Kansas Common Sense
Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thanks for your continued interest in receiving my weekly newsletter.
Welcoming United States Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James to McConnell
I had the honor of welcoming United States Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James to McConnell on Friday for her first visit to the base. We met with the airmen of the 22nd and 931st Air Refueling Wings, the 184th Intelligence Wing, the 177th Information Aggressor Squadron, and toured newly constructed facilities to support the arrival of KC-46A tankers.
It is incredible to see how Team McConnell has been able to sustain an increasing number of KC-135 missions at home and overseas and simultaneously prepare for the KC-46A. After our visit with airmen this week, I am convinced there is no other base or place in the country like Wichita that could take on such responsibilities and be so successful. I take great pride in hearing from the airmen how much they enjoy the quality of life in Kansas and the local community. From pilots, maintainers, intel analysts to cyber warriors – all are not only a part of the community, they are the Wichita community.
Touring MGP Ingredients and Atchison YMCA
I stopped in Atchison this week and first visited MGP Ingredients – a family-owned distillery since 1941 that has grown into a leading supplier of premium distilled spirits and specialty wheat proteins and starches. They recently launched a new product, Till Vodka, made from Kansas wheat that also happens to be the official vodka of Sporting Kansas City. Thanks to the MGP employees for the informative tour! Pictured with me below are (first photo) MGP CEO and President Gus Griffin and (second photo) Ingredients Operations Manager Joe Hausner, Distillery Fermentation Manager Matt Greeno, Shift Manager Brian Bissell, Distillery Operator Mark Goehner, Plant Manager Arya Tulva and Shift Manager Kyle Merklein.
I also stopped at the Atchison Family YMCA, which is undergoing an extensive, $8 million renovation to update and expand facilities for kids and families alike. A few of the construction projects include a teaching kitchen, a new therapy pool and a new Kids Zone to provide a safe and fun place for kids to learn and play. Here, I’m pictured with YMCA Capital Drive Chair Rick Berger, Director Lorin Affield and Capital Drive Honorary Chair Cloud L. “Bud” Cray.
Valley Falls Community Visit
I visited the Valley Falls community on Tuesday to stop by local businesses and talk with community members. I spent time at Kendall State Bank, Valley Falls Food Bank, City Hall, The Vindicator newspaper, the post office and the pharmacy among others. Each visit allowed me to hear feedback from residents on current issues in our nation. Fun Valley Falls fact: until 1875, Valley Falls was known as Grasshopper Falls, but received a name change after a damaging grasshopper plague in the early 1870s. Thanks for the good discussion.
Stopping at CenturyLink
I was at CenturyLink, which provides broadband, voice, and data services to more than 119 Kansas communities while employing more than 1,250 residents, on Tuesday. I learned about their efforts to expand broadband connectivity to rural and other underserved areas in Kansas. Quality broadband access enables our students to receive a 21st century education, creates important efficiencies in health and public safety and improves the ability of businesses to remain competitive in a global economy. I also shared a great conversation with about 80 employees about a variety of issues facing our country, including the importance of caring for our nation's veterans and creating an environment that provides opportunities for individuals and families in a growing economy. Thank you to John Idoux for coordinating my visit.
Touring Pfizer Facility in McPherson
On Wednesday I had the opportunity to tour Pfizer’s McPherson facility, which employs more than 1,000 people in Central Kansas. In the last year alone the local facility produced 300 million units of product which were distributed throughout the world. During the tour, we discussed ways to increase private enterprise input on policies and regulations. Local management is working hard to diversify industry in rural Kansas and aiming to hire local employees who plan to stay in Kansas. I appreciate Mayor Tom Brown and Chamber Executive Director Jennifer Burch for joining me. Thanks to Jennifer Swenson for coordinating my tour.
Joining Rotarians in El Dorado
It was nice to join fellow Rotarians in El Dorado for their weekly Wednesday afternoon luncheon at Butler County Community College. I gave brief remarks to the group and then got an update from Sarah Coffman on the efforts of the Wichita Animal Action League, a volunteer-based organization that does great work to advocate for abused, neglected and abandoned animals in the Wichita area. Thanks to Rotary District #5690 for the warm welcome and to El Dorado Mayor Vince Haines for coming.
Getting a Firsthand Look at Kansas Healthcare
I was happy to visit three hospitals this week that are working hard each day to provide quality care to their communities. I appreciate seeing these facilities and hearing from staff on the difficulties they face in providing care to our communities in Kansas. Kansans’ access to quality health care services often determines whether they can remain in the communities they call home. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Health Subcommittee, it is useful for me to visit our providers in the state to witness how they utilize resource to care for patients.
Onaga Community Hospital
I was able to visit Onaga Community Hospital and tour the facilities there on Monday morning. Critical Access Hospitals such as Onaga Community Hospital represent a major part of how health care is provided to Kansans across our state. Thanks to Hospital CEO Todd Willert for coordinating my visit.
St. Luke Hospital and Living Center
On Wednesday afternoon, I stopped at St. Luke Hospital and Living Center in Marion, Kansas. I met with their staff and experienced firsthand the new Avera telehealth system that will allow the hospital to serve a greater number of people and keep patients utilizing their hometown health care facilities. I appreciated Mayor Todd Heitschmidt and City Administrator Roger Holter joining me for the tour – my thanks to St. Luke CEO Jeremy Ensey for hosting me.
