By Michelle Leidy-Franklin
CONWAY SPRINGS – After serving one, four-year term, Mayor Jessica Gerlach did not run for re-election as Mayor of Conway Springs.
“While serving as Mayor has been an honor, and I’m proud of where we are now, it doesn’t pay the bills,” said Gerlach. “I began full-time work in September at KU Medical Center in Wichita, and held out so that I could be available to the community and staff. Working full-time with children getting more involved in school isn’t conducive to timely or productive Mayor work. It was a difficult decision, but I feel someone in this position should go above and beyond. The reality is, it will be more.”
Gerlach said she is proud of all that the city was able to accomplish while she served as Mayor. Conway Springs now has a new water treatment facility and lines, a new concession stand, a new pool, and a nearly completed sewer project to repair and replace sewer lines in town. Gerlach was also happy with the citizen projects the city supported during her service such as the horseshoe pits, new basketball goals, and gathering community engagement to keep Fall Festival going. She is proud of the team she was able to participate in building and is confident in their ability to continue working in the best interests of the community.
“Our staff has had drastic changes in four years, including the implementation of a paid EMS service, additional PD, and every position has new leadership,” said Gerlach. “Working and developing our leadership styles together has been a learning process, and there has been tremendous growth and an ease among our staff since rounding out the teams. I will miss our staff. I am so proud of them.”
Gerlach said her family was excited to support her endeavor to become Mayor and they are excited to have her step back now.
“They are excited for less demands and me being home in the evenings,” said Gerlach. “With so many projects over the past four years, there have been a lot of demands on time. They are excited for the stress and time commitment to dissipate.”
But Gerlach doesn’t plan to stop working for her community. While serving as Mayor, Gerlach was able to resurrect a local non-profit that has become the Conway Springs Development Foundation. As president of that organization, Gerlach plans to spend more time making her community better through the CSDF organization.
“I look forward to getting back actively involved in CSFD with some potentially big things focusing on the mental health of our local kiddos,” said Gerlach. “Some fantastic connections have been made through my new employment, and I hope to work closely with a friend and community member just as passionate about the subject as I am.”
Knowing that city council member Daryle Smith will be the one to take her place in 2022, means Gerlach can feel good about her decision to step down.
“Daryle has been my mentor since arriving on his doorstep asking if I should do this,” said Gerlach. “We don’t always see eye-to-eye, but that’s the beauty of it; you shouldn’t agree on everything. Our leadership styles are different, but they balanced. He will do a great job and the city is lucky to have him.”
Gerlach plans to move forward with building her career, being present with her children, recommitting to her obligations as CSDF president, and volunteering her time in new ways. She said she will miss the team at the city the most.
“Work together,” said Gerlach in her final words to the city. “Lead with integrity. Let old grudges die. Bury hatchets. Look for the collective good, and work as a team. Build up our staff. Nurture their leadership decisions and styles. Trust in them. Know that you are always on duty and whatever is said outside of the chambers always makes its way back. Toxic words can be a cancer to the team. Work together, support a team effort, and leave individual agendas at the door. Oh, and keep the skin thick.”