center.