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10 to watch in 2010

Anita Mendoza is president of the Normar Community Development Corporation. 2010 Ten to Watch
Anita Mendoza is president of the Normar Community Development Corporation. 2010 Ten to Watch The Wichita Eagle

These 10 people — selected from nominations by Eagle staffers and the community — are among the many who could help determine what kind of year 2010 becomes in Wichita.

CARL BREWER, JEFF FLUHR

Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and Jeff Fluhr, president of the Wichita Downtown Development Corp., are at the helm of a move to revitalize downtown that intends to gain momentum in 2010. It’s a partnership forged of a belief that a downtown bustling with residents, workers and customers can be Wichita’s best front door.

It will be a year of planning, with Boston-based consultant Goody Clancy charting a path for downtown’s next 20 years.

And, both men hope, it will be a year yielding more commercial and residential projects downtown.

“As we start putting together the Goody Clancy plan, Jeff will be at the table with me and the county as we explore opportunities,” Brewer said. “Small or large, we’ll be in lockstep for the entire downtown project."

Fluhr, who worked on the revitalization of Baton Rouge’s downtown before taking the Wichita job, said Brewer’s active role is essential to recruit people and businesses downtown.

“You have to have someone like Carl get hold of the vision and drive the vision,” he said. “How do we remain competitive? The mayor understands how important it is to retain our people and recruit more, and the importance of a very strong blueprint.

“He has been and continues to be a tremendous partner.”

— Bill Wilson

SUE CASTILE

Changes and challenges face Inter-Faith Ministries and its new executive director, Sue Castile, as the nonprofit organization enters its 125th year in 2010. Although adjustments will be necessary, Castile makes it clear that Inter-Faith will continue to tackle such social issues as homelessness and poverty.

“Our mission is not changing,” said Castile, who assumed her new position in September after spending a decade leading Diversity Kansas. “We’re continuing to build bridges across faith to serve those in need.”

Like other nonprofits, Inter-Faith is facing fewer donations and funding sources during the economic downturn. So it is taking a hard look at how it spends its money and to make sure it is not overlapping with other organizations serving the community, Castile said.

“Our board of directors have sought different ways to reduce spending and to be financially prudent,” Castile said.

Inter-Faith’s significant growth in recent years also means some organizational restructuring is necessary.

“You go through a growth cycle and sometimes your infrastructure isn’t exactly designed to meet that,” Castile said. “That will also be part of our sharpening our focus strategy, but we’ll continue to do the work we’re doing.”

That includes providing housing for 105 families, operating two homeless shelters and programs that provide food, after-school tutoring and meeting various other basic needs.

Rev. Cathy Northrup, the pastor at First Presbyterian Church and Inter-Faith’s board president, said one of Castile’s strengths is her ability to work with others.

“She brings a thoughtful approach and the spirit of collaboration to do the best we can do together,” Northrup said. “She wants to increase inter-faith dialogue.”

— Rick Plumlee

JACK DEBOER

Jack DeBoer will be back in the downtown spotlight in 2010, 19 years after he first floated the notion of revitalizing downtown.

DeBoer, 78, assumed control of the struggling 7-year-old WaterWalk development in November.

He named Doug Rupe, one of his Consolidated Holdings managers, to head the project; added NAI John T. Arnold Associates as the commercial broker for the development; began the search for a residential broker; and initiated talks with several developers.

Why?

“We have a responsibility to the taxpayers . . . who have partnered with us in this project,” he said a month ago, referring to the city of Wichita’s $41 million contribution for infrastructure.

DeBoer hasn’t targeted specific tenants, like the entertainment emphasis the development’s partnership pursued in the past.

So far, so good.

“We’re very encouraged,’’ he said last week. “I hoped that opening this thing up, leveling with people, would be effective, and the reception has been even better.”

Downtown revitalization needs DeBoer to succeed, said Jeff Fluhr, president of the Wichita Downtown Development Corp.

“Getting things done is Jack’s reputation,” Fluhr said. “For our city and our downtown, it’s very important we see WaterWalk move forward with its vision for the commercial, retail and entertainment markets.

