Mark Holland, mayor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., touted economic growth and progress on other fronts Tuesday in his annual “state of the government” address.
Holland has earned bragging rights. He is continuing the emphasis on good government set by his immediate predecessors, mayors Joe Reardon and Carol Marinovich.
Holland took the lead a year ago in asking the U.S. Department of Justice to help the county boost the numbers of minorities in its public safety forces.
He has enlisted foundation and corporate support for work on a “healthy campus,” which will be anchored by a community center owned by the city but managed by the YMCA. Half of the estimated $14 million price tag is in hand. A project manager will be hired this year, funded by private donations, Holland announced.
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Those steps signal forward motion for a county that historically has been the region’s poorest but which currently is landing jobs, many of them high-paying, at an impressive pace. The county has seen $1.26 billion of economic investment in the first two years of his administration, Holland said.
But progress in Wyandotte County is always fragile. And insiders who listened to Holland’s upbeat speech understood that his job could become much more difficult if elections in the coming months go the wrong way.
Five of the 10 seats on the Unified Government Board of Commissioners come open this spring, although incumbents are running unopposed for three of those. Voters will select candidates for the remaining two seats in a primary on Tuesday and a general election April 7.
The commission is marked by grudges and conflicting agendas. Support for Holland and his plans is precarious. So it is essential that voters choose carefully.
▪ The most hotly contested race is for the at-large District 1 seat, which Holland occupied before he was elected mayor in 2013. It has remained vacant because commissioners have deadlocked on a replacement.
Seven candidates have filed for the seat. The best fit would be Melissa Bynum, who has a long record of supporting progress in Wyandotte County. Currently the director of community relations for Wyandotte Inc., Bynum has also worked for the Wyandotte chapter of the American Red Cross and been editor and publisher of the Wyandotte West newspaper. She would work well with Holland and his team.
The second best choice appears to be LaVert Murray, the former Unified Government development director. He understands the county and the way its government functions and would bring a reasonable approach to the commission.
▪ A second primary is for the District 4 seat. Incumbent Tarence Maddox has been a disaster in his first term. He was involved in two high-profile outbursts, including one at Legoland, and accused by a special auditor of a long list of ethical violations, including demanding special treatment as an elected official.
Voters should replace Maddox with Harold Johnson, a pastor and former banker with an impeccable reputation and a history of investing in the urban core.
Scott Murray, a former city planner and neighborhood association president, would also be an improvement over Maddox.
▪ Wyandotte voters on Tuesday also will narrow a field of four candidates for a seat on the Board of Public Utilities.
Chris McCord, a property appraiser, would bring an essential business perspective to the board. Norman Scott, a retired union official, appears to have a fire for demanding better customer service and efficiencies out of the public utility.