By JIM MISUNAS
LARNED —After serving four years as First District Pawnee County commissioner, farmer John Haas lost his re-election bid to Gary Caplinger. Haas also works full-time farming 5,000 acres of no-till acreage.
Haas mailed a re-election flier to his voters, installed yard signs and campaigned door-to-door, but lost 537-419 in the November election. Haas will be honored for his service at a Chamber of Commerce coffee following a 9 a.m. Jan. 12 Pawnee County commission meeting.
“I worked hard to get re-elected, but when it got down to the election, I was surprised by the result,” Haas said. “I welcome Gary Caplinger to the commission and wish him all the success in the world.”
Haas was elected in the First District when Arliss Atteberry retired as Pawnee County commissioner. He worked with fellow commissioners Kathy Bowman and Donna Pelton. The First District is composed of Ward 1 and Ward 2 and Larned Township.
“Absolutely, without a question; it’s been worth it to serve Pawnee County,” Haas said. “It’s been a humbling experience to represent the city and county. I’ve done the job to the best of my ability. I was fortunate to serve four years. It’s been a high privilege and honor to serve Pawnee County.”
Haas said he did his part of a team.
“I served at a good time and there were projects that needed to be accomplished,” Haas said. “We had a wonderful team -- fellow commissioners Kathy Bowman and Donna Pelton, our county attorney John Settle and our county department supervisors.”
Haas came on board when the county approved measures that added a 6-mill levy and 1 percent sales tax targeted for healthcare that constructed a new Pawnee Valley Community Hospital and preserved local healthcare. A $18 million Pawnee Valley Community Hospital has progressed from 13 employees to more than 90 employees.
“Pawnee Valley Community Hospital is the most fabulous economic development projects Pawnee County has done,” Haas said. “I’m privileged to look back at the accomplishments and pretty proud of what we got done. The hospital is operating financially beyond our anticipation. The first bond issue will be paid off early.”
Haas said the mill levy increase and 1 cent sales tax helped the county equip the hospital with valuable and live-saving equipment. The county has also lowered the mill levy two of the past four years.
“Now, we could afford to equip a hospital,” Haas said. “It’s been an amazing transformation. We never anticipated what the hospital has accomplished. It’s been a humbling experience.”
Haas attended the construction committee meetings to keep the commission up-to-date on the hospital work.
“I was able to represent the commission and keep everyone advised on the construction progress,” Haas said. “It was a privilege to serve in that capacity.”
Haas serves on the Pawnee Valley Community Hospital corporate board, which oversees the hospital’s operations. Pawnee County owns the hospital’s buildings and equipment and has entered in a cooperative agreement with HaysMed, which supervises some operations of the hospital.
“Pawnee Valley Community Hospital wouldn’t be where we are without HaysMed,” Haas said. “The hospital hasn’t missed a beat with interim hospital administrator Shea Veach supervising the operation the past few months. It’s been a wonderful association with HaysMed.”
Other accomplishments include:
* The Larned Pawnee County Airport has redone a runway and apron.
* Pawnee County road and bridge has added equipment that has allowed the department to get jobs quicker and more efficiently.
* Camp Pawnee has added amenities and improvements, thanks to the Larned Pride Committee working with the Pawnee County commission. Camp Pawnee has been modernized with new electrical outlets and a roof, a walking track, a playground and basketball and volleyball facilities.
Haas said he’s done his best to represent Pawnee County.
“I’ve been a very visible person available to answer questions,” he said. “It’s been an enjoyable four years and we’ve accomplished a lot of goals. The thing I’ll miss the most is the relationships and friendships I’ve developed with various county officials and directors. I’ve been fortunate to be part of a great team. I’ve developed relationships with our local legislators, who have helped our county get reimbursed for local expenses from the state of Kansas.