Wyandotte County is on a roll thanks largely to the capable leadership of former mayor Carol Marinovich and current mayor Joe Reardon.
Soon voters will need to select a new mayor who should continue the good work of the last 16 years, promote clean government and expand the economic development successes in western Wyandotte County into its more urban areas.
The Star recommends Mark Holland as the best-qualified candidate to take on those tasks. He deserves support in the Feb. 26 primary, in which two candidates will emerge for the April 2 general election.
Hollands campaign got a deserved boost earlier this month when Marinovich and Reardon endorsed him. Both mayors worked hard for eight years each to tamp down the naysaying, special-interest cronyism that still pokes its head up from time to time in county government. Both also tirelessly promoted Wyandotte County as a good place to do business, with the highlight being the Village West retail and entertainment development that features Kansas Speedway.
Holland brings six effective years as an at-large Unified Government commissioner to this race. One of his significant strengths is the ability to see the entire picture of what still ails the county and how its future could be improved.
Hollands breadth of knowledge stood out during The Star editorial boards recent interviews with all five mayoral candidates, which helped make him the obvious choice for the seat.
He can tick off the countys success stories, such as pending construction of new market-rate apartments and the recent opening or renovation of several grocery stores. Hes proud of General Motors recent decision to invest $600 million in its Fairfax plant, which could help spark new economic development nearby in Kansas City, Kan.
Holland has been a big supporter of efforts to improve the health of residents, especially in low-income neighborhoods. He was one of the few commissioners to support a strict smoking ban several years ago for the county.
Plus, Holland knows the value of regional cooperation. He is the right person to continue working with Kansas City Mayor Sly James and civic leaders on positive projects that benefit the area, such as the Google Fiber initiative.
But Holland also stands ready to tackle challenges facing the county. It has gained little in population over the last two decades. The deteriorating houses and public infrastructure such as sidewalks in the urban core must be addressed. And the countys sky-high property taxes are a bane to residents.
Fortunately, the next mayor could have some money to keep the pledge that most candidates are making of lower property taxes. Bonds used to develop amenities in western Wyandotte County could be paid off within four or so years, freeing up more than $10 million a year. Not all ought to go for lower taxes, though. As Holland recognizes, more money also needs to be used for road and sidewalk repairs in the countys eastern parts.
Holland, who is pastor of Trinity Community Church, is a confident public speaker and would be a strong cheerleader for the community.
Finally, Holland works well with County Administrator Dennis Hays, and seems most comfortable of all the candidates in retaining someone who has provided excellent staff leadership for the better part of two decades.
Hollands opponents are Nathan Barnes, Cordell Meeks III, Ann Murguia and Janice Witt.
Of these, Murguia stands out. She has a clear passion for neighborhood redevelopment featuring affordable housing and new curbs and sidewalks.
While Murguia can rub some people the wrong way, she has been an effective commissioner for the 3rd District.
However, Hollands service as an at-large representative has better prepared him for serving as the next mayor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County.
The Stars recommendations for three contested Feb. 26 primaries will appear on Mondays editorial page.