Joe Reardon began to question whether he’d seek a third term as mayor and chief executive of Wyandotte County over the Christmas holiday.
He talked to his family. And he took a hard look at the father he wanted to be to his two sons, ages 12 and 9.
“Another term would mean that Jack (the 12-year-old) is almost ready to go to college,” Reardon said in the mayor’s office Wednesday shortly after announcing his decision not to run again this spring. “It goes by too quickly.”
Reardon, 44, weighed something else. His father, Jack Reardon, the former three-term mayor of Kansas City, Kan., died at age 45.
“I’ve grown up in a political family,” Joe Reardon said. “I know what it’s like.”
Reardon’s announcement, issued in an upbeat, five-paragraph statement to friends and supporters, stunned Wyandotte County political circles. Many officials had expected Reardon to seek another term and win handily.
“I assumed he was going to run again,” said former state Sen. Chris Steineger of Kansas City, Kan.
Wrote Reardon: “It was not an easy decision. I have enjoyed serving the last eight years.”
Candidates to succeed him are going to have to move fast. The primary election is Feb. 26, and the general election is April 2. But the filing deadline is less than two weeks off — Jan. 22.
Lack of interest probably won’t be an issue. Within hours of Reardon’s announcement, names of possible successors began to emerge. Among them are three current members of the Unified Board of Commissioners: Ann Murguia and Mark Holland were mentioned along with Nathan Barnes, who has already filed.
But other names were circulating, too: state Sen. David Haley, who’s run for mayor unsuccessfully twice before; Chris Steineger, who switched from the Democratic to the Republican party in 2010; and Hal Walker, now a candidate for the board of commissioners. Other candidates might also surface.
Reardon declined to disclose his future plans, though he suggested that he’s not stepping off the plank without a future job lined up.
“I’m not prepared to make an announcement,” he said.
Reardon appears to be headed out on a high note, given the county’s robust economic growth and Google Inc.’s selection of Kansas City, Kan., for the company’s ambitious Google Fiber project following a nationwide search to launch its lightning-speed Internet service.
Other major achievements: the luring of Cerner Corp. and 4,000 jobs to the West Village area by Kansas Speedway, construction of Sporting KC’s soccer home and the retention of the General Motors Fairfax plant.
One big loss was the move of the federal Environmental Protection Agency office downtown to Lenexa.
Reardon was named the 2012 Mayor of the Year by the Kansas Mayors Association.
Even those who backed others for mayor eight years ago said Wednesday they were pleased with his tenure.
“I think Mayor Reardon did a really good job,” said Reardon’s predecessor, Carol Marinovich. She backed Rick Rehorn, Reardon’s general election opponent, in 2005. “He continued the growth out west to provide the tax base so that we can continue to work on the development of the urban core. He did exactly that, and I’m very happy with that.”
Haley, who ran in the primary against Reardon, said he, too, was impressed.
“I had no idea how productive and progressive a two-term Reardon administration could be,” he said.
Reardon’s mayoral counterpart, Sly James of Kansas City, cited the cooperative relationship the two enjoyed.
“I am fortunate to call him my friend and Kansas City, Mo., has been fortunate to have him as a partner,” James said in an email. “Joe is as good as they come, and his leadership has been the catalyst for many positive developments that have increased the quality of life of his constituents.”
In the interview, Reardon cited new federal jobs numbers that ranked Wyandotte County as 27th in the nation in the percentage of new jobs created since last year. That, Reardon said, is higher than any county in the region, although federal statistics also show that many of the jobs are low-paying.
Businesses are sprouting up around the University of Kansas Medical Center campus in the southeast part of the county. A new grocery store — the first new grocery anywhere in the county in decades — popped up at Interstate 70 and 18th Street. State Avenue in the heart of the city has a new transit center. The Hollywood Casino, which opened near Kansas Speedway in February, netted millions in gambling revenue.
The successes of the western part of the county have started spilling over to the poorer eastern parts of the county, he said.
“These issues have been around for decades,” Reardon said. “What’s different today is that we have the resources and the momentum to strategically get after them.”