“It’s a big part of our riverfront on a key piece of real estate.”

— Bill Wilson

KATHY LINNEBUR

Good managers don’t get laid off.

That’s what Kathy Linnebur thought — until she got laid off in November.

Linnebur, 32, had done everything right. She worked hard, got a master’s degree in international business and had a good relationship with top executives of the company, Rose America, a producer of animal accessories.

“The day I was laid off I started crying in the office with my boss,” she said. “This will sound bad, but I thought that with my skillset and what I brought to the bottom line — a month ago, I would n’t have seen this coming.”

She is one of the nearly 26,000 people seeking work in the four-county Wichita area this winter, according to the state. Wichita, like the rest of the country, isn’t likely to see many new jobs in 2010.

Linnebur appreciates this irony: In recent years, the company has laid off most of its production workers. She was in charge of outsourced production.

Still, she’s not resentful, as some of her former co-workers are, she said. Despite the shock, the layoff hasn’t shaken her faith in corporate America or her chances at a rewarding career.

She’s always had a positive attitude. It helped her win a softball scholarship at Newman University.

She has had several jobs interviews and believes she will be back at work soon.

She even said she expects the layoff to be a good thing, shaking her out of her comfort zone and allowing her to spend more time with her children.

“I definitely don’t feel bitter,” she said. “Everything happens for a reason. I don’t know what the reason is.

“It helps that I have friends and family to support me. I guess I’m more nervous about what’s going to happen than bitter.”

— Dan Voorhis

ANITA MENDOZA

Anita Mendoza is a third-generation Wichita resident helping change the face of the neighborhood where she grew up.

She is president of the Nomar Community Development Corp., the group behind the Nomar International Marketplace on 21st Street between Broadway and Market. Set to open in May, the marketplace is intended as a place where cultures — Hispanic, Vietnamese, Middle Eastern — mingle.

The $750,000 project, funded by the city and a federal economic development initiative grant, will feature a plaza with food, entertainment and shopping.

Mendoza, whose family has been in Wichita for 100 years, is eager to see the area transformed.

She’s quick, though, to point out that the 11-member Nomar board worked together to make the plan a reality. The project the city approved in September was the 13th plan for the area since 1958.

“Lucky 13, right?” she said, smiling.

Trying to pinpoint why the marketplace is important for Wichita, Mendoza said, “Any time you revitalize an area, you bring prosperity to the neighborhood. And I think it gives that neighborhood a sense of ownership that it deserves.”

Abel Perez, president of the Wichita Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said Mendoza is a great voice for the marketplace. “She brings not only experience to the table but a willingness to work with the community,” he said. “I’m really excited that she’s going to take the lead on this.”

— Deb Gruver

JOHN ROBB

School funding has been rolled back to 2006 levels as the state struggles to fill ever-widening budget holes. Whether schools should be spared cuts dealt to other state departments is a matter of debate to some. To Newton attorney John Robb, it’s a constitutional issue. Robb is helping lead an effort by 74 school districts — including Wichita’s — to get the Supreme Court to reopen an earlier challenge that the state failed to adequately fund schools.

The motion, expected to be filed in January, asks the courts to review whether Kansas has been funding schools at the proper level and whether the recent cuts are constitutional, he said.

“We don’t think they fixed it, and we don’t think the current cuts are constitutional,” said Robb, who has worked on school funding legal issues since the 1980s.

A 1999 lawsuit by school districts resulted in a 2005 Kansas Supreme Court ruling that forced the Legislature to increase state spending on education by nearly $1æbillion over three years.

But over the past year, lawmakers and the governor have cut about $1 billion from a $6.2æbillion state budget. Money for schools eats up more than 50 percent of the state’s spending. The Kansas Department of Education estimates the total reductions in general state aid to districts at $241 million.

Robb puts it simply: The state constitution requires public education, and it must be paid for.

“He is a very capable and tough attorney,” said Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee. “So we’ll just have to see what happens in regards to the lawsuit.”

— Jeannine Koranda

LYNDA TYLER

Lynda Tyler can organize a beauty pageant, a protest rally or a balance sheet.

