Election is drawing luke-warm interest
Baldwin City and area residents haven't exactly beaten a path to the Douglas County Clerk's office to file for the upcoming city council and school board elections.
So far, only three candidates have officially declared their intentions -- two of them for the mayor's position and one for school board. Incumbent mayor Ken Hayes has filed for re-election and Gary Walbridge has also filed for the seat. There are two other openings on the council, technically, but a third will also be up for grabs. Doug Mays is the lone candidate to file so far for four school board openings.
The other position that's been freed up on the council is the one held by Tony Brown. He was appointed to fill the four-year term that Todd Cohen had won in the last election. Cohen resigned last spring when he moved to Lawrence. Brown was appointed to the opening and could have fulfilled that term, but instead chose to let the voters decide.
"I chose to run for council because I think the citizens of Baldwin City should be able to vote on how I'm doing so far," said Brown, adding that he hadn't filed yet, but will. "If a majority believes I am not representing their interests, then it's time for me to get off the council. On the other hand, if a majority of citizens give me a vote of confidence, then I will be happy to complete my term."
The other openings on the council are seats currently held by Ken Wagner and Amy Cleavinger. Wagner has said he won't run for re-election and Cleavinger has given that indication as well.
The Baldwin School Board will be without one of its long-time participants. Board president Ed Schulte announced at Monday night's meeting that he won't seek re-election. Schulte is the executive director of a new home health agency called Care Givers. The agency is based in Topeka, but will also serve Douglas County. He said he has enjoyed the school board and will miss the people.
"It's been enjoyable and it's been rewarding," Schulte said. "It's been a pleasure working with a professional staff that are all dedicated people. I will miss the people and it's been a good experience."
Another current member of the board, Ande Parks, said he will file for election, but hasn't yet. He was appointed last spring to serve the remainder of Stacy Cohen's position after she resigned and moved to Lawrence with her husband, Todd.
"I will be running to keep the seat I was appointed to last year," said Parks. "Being on the board has been very rewarding for me, and I'm looking forward to dedicating myself to a full term of service to Baldwin's students."
Besides Schulte and Parks, other openings on the board are the seats currently held by Lonnie Broers and Chip Hornberger. No indications have been made there on whether they'll run again.
As for the mayor's race, Hayes has served for the last four years. Walbridge, also a native of Baldwin, served on the council in the late '80s and through the '90s. There's also the possibility of a third candidate filing, but that decision hasn't been made yet.
Hayes wants to stay the course with what's been accomplished during his tenure.
"My reason for running is we have a lot of initiatives under way and I'd like to see those to fruition," said Hayes. "Those include downtown revitalization, infrastructure upgrades, a long-term plan for the city and others."
Hayes also said he hadn't accomplished all he wanted to in the four year term.
"That answer would be yes and no," he said. "The utility infrastructure problems were at a much greater depth than what I imagined before taking office and consumed a lot more time than expected. But, I'm proud of my record for what has been accomplished in the last four years."
Walbridge was on the council from 1989 through 1997, which included a stint as council president. With that council experience, he thought he'd try something different this time around.
"I was on the council for eight years, gave it an eight-year hiatus and thought I'd give it another try," said Walbridge. "I've been wanting to get back on for some time. My wife and I talked about it and we decided now was the right time.
"I just thought I'd give the mayor's position a try because I haven't done that," he said.
Walbridge ran for a council seat in the 2001 election initially, but withdrew his name as a result of increased work commitments. He doesn't have problems with how the city has run since he got off the council and sees three items as the key issues.
"I think the issues, as always, are infrastructure, cost of city services and controlled growth," he said.
Candidates have until noon Jan. 25 to file for election at the Douglas County Clerk's office. The general election is slated for April 5. If there are enough candidates to warrant a primary, it would be March 1.