Joshua Blick spent so much time in the voting booth on Election Day staring at his name on the ballot that he thought the poll workers must be wondering.
"When you see your name on the ballot, it's kind of a weird experience," he said. "It puts you into overdrive."
Advised to relax that day, Blick instead went knocking on doors and doing sign waves until the polls closed. He ended up winning the five-person District 4 City Council primary race with 32 percent of the vote.
Blick, a 34-year-old admissions coordinator at Wichita Technical Institute, will face Michael O'Donnell, who finished with 29 percent, in the general election.
Several things went through Blick's mind as he stared at his name on the ballot. He was heartened to see four other candidates on it, all wanting to work on behalf of the district.
And he was amazed to see his own name after everything he'd been through.
"I was just like in awe," Blick said.
He was born to a single mother who had met his biological father cruising Douglas. She married and moved to Osawatomie when Blick was 5, and he went to school there until he was a junior in high school.
He worked two jobs through middle school and high school. He delivered newspapers from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., went to school, then worked at a restaurant at night, he said.
"I lived on four to five hours of sleep," Blick said.
Blick met his biological father when he was 12, and worked for him at a tire store in Wichita during summers.
In high school, his mother told him college was out of the question because of finances, and that he'd have to make something of himself on his own.
Blick moved to Andover to live with an aunt and uncle in the middle of his junior year. Because his new school, Andover High, hadn't received his transcript and didn't know where to place him, one teacher told him he might as well drop out, Blick said.
So he did.
"From then on, I just focused on work," he said.
But Blick realized he'd need a GED some day, and he finally got it in Haysville two years after he left high school.
About five years ago, his mother slipped and fell in the shower, and lost her memory, Blick said. She had to learn about her family and her life all over again.
Blick remembered the first time he saw her after the accident.
"She was very distant, and said, 'They tell me you're my son, but I don't know you,' " he said. "That definitely hits your heart.
"It impacted my life, to know that life is short and you have to live every day as if it's your last day."
His mother has recovered but still doesn't remember anything before the accident, Blick said. Today, she teaches others in Osawatomie to cope with memory loss.
When Blick reached driving age, he didn't always obey the speed limit. Blick said he had six to eight traffic citations from ages 16 to 19.
Records show he was cited three times for driving on a suspended license. Blick said his license was suspended for failing to pay the speeding fines.
"I just really didn't have responsibility when I was young, and didn't see that as important," Blick said.
His latest charge for driving on a suspended license was in 2003 when he was stopped in Haysville for going 29 in a 20 mph zone. Blick appealed, and records show the appeal was upheld when the city of Haysville failed to appear in Sedgwick County District Court.
Blick said he eventually paid double for all his traffic fines and had his license reinstated.
He said he decided not to drive for three years. He rode a bike or was driven to work by his wife, Candace, whom he'd met while cruising Seneca. They've been married for 14 years and have two children — a girl, 12, and a boy, 5.
Blick said he emerged from his driving problems a better person.
"You have a whole new respect for authority and the law," he said. "When you're young, you think they're out to get you, even though it's all about you yourself.
"Driving is a privilege, not a right, and when you're young you don't really think about that."
Records from the Kansas Department of Revenue show that his most recent ticket came in 2008 for going 79 in a 60 mph zone. Blick said he paid that fine and went through a diversion program.
Blick worked at Safelite Auto Glass for a few years, rising to regional director. He left when he was asked to move to Kansas City. Blick discovered he couldn't leave Wichita.
"This is home," he said.
He worked at Best Buy and rose to department manager, returned to the tire store for a while, then got a job in sales and marketing at Cox Communications.
He worked there for three years before being downsized, he said.
Unemployed for a year, Blick said, he had difficulties making mortgage payments on his house on South Everett. A bank filed a foreclosure petition in October, and the house last month was ordered to be sold.
The sale was canceled after Blick arranged a loan modification through GMAC Mortgage, he said.
Blick said he is making regular monthly payments on the house again and has cut back on expenses.
"You try not to live outside your means, but the entertainments of life, and all of a sudden you don't see things like this coming," he said.
He has worked at WTI for eight months. He also is part owner of a computer/console gaming company.
Blick said that if he is elected, his employer will give him Tuesdays off for council meetings and let him make up work on weekends.
In 2003, Blick said, he felt the urge to enter public service and give back to the community.
He took an eight-week course on city government in Wichita, and met city officials, including council member Paul Gray, whose seat he wants to fill. He campaigned for Gray four years ago.
Gray, whose term is expiring, appointed Blick to the district's advisory board, the board of zoning appeals and the board of the Southwest Neighborhood Association.
Gray has endorsed Blick to succeed him.
"I've watched him grow as a citizen and a volunteer over the years, from somebody who just wanted to help, to somebody who now is capable of offering great insights through the experience he's gained in the past few years," Gray said.
Blick said the trials in his life have formed who he is.
"When you're young, you think you know everything in the world," he said, "but then you start having a family and you start being engaged in your community, then you start learning that life is totally different."
On the council, he said, his priorities would include public safety, public service, working for a balanced budget and for infrastructure improvements in the district to aid roads and areas prone to flooding.
Improved infrastructure draws businesses to the district, Blick said.
The city also needs to help its existing businesses instead of trying to steal jobs from other cities, he said.
"These are the people that have really built Wichita and hired Wichitans," he said.
Downtown improvement also is vital, Blick said.
"We have a plan in place now, and we have to start dissecting every little piece of it and make sure, is this is something we want to accomplish in the next five years?" Blick said.
"We really have to have a positive outlook for the city of Wichita and for future generations," he said.