Voters in seven Johnson County cities have what’s come to be a rarity at election time: a choice for mayor.
Not since 2009 has there been anywhere near that many competitive mayoral races in a county where mayors and city council members run without party affiliation and tend to serve until they retire or move away.
That was one of the top takeaways for this year’s municipal elections as the Kansas filing deadline came and went June 1.
In Johnson County, six incumbent mayors have opponents, in De Soto, Edgerton, Gardner, Merriam, Overland Park and Roeland Park.
Roeland Park, with four candidates, is the only race that will appear on the Aug. 1 primary ballot. All the others are two-candidate races that will skip the primary and be decided in the general election on Nov. 7.
In Fairway, voters will pick between two longtime City Council members vying to replace the incumbent mayor, who is stepping aside.
In Mission Hills, current City Councilman David Dickey was the only person to register to succeed outgoing Mayor Richard Boeshaar, who is leaving because of term limits.
Voters also will decide nearly three dozen contested City Council races in the fall, but primary elections to narrow the fields are required in just seven races, including Gardner, Olathe, Overland Park, Roeland Park and Shawnee.
A list of many of the contested races in Johnson County follows:
Fairway’s Jerry Wiley, Mission’s Steve Schowengerdt and Roeland Park’s Joel Marquardt will not run for new terms.
In Fairway, current city council members Melanie Hepperly and Jim Poplinger will face off in November to succeed Wiley. In Roeland Park, Scott Gregory and Mike Kelly are running.
Dan Bailey will face off against JD Fair, a former council member in Ward 4, for a Ward 2 seat. Incumbent David Watkins is running unopposed in Ward 3, and incumbent Tanya Keys is unopposed in Ward 4.
Three city council races in Merriam will be contested in the fall. Incumbent Scott Diebold is running against Dennis Miles in Ward 1, incumbent Cheryl Moore faces Sam Matier in Ward 4 and incumbent Brian Knaff faces Patty Newkirk in Ward 2. Incumbent Christine Evans Hands is unopposed in Ward 3.
Three council races in Mission feature multiple candidates. Burton Taylor and Hillary Parker Thomas are running for a seat in Ward 1, incumbent Arcie Rothrock and Steve Betzold for a seat in Ward 2, and incumbent Suzanne Gibbs, Sollie Flora and Bill Nichols for a seat in Ward 4.
Roeland Park, in addition to electing a new mayor, will have several new council members next year. No incumbents up for reelection in November are running. Tom Madigan is running in Ward 1, Jen Hill and Leonard Tocco will face off in Ward 2, Jim Kelly is running in Ward 4. William Scott Foy, Linda Mau and Claudia McCormack are running for the open seat representing Ward 3. Mau also filed as a candidate for mayor. Election officials say that is permissible.
Seven candidates are competing for an at-large seat on the City Council: Shirley Baker Harley, Mark Baldwin, Michael Blanchard, Terrence J. Flowers, Randy Gregorcyk, Jonathan T. Pelkey and Scott Smith.
A four-person field is competing for the at-large council seat now held by Ron Ryckman, who did not file for re-election. His other political job is speaker of the Kansas House.
Troy Calkins, Deann Mitchell, Jason K. Darby and former Kansas Secretary of Labor Karin Brownlee have filed to run in that race. Brownlee was a state senator from 1997 to 2011, when she was appointed secretary of labor by Gov. Sam Brownback. She left that job in 2012 after an internal disagreement with his administration.
Vying to represent Olathe’s Ward 3 are incumbent Wes McCoy, Alan K. Marston Jr., Adam Thomas and Anthony G. Walsh.
In Ward 4, incumbent Marge Vogt, who was first elected in 1997, is facing Jason Daniels.
Three people have filed to run against incumbent Dave Janson in Ward 1, which includes the northern part of the city. The challengers are Logan Heley, Dean Mercer and Stephen Wyatt.
Primary races will happen in the western part of the city in Ward 3 and the southern part in Ward 4. Incumbent Jeff Vaught has two challengers for his Ward 3 spot: Justin Adrian and Dave Myres. In Ward 4, incumbent Brandon Kenig will face Lindsey Constance, Tony Noble and Ajay Sood.
Three candidates have filed for two at-large positions on the council, including incumbent Barbara K. Nelson, who has been on the council since 2009, Bill Bruning, who was appointed last month to fill the remaining term of former Councilman Dan Sullivan, and Charles Payne.
Of the six seats up for grabs on the Prairie Village City Council, five are already decided.
Current council members Jori Nelson (Ward 1), Sheila Myers (Ward 4) and Dan Runion (Ward 5) attracted no challengers while Ronald W. Nelson will succeed longtime Councilman Steve Noll in Ward 2 and Tucker Poling will replace first-time Councilman Eric Mikkelson in Ward 3. Neither Noll, who has been on the council since 1991, except for a three-and-a-half-year pause, nor Mikkelson filed for reelection.
The race for Ward 6 will require an election, however, as incumbent Terrence Gallagher, who is finishing his first term on the council, faces a challenge from Scott Kramer.
In Westwood, six candidates have registered to run for three at-large seats on the city council. Incumbents Lisa Cummins and Jason Hannaman will face Jeff Harris, Pam Merrigan, Thomas W. Scott and Jayme Tebow. Current council member Joe Whisler did not file for reelection.
Five of the eight city council seats are up for election in the city of Leawood, but there are no contests for them. Mary Larson filed for the Ward 2 seat previously occupied by Steven Kaster who vacated his position on the council this spring after moving to Dallas, Texas.
Incumbents of Ward 1, Debra Filla; Ward 3, Chuck Sipple and Lisa Harrison; and Ward 4, July Cain, all filed for reelection with no challengers. This will be the first November election for Leawood after the city postponed its scheduled April 2016 election. Leawood historically held elections in April of even years.
The city adjusted its codes in the fall of 2015 to match new state legislation requiring city elections to be held in November of odd years with officials taking office the following January.
Kansas City Star writer Mike Hendricks and freelance writers David Twiddy, Roxie Hammill, Andrew Nelson and Brittany Lane contributed to this report.