Political newcomers and seasoned veterans alike have lined up to be considered for the open First District seat on the Johnson County Commission.
The candidate list includes five people vying for a chance to replace Commissioner Ed Peterson, who is vacating his seat to run for commission chairman.
The list includes Prairie Village Mayor Ron Shaffer; former Mission Mayor Laura McConwell; insurance company executives Vincent Alex DiCarlo and Mark Nauser, and former state legal services worker Rachel Sciolaro, who has been active in the Republican party.
The top two vote-getters Aug. 5 will proceed to the general election on Nov. 4.
The first district includes the far northeastern corner of the county and a strip running down the state line to about 143rd Street. The job pays $47,349.
Candidates expressed a wide variety of reasons to be in the race. Sciolaro, 27, said there need to be more young people in leadership roles.
DiCarlo said he wanted to give something back to the community where he was raised.
Nauser, who is retiring from his job later this year, said he has the background and energy to bring some new ideas to the table.
McConwell said her experience as Mission mayor will help her make the most of county tax dollars while taking care of public amenities.
Shaffer, likewise, said he wants to find the most efficient ways to keep the county a successful while balancing the budget.
On the issues:
County budget: “My main point is that Johnson County is a great place and I don’t want that to go away,” said DiCarlo. He said he was troubled at a recent commission meeting about the amount of overtime pay that has been paid in the sheriff’s department and wondered whether the county has truly explored every option for reducing that before asking for more employees.
McConwell wants to make sure that county services for the poor and vulnerable remain intact and that spending on things like infrastructure is done right the first time so it won’t have to be revisited later. She also said the county transportation system should be supported because it will be an economic development tool to attract young millenials and older residents.
Nauser suggested the county explore more ways to get federal grants and other revenue before going for a mill levy increase. He also said he is concerned about getting more cooperation between the county and the state so the needs of the poor can be addressed.
Sciolaro also said the county should be cautious and transparent about a tax increase, but that it was too early to decide if one is necessary. She said she is committed to holding the line on taxes and fees, however.
And Shaffer called the state’s ending of the mortgage registration fee, which has been blamed for a levy increase, an “unfunded mandate.” The county should explore all other options before adding to the tax burden, he said.
The former King Louie building: Shaffer said he wants the county to move forward, now that it has bought and begun to fix up the former King Louie Bowling Alley on Metcalf Avenue. Plans for the building stalled last year when commissioners couldn’t agree on whether to proceed with the remodeling project needed to move in various county offices. Shaffer would like to see the county museum move into that space, since it has mold problems at its current location in Shawnee.
McConwell said the plan to put several county services in the building makes sense, since it is on the Metcalf corridor and is one of the few large parcels of land in the northeast part of the county available and easily purchased. It would also save the money the county pays to lease space for the Enterprise Center, she said.
DiCarlo, Nauser and Sciolaro said they would need to study the issue more fully before offering specific proposals for the King Louie.
Courthouse: Proponents of a new courthouse have said a solution is needed for the poor physical condition of the building and a growing caseload in a building with limited space.
McConwell, a lawyer, said something definitely needs to be done about the courthouse, but commissioners will have to evaluate the cost of building a new one against the ongoing costs of repairs.
Shaffer, an architect, said he hates to see too much money thrown at constant repairs. “It gets to the point where it doesn’t become as feasible to repair and renovate as it is to build a new one,” he said.
DiCarlo said he’s open to the idea because the county may be paying exorbitant utilities on the aging structure.
Sciolaro said she’d need to weigh the costs of each option.
Nauser said he needs more time to study it before forming an opinion.
V. ALEX DICARLO
Education: Bachelor’s in economics, University of Kansas, 2008
Occupation: Managing partner, American Assurance Guarantee
Elected experience: None
Education: Bachelor’s in organizational behavior and management, Brown University, 1985; law degree, University of Missouri-Kansas City, 1989.
Elected experience: Mission mayor, 2002-2014; Mission City Council, 2000-2002
Education: Bachelor’s in business administration and accounting, University of Notre Dame, 1974
Occupation: Board chairman Cretcher Heartland, LLC, a multi-line insurance broker and risk manager
Elected experience: none
Education: Bachelor’s in political science, University of Central Missouri, 2012
Occupation: Administrative assistant in the administrative division of Legal Services of the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office, 2012-2013, formerly office coordinator, at a surgical practice in Kansas City, Kan.
Elected experience: None
Education: Bachelor’s in architecture, Kansas State University, 1970
Occupation: owner, RLS Architects
Elected experience: Mayor of Prairie Village, 1999-present; Prairie Village City Council, 1989-99