Pratt Regional Medical Center
Toward the end of the week, I visited Pratt Regional Medical Center. I met with the employees and discussed how federal policies can enable facilities like this one to continue to provide quality services to their communities in the future. Thanks to CEO Susan Page for hosting my visit.
Listening Tour Stops in Parsons, Fredonia, Lakin and Garden City
Thursday I kicked off the day with a listening tour stop in Parsons. I was at Labette Health to hear about issues important to area Labette County residents. Topics of discussion ranged from CMS regulations to their new facility in Independence, which helps fill a void in care after the Indianapolis hospital closed last year. As always, it was good to get feedback on both local and national issues that people are focused on. Thanks to State Representative Virgil Peck for attending. My appreciation also goes out to Labette Health CEO Brian Williams and hospital board member Dr. Wayne Gilmore for hosting my town hall. I also enjoyed visiting with Brian and Wayne beforehand about healthcare concerns both in Parsons and throughout southeast Kansas.
Next I drove from Parsons to Fredonia where a crowd was gathered at Radiant Electric Cooperative to speak with me. We had several good conversations centered on issues such as the Department of Labor overtime rule and unchecked government spending. I’d like to thank Leah Tindle and the employees of Radiant Electric for hosting my visit to Wilson County.
In Lakin on Saturday morning, I stopped at Kearny County Hospital for a Listening Tour meeting. I had the chance to hear from Kearny residents about the issues that have the most impact on their daily lives and their families. My thanks to all those who attended.
My next stop was in Garden City, where I spoke with attendees at Western State Bank about the ways the federal government impacts their daily lives and what we can do to help bring down our national debt, which burdens our children and grandchildren. We also discussed the importance of housing development in the county, how overregulation hurts rural small businesses, and the threat of the Zika virus.
Kansas Well Represented at Rio Olympics
Congratulations to the Kansas athletes who qualified for Team USA in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Amy Cragg, Nico Hernandez, Lydia Paterson, Jack Sock, Kyle Clemons, Mason Finley, Andrea Geubelle and Erik Kynard will compete for the U.S. in their respective events. I look forward to cheering on each of these young men and women as they continue Kansas’ legacy of athletic excellence.
Kansas State University voice instructor and Great Bend native Bryan Pinkall will also attend the Rio Olympics to help produce the opening ceremony on Aug. 5. This will be Pinkall’s second Olympic production – he was also a producer at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. I am happy to see so many Kansans representing our country for the world to see. Go Team USA!
Kansans in the Office
Mike Oxford of Lone Star
Wendy Allen of Kansas City
Ryan Frischenmeyer of Hutchinson
Rona Cellers of Hutchinson
Dona Todd of Iola
Angie Zimmerman of Hays
Dustin Ronabaugh of Hays
Rosie Cooler of Topeka
Michael Wissman of Topeka
Taylor Kibbee of Beloit
Amiah Meis of Russell
Maureen Phillips of Hays
Dustin Ronabaugh of Hays
Matt Enyart of Lawrence
Macy Collins of Towanda
Lou Kibbee of Hays
Tammy Beckham of Manhattan
American Legion Auxiliary Girls Nation and The American Legion Boys Nation
Paige Lawrence of Lawrence
Archita Goyal of Overland Park
Mason Witzke of Topeka
Jared Long of Beloit
National Alliance to End Homelessness
Heather Bradley-Geary of Olathe
Erin Pullen of Shawnee
Joanne Owens of Mission
Kansas FFA Association
Elizabeth Meyer of Marion
Clara Wicoff of Iola
Mary Kane of Manhattan
Adam Barnard of Overland Park
Jessica Hixson of Overland Park
Amanda Whearty of Wichita
Marc Westhoff of Hutchinson
Doug Rivard of Overland Park
Michael Rivard of Overland Park
Miles Rivard of Overland Park
Mitchell Rivard of Overland Park
Willie Young of Kansas City
Margaret Young of Kansas City
Willie Young Jr. of Lenexa
Ariel Young of Lenexa
Tim Moore of Leavenworth
Shelby Moore of Leavenworth
Zerek Wilkinson of Gardner
Angela Wilkinson of Gardner
Thomas Wilkinson of Gardner
Hailey Wilkinson of Gardner
Thomas Mitchell of Wichita
Angela Mitchell of Wichita
Kyle Mitchell of Wichita
Wesley Mitchell of Wichita
Kathryn Kroeger of Marysville
Kylie Kroeger of Marysville
Marcy Hothaus of Gardner
Sheila Walker of Manhattan
Grace Walker of Manhattan
Jason Walker of Manhattan
Irma Diaz of Salina
Teresa Felipe of Salina
Bryson Tomas of Salina
Honored to Serve You in Washington
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. Thank you to the many Kansans who have been calling and writing in to share their thoughts and opinions on the issues our state and country face. I appreciate the words of Kansans, whether in the form of a form of letter, a Facebook comment or a phone call, who wish to make their voice heard.
Please let me know how I can be of assistance. You can contact me by email by clicking here. You can also click here to contact me through one of my Kansas offices or my Washington, D.C., office.
Very truly yours,
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