Logan Heley and his supporters knocked on 5,000 doors and made thousands of phone calls to Overland Park’s voters ahead of his decisive election victory Tuesday over 14-year incumbent Dave Janson.
Gina Burke says she, too, spoke with many voters who were hungry for fresh ideas ahead of her long-shot victory over four-term incumbent Overland Park City Councilman Terry Goodman.
Corey Hunt pounded the pavement of Lenexa’s Ward 3 neighborhoods and found people eager to share their concerns about the city, which he saw as key to his win over eight-year incumbent City Councilman Lou Serrone.
“I respect Lou Serrone’s service,” Hunt said Wednesday as he considered Tuesday’s election results, in which newcomers upset several longtime council members in Overland Park, Lenexa, Merriam and Mission. “I am certainly riding a wave of national interest with incumbents right now...There’s a lot of interest in wanting to see a change.”
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Heley, 24, said grassroots campaigning and a desire for change were essential to his Ward 1 win. The 2011 Shawnee Mission East graduate did an internship in 2015 with the Obama White House and is now food- and fund-drive manager for Harvesters. He says a small army of volunteers helped him get elected.
“I don’t feel like northern Overland Park residents have been engaged by the people who were supposed to represent them,” he said. “We had the energy and enthusiasm to try to reach out to them and hear what’s on their mind.”
Heley said Overland Park is a great city and well run, but “every once in awhile you need people looking at things from a fresh perspective.”
Heley’s mother, Kay Heley, also won her race for a Johnson County Water District 1 board position, defeating longtime incumbent James Vader. Kay Heley, who has a 30-year career in public health nursing, touted that she will be the board’s only health care professional.
Overland Park’s Ward 4 race also featured an upset victory. Burke eked out a win over Goodman, 1,905 to 1,795 votes, in unofficial returns. Her race attracted media attention after she publicized on her campaign website and Facebook page a series of texts that Goodman had sent, urging her not to run and criticizing her lack of political experience and civic knowledge.
Burke, 34, said Wednesday that the media attention helped give her some name recognition, but she thought her victory was due to her campaign message, which challenged the status quo, especially on developer tax incentives.
“I really think having a different perspective, a fresh perspective for the city council and representing the younger families made a big difference,” she said.
Hunt also attributed his victory over Serrone, 900 votes to 704, to the fact that he “got out hard into the neighborhoods and talked to people face to face.”
Lenexa also saw newcomer Bill Nicks defeat recent city council appointee Stacy Knipp, 809 to 595. Nicks said he had no quibble with Knipp, but he brings decades of familiarity with Lenexa, including 29 years as the city’s parks director, to the city council seat.
In Merriam, Ward 4 Councilwoman Cheryl Moore lost to David Neal and in Mission’s Ward 4, newcomer Sollie Flora beat longtime incumbent Suzie Gibbs.
Grassroots efforts both this summer and on Tuesday also brought in new board members to the Shawnee Mission school board.
In January, a group of moms formed a political action committee to support school board candidates that would champion issues they felt current leaders weren’t prioritizing — particularly a need for more transparency regarding school matters.
Members of Education First Shawnee Mission said they were inspired to form the local group not just by the results of the national election, but the success of other grassroots organizations advocating for education issues, such as Stand Up Blue Valley.
Three first-time candidates endorsed by Education First Shawnee Mission — Heather Ousley, Mary Sinclair and Laura Guy — were overwhelmingly elected by voters on Tuesday.
“Our SMSD community is a better place because of the campaign process this year,” said board member Brad Stratton in an email. “For the first time in a long time, the issues affecting the district have had ample public debate and conversation and that makes us all more informed patrons of the school district.”