David Alvey has two explanations for how he won the race over incumbent Mark Holland for mayor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kan.
The first centers on his own profile.
“This is what I hope, and this is what I believe going into this: I have developed a good reputation,” Alvey said. “For those who know me who pay attention at the (Board of Public Utilities) and my work at BPU, I’ve earned the respect of people.”
The other explanation points toward Holland.
“There were certainly those who were dissatisfied with Mayor Holland,” Alvey said. “I don’t want to use this language, but he has an arrogance that runs people off. I experienced that with the BPU board and some of the issues that people faced.”
Alvey’s victory over Holland is the first time an incumbent mayor in KCK lost a re-election bid since Jack Reardon lost to Joseph Steineger in 1987. Holland’s loss on Tuesday, like Reardon’s defeat in 1987, came as something of a surprise, although momentum seemed headed Alvey’s way in the last month of the general election as Alvey elevated his criticisms of Holland’s record.
For Holland, long-running disputes with public service employees, particularly the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department and the Kansas City, Kan., Fire Department, contributed to his undoing. Holland had sought to examine the UG’s spending on police and fire protection, which amount to 60 percent of the UG budget.
But politicians scrutinize public safety unions at considerable peril.
Those employees turned into an energized base in Alvey’s favor.
The Alvey name also has cachet in Wyandotte County; relatives of Alvey have served as judges and other elected officials in KCK history.
Beyond public employees, Alvey said he sensed fatigue in disadvantaged communities in KCK, particularly northeast KCK, that watched new projects come to the western edge of the city and little come to their neighborhoods.
“I’m someone who likes to cook and when I was knocking door-to-door in the northeast, if I needed an onion where would I get an onion?” Alvey said. “I would have to drive out to 18th and I-70 (Sun Fresh) or 55th and Leavenworth (Happy Foods).
“There’s a desire for the people in the northeast for some real dynamic development,” Alvey continued. “They’re very impatient for it. They’ve waited for a long time and they’ve seen disinvestment, not reinvestment.”
During his concession speech at Tapatio’s on Tuesday night, Holland said that voter turnout was soft, which hurt his chances. Holland performed well on advanced ballots, but election day turnout flipped against him.
“I think there’s a lot of folks in the community who are excited about the way things are going,” Holland said. but there’s clearly a group that’s unhappy, and their voice was heard tonight.”
Carol Marinovich, a former UG mayor who supported Holland, said she didn’t think Alvey’s victory signaled any substantial shift in voter sentiments about the direction of KCK.
“One of my real disappointments is on voter turnout,” Marinovich said.
Alvey now embarks on articulating his vision for the direction of KCK.
He signaled that he would take a more skeptical view of development incentives, which has fueled much of the development in western KCK.
“At what point do we trust that development to have its own dynamics and generate economic development with less extensive incentives?” Alvey said. “Can there be a cap? Can there be a minimum amount of revenue being generated immediately?”
He also said he wanted to figure out how to retain residents in KCK, particularly among immigrants who move to the city.
“I think the real question is are we going to retain the second and third gennerations?” Alvey said. “We can’t keep having immigrants come because the housing is affordable but then have their children and grandchildren move out of the county. That’s the dynamic that’s been playing out for way too long.”
Alvey is an administrator at Rockhurst High School. He said his professional experience has helped him identify good bureaucratic process.
“I’m looking forward to this,” Alvey said. “I’m clear with people: I’m not a miracle worker, but I do know good process and I insist on good process.”