She paid for college with scholarships won from the Miss America organization.

She’s a licensed financial adviser, branch manager for LPL Financial in Wichita and president of the Arkansas Valley Association of Insurance & Financial Advisors.

She heads her own business, Impressions Inc., teaching poise and grace to young pageant contestants. At 45, she competes and often wins pageants in the Mrs. divisions.

And she’s considering running for Wichita City Council.

Active in Republican politics for years — she’s been an officer in two GOP Pachyderm clubs —Tyler recently emerged as a driving force in the “tea party” movement.

Inspired by the first tea party on tax day, April 15, Tyler formed Kansans for Liberty to keep momentum going. Her group has organized two major rallies since. She recently announced that Wichita’s first indoor tea party will be Feb. 20 at Century II.

She said she’s excited to see thousands of people take an active interest in government after years of apathy or feeling powerless, or both.

“We’ve been letting some people make the decisions on our behalf who may not have had our best interests at heart,” Tyler said.

The rallies she has organized have provided a nexus for opposition to taxes, national health care, business regulations and environmental rules.

“Lynda has taken these issues out to where folks can participate in a way where they feel like they’re starting to have a say in things,” said John Stevens, Wichita Pachyderm president.

— Dion Lefler

H. DAVID WILSON

It’s safe to say that H. David Wilson won’t have many idle moments in 2010.

Not that he’s had any since taking over in July as dean of the University of Kansas Medical School-Wichita.

The school is pursuing accreditation as a four-year medical school. It currently is two years.

Within the next few months the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the accrediting authority, will visit to determine whether the Wichita school meets requirements to be a four-year medical school.

“They will turn over every stone,” said Wilson, who previously served as dean of the University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences.

Having a four-year school will help address the doctor shortage in Kansas and the United States, he said. If all goes well, plans call for the school to reach four-year status by fall 2011.

Wilson also wants to take advantage of Wichita’s large medical population to increase clinical research. And he wants to establish a center for rural health in Wichita.

“They have one in Kansas City,” he said, “but Wichita is looking a lot more rural (because of its geographical location).”

Jon Rosell, executive director of the Medical Society of Sedgwick County, has been impressed by Wilson.

“He’s very approachable and very focused,” Rosell said. “He’s a relationship-builder. In order to move some of his initiatives, he’s going to need to work collaboratively with other people.

“He’s done a very nice job of getting that started.”

— Rick Plumlee

4TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT CANDIDATES

Welcome to the Kansas 4th Congressional District and the race to fill the spot left by Todd Tiahrt, who is running for U.S. Senate.

Democrats

*Raj Goyle — State representative cracked down on Fred Phelps’ funeral protests and got more money for Kansas’ unemployed. A record-setting fundraiser, he’s won as a blue dog Democrat in a firetruck-red district.

*Robert Tillman — Political newcomer, retired court services officer and Obama fan; has the coolest ride in the race — a midnight blue Plymouth Prowler with license 00 SOUL, a tribute to Tillman’s hero, James Bond.

Republicans

*Wink Hartman — Oilman, restaurateur and indoorfootball team owner; built a 6,500-seat arena for $19æmillion. Conservative with a green streak — lets hybrids park free at his arena. Works the crowd Fridays at his Jimmy’s Egg.

*Mike Pompeo — Republican national committeeman; West Point, Harvard Law grad; co-founded Thayer Aerospace, then got out of aviation and into oilfield services before the businessjet market crashed.

*Dick Kelsey — State senator and owner of drug-treatment centers; former pastor who says his faith defines him and is a pal of Mike Huckabee, Kansas Republicans’ favorite for president last year.

*Jean Schodorf — The state Senate’s point person on education, she’s the only woman and only moderate Republican in the running. Owns the real Little House on the Prairie with her brother, TV host and AT&T pitchman Bill Kurtis.

*Jim Anderson — Copy-shop owner and former airline pilot. Littleknown, but could be an X-factor. A tireless campaigner with a giant RV with his picture on it, his selfdescribed “constitutional conservative” stance resonates at tea parties.

— Dion Lefler

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