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Pod Cast Listings

Joe Reinecker Interviews Shari Coatney About “People Matter”

Interview by Joe Reinecker

Transcription by Andy Rausch

On this week’s edition of “Resource Central,” Joe Reinecker talks to SKIL President/CEO Shari Coatney about SKIL’s new motto, “People Matter.” Because the phone connection was poor, the interview is being posted here in transcribed form rather than with audio.

JOE REINECKER: Welcome to today’s edition of “Resource Central.” Today’s guest is President and CEO of SKIL, Shari Coatney. Shari, welcome to “Resource Central.”

SHARI COATNEY:  Thank you. I am so happy to be here.

JOE REINECKER: We’re happy to have you here. I hear that SKIL has a new motto. Could you talk about that?

SHARI COATNEY: I’ve been very frustrated with the way things are going in our state. Recently we had one of our board members, who was also a legislator for many, many years, pass away. The timing of those two things made me start feeling this passion—“people matter.” Bob Grant was one of our heroes in Southeast Kansas because he never forgot that he represented the people. He sat on our board after he left legislation because he still really cared about people. It was a place where he could take his passion and ensure that people were getting what they needed, and he could keep an eye on the way that the legislation in the state of Kansas was affecting people. The working class people and poor people… people who had needs for services. This motto, “people matter,” kind of came about at a board meeting after Bob’s passing when we decided we were going to do a memorial fund.  But I think a lot of people have forgotten that, that people matter.

JOE REINECKER: I don’t know if I should ask this question, but I’m going to do it anyway. Do you feel that disabled people are being forgotten by the governor’s budget cuts?

SHARI COATNEY: I think that people are just not the priority right now. I think the budget cuts and the tax reductions and the insanity of the shortfalls of budget…their thinking on how to fix that is to take it away from people. It’s not just people with disabilities—it’s people in general. People with disabilities fall into every class, so they’re taking it off the backs of the poor, they’re taking it off the backs of children, they’re taking it off the backs of senior citizens—just anything that has to do with human services.

JOE REINECKER: I said I’d never do this show with a politician, but it would be nice to know what the governor’s thinking.

SHARI COATNEY: I think he’s just thinking about cutting taxes and cutting expenditures. I think he looks at people as tax-takers . When you’re talking about kids and the elderly and people with disabilities, generally you’re not talking about the people he’s talking about. He thinks about big business owners. He thinks that’s what makes the economy work. And I don’t think it’s just him; I think it’s more than just the governor. I think the entire legislative body just don’t have enough reminders that people matter. The people on waiver services matter, the people on food stamps matter, people who need medical assistance matter, the elderly matter—people frickin’ matter. I think we’ve listened to the rhetoric long enough that we as people start to forget what pays for our schools and what pays for our social services…even our highways. It’s tax dollars. We have to have tax revenue in order to have programs, and it’s our responsibility on every level I can think of to make sure we’re taking care of the people within our state.

JOE REINECKER: How long have you worked with SKIL?

SHARI COATNEY: I’ve been there twenty-two years.

JOE REINECKER: How long have you been the president and CEO?

SHARI COATNEY: That whole time.

JOE REINECKER: What gets the president and CEO of SKIL fired up in the morning?

SHARI COATNEY: Knowing that I make a difference in people’s lives by providing the services we provide.  Also, I get fired up when I see that someone else is not taking care of someone’s needs. We’ve all got to do our part. I think that’s where the “people matter” mantra comes in. We all have a responsibility—every single one of us. People need to figure out that if the government isn’t going to do what they need to do, then it’s up to us. You’ve got to get out and vote. You can change the mindset of those people by not voting or promoting for them. If they know you’re vote is at stake, then they’re going to care a whole lot more about what you think. Also, I think we’ve all got to reach into our pockets, as well. I don’t care if you can only give fifty cents or five bucks. I don’t care who you give it to. It can be SKIL, it can be your  local church, it can be the school system. Give it to a teacher to buy extra pencils for students. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we have a responsibility and we’ve got to remember to take our responsibilities seriously, whether it’s helping our elderly neighbor or volunteering at a local non-profit. Donate to your local food bank. We’ve all got to give more.