Ron Braun is in his 15th year as mayor of North Newton, Kansas, a position he has held longer than his “day job” as vice president of philanthropy at Tabor College. Located in Central Kansas, North Newton is a community of some 2,000 residents neighboring the larger city of Newton. Braun and his wife, Dena, are long-time members of Koerner Heights Church in Newton. He took a few moments from preparing the weekly City Council agenda to reflect on his experience with local government in light of the political turmoil in the country.
Elections in these times tend to be full of conflict. Has that been your experience?
Initially, I was shoulder-tapped to consider running and had no ambition to be mayor. But I had a strong voter base among the people and won that 2007 election with 85 percent of the vote. I’m glad this is a nonpartisan position because politics can be vicious and tear us apart. As a follower of Jesus, I’m here to serve others not to win power. Through three elections since then I’ve not had an opponent.
To what do you attribute your continuing community support?
Part of the planning and preparation the mayor performs involves knowing the hearts and minds of the people and how to find consensus. In these 14 years there have been very few times when there hasn’t been consensus in the Council’s votes.
Has the unrest and polarization in the country affected the North Newton community?
Our Council’s agenda always includes a time for citizen comments. Often nobody comes to make a comment, but this last summer when the racial issues were at the front of everyone’s mind I’d have a roomful of people wanting to speak—calling for defunding the police or setting up an advisory commission.
What was your strategy as mayor in that situation?
I had to ensure that everyone had a voice. I wouldn’t cut the speakers off even if they went over the time limit. That’s the role of local government. We have to listen intently and build understanding. That’s how we help the community find a common solution to the problems we face, to protect everybody’s rights and freedoms.
How has the unrest over national elections looked from your point of view as a mayor?
Each time I’m elected and sworn into office I affirm that I will support the constitution of our country. That constitution starts with “We the People.” The violence at the U.S. Capitol in early January—people tearing at the foundation of our democracy—shook me to the core.