Ed Peterson, who has served on the Johnson County Commission for a decade, said Monday he will challenge incumbent chair Ed Eilert next year for the county’s top office.
“In recent years, we have been treading water, and it is time to put the recession in the rear-view mirror and move forward with the steps that will preserve our status as a county of choice for working and raising a family,” Peterson said in a statement.
He said the county may have to increase taxes to fund services that commissioners have trimmed in recent years.
Eilert, 73, shot back that raising taxes is the wrong way to go. He said he has maintained a “disciplined approach” as the county has emerged from the severe recession.
“That’s the approach we should continue to use,” he said. In a reference to Peterson, Eilert added, “There are some on the commission whose first choice is always a tax increase.”
Eilert, who was elected chair in 2010, said he would seek another term next year.
Peterson, 62, has been elected commission vice chair three times and is a former Fairway mayor. He described himself as a believer in the need to reach across the state line.
“During the past several years, county government stopped doing the things that made Johnson County a great place to live and work, choosing instead to settle for less,” Peterson said in a statement.
“We are beginning to see the results of this stand-pat approach: We only fund one-half the maintenance for roads that is needed just to keep up. We have hundreds of acres of parkland that county residents cannot enjoy because we have not developed it. Our popular library system has had to reduce hours. We retreated from a transit plan just as it produced an increase in ridership. We have fallen further behind in overcoming the waiting list of adults with disabilities who are eligible for supportive services.
“It is time for a new approach to leading the county. It is time to move forward.”
He said county leaders have been reluctant to “lead boldly.”
County leaders, he said, “need to step up and make appropriate investments in infrastructure, service and amenities to spur our community’s next wave of growth.”
If three or more candidates emerge, the county will hold a primary in August.