MARY SANCHEZ

Commissioner opening shows vibrancy of Wyandotte politics

Updated: 2013-05-20T04:39:56Z

By MARY SANCHEZ

The Kansas City Star

The Dot has never let us down for interesting political stories.

Behold the plethora of names that stepped forward to replace new Mayor Mark Holland on the Unified Government’s Board of Commissioners.

A field of 17 people had filed by Friday’s 5 p.m. deadline. So many candidates vying for one position is unheard of in local politics.

Too bad these folks won’t be campaigning in the traditional sense, putting their views out to voters in forums and debates. To become a candidate, they merely agreed to a criminal background check, submitted a one-page resume and listed previous election experience.

No formal campaign is necessary, with the costs, the scrutiny, the time away from home and work.

Still, in an era when so few people even bother to vote, it’s a plus for Wyandotte County that so many are willing to engage politically. They are vying to fill Holland’s 1st District, at-large seat. Holland had served as a commissioner since 2007.

The selection process will be akin to political speed dating.

Candidates will be interviewed at a 4 p.m. May 30 special session of the commission. The public can attend, but not comment. Each candidate will get five minutes to make a pitch, followed by 10 minutes of question and answer.

It will be a green-room setup, one candidate appearing at time. The others will be sequestered in a separate room. No cellphone access or other technology, so moles can’t tip candidates to what is being asked.

Commissioners will select two finalists. After another round of Q and A, whoever gets six or more votes wins. In the case of a 5-4 split, the mayor casts a vote.

Being a commissioner is not a glamorous role. Meetings can drone on. The minutia of government can equal a lot of phone calls from residents both chatty with the trivial and angry about headier issues like development and taxes.

These folks know the drill. Many of the names are familiar in Wyandotte County, including former commissioners and people active civically and politically: the Rev. Jimmie L. Banks, Nathaniel Barnes, David Block, Donald E. Budd Jr., Melissa A. Bynum, Jarvis L. Collier, Mark S. Gilstrap, Christina D. Grey, Pamela J. Penn-Hicks, Harold Johnson Jr., Veronica I. Knight, Kelly Kultala, Robert L. Mathews, Robert L. Milan Jr., LaVert A. Murray, Joseph P. Ward and Janice Witt.

To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to msanchez@kcstar.com.

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