Stephanie Meyer appointed to empty Shawnee seat

11/05/2013 5:06 PM

11/05/2013 5:06 PM

Stephanie Meyer will fill the Ward 3 spot on the Shawnee City Council vacated by Dawn Kuhn.

Meyer was appointed during a special session Monday night, then sworn in and seated at the regular council meeting a few minutes later.

Meyer, 32, handles lobbying and public relations for the Kansas Bioscience Authority. During questioning by the council, she said she is generally fiscally conservative, preferring to look into spending cuts before any tax increases. But she said she would remain open-minded about higher taxes if they seem unavoidable.

Five people applied for the open position: Meyer; former state representative Owen Donohoe; retired Army analyst Jeff King; business manager Jason Sheahan and community activist Tony Lauer.

The council spent about an hour and a half interviewing four of the five candidates for the open seat. Donohoe was absent. Later in the meeting, it was announced that Donohoe had been admitted to the hospital Monday afternoon for a pulmonary embolism.

There was no public comment allowed during the meeting. But some of the council’s questions reflected the pervasive belief among some in Shawnee that council vacancies are filled through private discussions among council members, rather than open debate.

Councilwoman Michelle Distler, for instance, asked each candidate whether he or she believed the council had already decided who would be appointed. Later, she displayed a mass email from an unidentified source Aug. 26 predicting the vote for Meyer.

Councilman Dan Pflumm asked the applicants whether they would prefer the position be filled by special election rather than the appointment process. Only Meyer expressed a preference for the appointment.

Prior to the meeting, Donohoe made an issue of Meyer’s job, saying it would be a conflict of interest for her to serve on a city council while lobbying. Meyer was asked about that Monday, but reassured the council that she would not be involved in trying to get favorable treatment for her employer in Shawnee.

The first candidate to be nominated was Lauer. Distler put his name forward, citing his regular attendance and input to the council on transparency issues, spending cuts and neighborhood improvement. Lauer was defeated by a 4-3 vote.

Then Councilman Jeff Vaught — the other Ward 3 representative — nominated Meyer, saying she most closely resembled Kuhn in her views on economic development and growth. She was voted in 4-3.

Meyer will hold the seat until she’s up for re-election in 2015. She told the council she would run again.

The council is allowed by state law to appoint a replacement when someone resigns before the end of his or her term. But the replacement process has drawn accusations of back-room dealing the last couple of times it happened.


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