Ben Sauceda was 13 when he convinced his mother to register to vote in 1996.
His Christian school in Riverdale had started a newspaper, and he interviewed candidates from Sumner County. By the end of his work, he had collected signs from eight candidates he thought would represent him well in various levels of government.
“You gotta vote, you gotta vote,” he said he pleaded with his mother.
Now Sauceda has his own yard signs. The 29-year-old Republican wants to be the District 2 commissioner for Sedgwick County, representing south-central Wichita and Haysville. He faces Tim Norton, the Democratic incumbent, in the Nov. 6 election.
Sauceda has worked on various political campaigns, including those of former state Rep. Bill McCreary and former Congressman Todd Tiahrt. He said his interest in politics began when he started to realize and understand how governmental policies affect people’s lives. He has knocked on doors, written letters to the editor and handed out candy at parades, all for other candidates.
Now it’s his turn.
Sauceda was born and raised in Haysville and moved to Wellington in 1994. He grew up and worked in the family’s business, Noah’s Sprinkler Systems.
He attended Cowley Community College and Wichita State University, studying business and political science. He didn’t finish his degree but hopes to at some time. He worked for his parents for a few years and managed two Cingular Wireless stores in Derby.
In 2005, he joined the staff at his church, working primarily with youth. He is now an associate pastor, teaching Sunday school for young adults and leading the choir and music ministry.
Sauceda said he wants to see what he can do to make the county operate more efficiently and on less money. He owns his own home, said he hasn’t had a raise in more than five years at his job and has had to tighten his belt. He expects government to do the same.
The turndown in the economy affected giving at Temple Baptist Church, he said, and that’s how the church stays open. The pastor and Sauceda discussed taking on part-time jobs to get by.
“I began to look at budgeting and spending,” Sauceda said. “We were able to make cuts and able to continue to work full time. So I have an understanding of how to budget.”
Sauceda said he is concerned about government granting incentives to businesses.
“Government’s responsibility is to provide a good atmosphere to do business,” he said. “But part of starting a business is risk.”
If a business can’t survive without a government incentive, then it doesn’t have a good business plan, he said.
He said he can’t say he would vote against all incentives that come before the board. He would look at each on its own merits, he said. Still, he said he doesn’t agree that if an elected official is against incentives, it means they are against growth and development.
“I want to see businesses grow,” he said. “But who are we incentivizing? It seems to be the same individuals.”
He said he would have voted against the tax-increment financing district for the Southfork development, a mix of office and retail space with hotels and restaurants. Norton, the incumbent, voted not to challenge the district.
“I want to see that area develop,” Sauceda said.
But he said he wouldn’t have supported incentives for the project.
He said he would prefer to help businesses by lowering taxes.
Vicki Tiahrt is helping with Sauceda’s campaign.
“It’s really exciting to have young people engaged in politics. Ben brings a lot of energy and fresh perspective, just like he brought to Todd’s campaigns over the years,” said Tiahrt, referring to her husband, Todd Tiahrt, who endorsed Sauceda.
“He’s also very conservative. He has real strong principles of small government and more freedom for individuals. He is engaged in pastoral work and his church’s school, so he has a heart for kids and a heart to give people more opportunity. I love that passion for the working man and the people,” Tiahrt said.