Mike Sanders has never faced a formidable challenge in his two successful races for Jackson County executive, and 2014 is no exception, despite some missteps in last year’s property tax reassessment effort.
As in 2006 and 2010, when he won with more than two-thirds of the vote, Sanders seems headed for another landslide as he seeks a third term against two challengers.
One of those candidates, a relatively unknown Republican named Brice Stewart, has led a spirited, low-budget campaign and says he’s “in it to win it.”
Whereas perennial candidate Richard Tolbert, running as a Libertarian, has spent little to promote his candidacy.
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Sanders, a Democrat in a county with a majority of Democratic voters, believes he has been a good steward of the taxpayers’ money during his eight years.
“My administration has successfully reduced the budget, lowered taxes and improved service levels, all while presenting a balanced budget every year,” he said. “We also drafted and passed Jackson County’s first-ever comprehensive code of ethics. Finally, we have heavily invested in Jackson County’s critical infrastructure by updating our vitally important 911 radio system and completed renovations to the historic Truman Courthouse.”
Sanders took heat from taxpayers over errors in their 2013 assessment notices, but he went on to fix the mess and found someone new to run the assessor’s office. It has not become much of an issue in what’s been a subdued campaign.
Stewart, a county employee and part-time Ferrelview police captain, is a newcomer to county politics. As of Oct. 4, he’d raised $9,600 (compared to Sanders’ $765,000) for his campaign, almost all of it his own money or cash advanced from an American Express card.
Stewart says he would be more of a hands-on manager than Sanders, who delegates day-to-day administration of county affairs to a paid staff.
Stewart says Sanders spends too much on administrative salaries and wastes money in other ways. Two examples he cites: rebranding the county parks department and last year’s purchase of a building to become the new home for the sheriff’s department only to learn the structure had black mold behind the drywall.
But Sanders’ aides counter that the top-paid employee in the county executive’s office, Chief Operating Officer Shelley Temple-Kneuvean, makes $144,747 a year. Which is less, they say, than comparable management positions in Kansas City, Johnson County, Independence and several other local governments in the area.
Sanders’ annual pay is $120,494.
His aides said the brand revamp at the parks department was long overdue and that, even with the mold problem, the sheriff’s building project is coming in under budget.
Tolbert, meanwhile, is generally supportive of the job Sanders has been doing, calling him “a bright young man” doing “a good job.”
His main reason for running, he said, is to make the point that county government should be eliminated entirely. Its duties, he said, should be divvied up among the county’s 19 municipalities.
“We don’t need two layers of local government,” he said.
To reach Mike Hendricks, call 816-234-4738, or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Address: 17808 Cliff Drive, Independence
Education: Bachelor of arts, the University of Missouri-Kansas City; law degree, Ohio State University
Previous public service: Jackson County executive since 2007; Jackson County prosecutor, 2002-2007
Address: 600 N. Powahatan Drive, Independence
Occupation: Network support technician at Jackson County; Ferrelview police captain
Education: Bachelor’s in criminal justice, Colorado Technical University; associate degree in network administration, Sanford-Brown
Previous public service: Former member of the Ferrelview Board of Trustees.
Address: 3421 E. 62nd St., Kansas City
Education: Bachelor of arts and master’s degree in sociology, Yale University
Previous public service: Currently a trustee at Metropolitan Community Colleges and previously served three years on the Kansas City Council