In the Town of Kiowa, the job of mayor is a volunteer position, as are the six other seats on the board of trustees, so when Jason Kerbs made his decision to run for mayor, he was motivated by a desire to make an enduring contribution to the town that has become his home.
“When I'm dead and gone,” said Kerbs, who won a three-way race for mayor on Nov. 4, “I want to have accomplished something that has a positive and lasting impact on my community.”
Kerbs was appointed mayor of the Town of Kiowa in December 2013, moving into the position from his role as mayor pro tem when the sitting mayor, Tasha Hulce, resigned to move out of the area. He got his start in local politics by becoming a member of the Town of Kiowa's planning commission and was later tapped to fill a vacated seat on the board of trustees.
“Getting on the planning commission was a way to get involved in the community. When a board seat opened up, I was asked if I would take it,” Kerbs said.
He won re-election to the board in 2012 and has retained his seat on the planning commission as a non-voting member. Kerbs feels that remaining on the planning commission is a good way to keep open lines of communication between it and the board of trustees.
For most of the recent past, bond debt from the wastewater treatment system has been the dominant issue facing Kiowa's town government. In 2012, the town was out of compliance with the terms stipulated by the bondholders and by the summer of 2014 was in financial default.
The creation of the Kiowa Waste Water Authority in 2014, along with the help of a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan underwriting the $5.2 million of debt, helped alleviate the problem. The bonds were paid off in exchange for transferring ownership of the system to the water authority.
Though owned by the water authority, the Town of Kiowa still runs the water treatment facility's day-to-day operation and appoints the five-member board.
With the water bond issue largely addressed, Kerbs' objective during his first four-year elected term as Kiowa's mayor is getting the town back on its feet. He hopes to create an environment where local businesses thrive and that draws families and new businesses.
“Now we can focus on the town, where before the focus was around the wastewater treatment plant and paying off the bondholders,” Kerbs said. “Kiowa is a great place to live, and it's a great place to raise kids.”
Since they moved to Kiowa, the Kerbs family has focused on putting roots down in the community. Jason has coached his son's youth-league flag football and basketball teams, and his wife, Ladonna, is a substitute teacher when she is not working on her master's degree.
Kerbs was elected with just under 40 percent of the popular vote, beating out fellow board of trustees member Angie Clark by 7 percentage points. A third candidate, Alax K. Jones, captured just over 27 percent of the 239 votes cast.
Kerbs does not see a problem in having a strong political rival as a fellow board member.
“Angie has been on the board longer than I have, and I enjoy working with her. She may offer different ideas than I have, and that's a good thing,” Kerbs said. “I'm looking forward to working with her.”