County commission contenders clash over development viewpoints
Two 2nd District Douglas County Commission candidates Thursday night sought to convince voters they were the best choice to lead the county during challenging economic times.
Democrat Nancy Thellman said the county, city and Chamber of Commerce should not forget the economic potential of its agricultural industry during an economic downturn.
“Our agricultural resources in this county are rich,” said Thellman, a Presbyterian minister who lives in rural Lawrence.
Her opponent, Republican David L. Brown, said the county must work on a more comprehensive economic development package to attract all kinds of jobs, including making the area more appealing to small businesses.
“A lot of our kids are having to go other places to work and then return to here,” said Brown, a retired Douglas County Sheriff’s officer and a farmer and rancher who lives north of Baldwin City.
The candidates are seeking to replace Republican Bob Johnson on the commission in the district that includes southeastern Lawrence, North Lawrence, Eudora, Baldwin City and most of eastern Douglas County.
They addressed several other issues during a Voter Education Coalition forum at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds. Brown said he “wholeheartedly” supported the 32nd Street route for completing the South Lawrence Trafficway especially because of the mitigation plan for the Baker Wetlands.
Thellman said state budget decisions and likely litigation filed by opponents will have a bigger role than the county commission, but she had cost and safety concerns about the 32nd Street route because of the mixing of heavy truck and residential traffic.
Thellman said the former Farmland Industries site along Kansas Highway 10 would be the best industrial development site in the county if it could be cleaned up properly.
Expanding the number of industrial sites to offer, including along Interstate 70 and U.S. Highway 56 in southern Douglas County, also needs to be explored, Brown said.