Right down to the wire, it looked as if Ed Eilert, a fixture in Johnson County politics since 1977, might coast into his third term unopposed as chairman of the Johnson County Commission.
But just before the noon deadline Friday, first-time candidate Trinette Waldrup of Olathe filed with the Johnson County Election Office to challenge Eilert for the commission chair post. The election will be in November.
Friday was the deadline to get on the ballot for four Johnson County commission seats and for Prairie Village mayor.
Eilert, 78, was first elected to the Johnson County Commission in 2007 and became commission chairman in 2011. He said he’s not ready to retire just yet. He particularly wants to preside as the county completes a new $193 million courthouse in Olathe and a huge revamped $335 million sewer plant in Leawood in the next three years.
“There are two or three major projects that have been approved by the county that I think need important continued oversight,” Eilert said Thursday.
He said he also wants to provide guidance as county residents cope with reappraisal increases and as the state Legislature debates property taxes and the appraisal process.
“I think there are things that can be done to provide some relief,” Eilert said, adding that he wants to continue to be part of that debate.
Eilert defeated Annabeth Surbaugh to become commission chairman in 2011 and was re-elected to that post after defeating Ed Peterson and Patricia Lightner in 2014. He first entered Johnson County politics as an Overland Park city councilman in 1977 and served as Overland Park mayor from 1981 to 2005.
In an email to The Star, Waldrup said she is a Kansas City native and has been a Johnson County resident since 2005.
"I have always wanted to get involved in Johnson County government. Now that I have raised a family, I have more time to participate," Waldrup wrote.
"I believe I can bring a new and inclusive style to Johnson County, and I feel we need more engagement, inclusiveness and transparency within our government. With much contemplation, prayer and encouragement from my family and friends, I believe my time has come to get involved."
Waldrup, 39, has a daughter in college and is a businesswoman. She is currently a network analyst with an Overland Park company. She has participated in Johnson County politics but this is the first elective office she's sought.
There will also be competitive races for the three other Johnson County commission seats. Because only two candidates filed for each of those seats, no primary is necessary in August and those races will all be decided in November.
Three candidates filed to run for Prairie Village mayor, so that contest will have a primary in August to narrow the field to two finalists.
Here’s how the other races are shaping up:
Incumbent first-term Commissioner Ron Shaffer, a former Prairie Village mayor, is being challenged by Becky Fast, a Roeland Park City Council member.
Jason Osterhaus, who is in his second term as a county commissioner, is being challenged by Janee Hanzlick, the former director of Johnson County’s SAFEHOME domestic violence prevention agency.
Michael Ashcraft, who is in his second term as commissioner, is opposed by LeEtta Felter, a businesswoman and member of the Olathe School Board.
In Prairie Village, Mayor Laura Wassmer has announced she is not seeking a second term, and three people are vying to replace her.
The candidates are city council members Serena Schermoly and Andrew Wang and former city councilman Eric Mikkelson.