Tracey Mann (R-Salina), part of a crowded field vying for the “Big First” congressional seat, spent time touring the Fuller Industries during a campaign stop in Great Bend Thursday morning.
Mann spent about a half-hour touring the facility, along with Barton County Farm Bureau Association President Roger Long, under the guidance of Fuller Industries LLC CEO Mark Chalfant.
Mann said he decided to tour the facility because as a large employer in Barton County, he had heard good things about the plant and how it had adapted to meet changing needs within the COVID-19 crisis.
“It’s a success story,” Mann said. “(I wanted to) see the growth they’ve had this year.”
He said what Fuller has accomplished demonstrates some of his goals as a candidate for the first district seat.
“I’m a business guy,” he said. “I’m constantly thinking about how do we grow jobs here in the Big First.”
While there, Chalfant showed Mann both how Fuller is keeping in touch with its history as a brush manufacturer and how it has adapted to continue growing in the future. He told Mann the company had added 15 full-time jobs as well as 50-60 temporary positions, in part providing opportunities for local workers that had been displaced in the wake of the pandemic.
Of particular interest on the tour were ways the plant was adapting production to meet pressing needs in response to the pandemic. For example, the plant is in the process of adding equipment to be able to package hand sanitizer in larger sizes to meet increasing customer demand and address shortages, as well as adapting current production lines to produce different products such as respirators and masks.
Along with it, though, Chalfant also showcased the products and production lines that have been a foundation of the company’s history in Great Bend for many years, including brushes, brooms and cleaning products.
Mann was appointed to serve as the 50th Kansas lieutenant governor under Jeff Collyer from 2018-2019 after Sam Brownback’s resignation led to Collyer ascension to the governor’s position. Mann is one of four Republicans and two Democrats vying for the seat in one of the largest congressional districts in the country, encompassing 69 Kansas counties.
In the Republican primary, Mann faces Bill Clifford, Jerry Molstad and Michael Soetaert. Democratic primary candidates include Kali Barnett and Christy Davis. The primary election will be held Tuesday, Aug. 4.
The winners in each party’s primary will square off in the general election Tuesday, Nov. 3.
The 1st District seat is being vacated by Dr. Roger Marshall, who is one of several candidates running to fill Pat Roberts’ seat in the United States Senate.
Mann said he was motivated to run for the seat because he is alarmed by a trend he sees in Washington, D.C., moving away from what he sees as fundamental conservative Kansas, and American, values.
Mann describes himself as a “small town Kansas guy.” He is a fifth generation Kansan who was born and raised on his family farm near Quinter, where he was involved in athletics and FFA. He attended K-State where he studied Agricultural Economics and was elected Student Body president. After college, Mann started a career in commercial real estate, in which he is still currently employed.
Mann has served on the board of directors of many Kansas organizations including: Kansas Agriculture and Rural Leadership (KARL), Kansas Chamber of Commerce, and The City Teen Center in Salina.
He currently lives in Salina with his wife and four children.
He said these business and personal experiences, as well as his time as lieutenant governor, give him the perspective to help advocate for the needs of the vast, diverse 69-county district.
One of his primary goals as a representative, he said, would be to advocate for agriculture in Kansas, which he sees as crucial to the district’s economy. He feels the ag industry has been hurt by the economic shutdown, particularly through decreased commodity demand and low commodity prices. Advocating for opening up the economy would be a priority for him as the district’s representative.
He said growing the manufacturing segment through companies like Fuller in the first district is also crucial.
“How do we help other companies like Fuller, who’s been in the district for over 100 years, grow and thrive and prosper?” he said.