Yael T. Abouhalkah

Mayor Sly James says ‘yes’ to Jolie Justus, ‘no’ to Katheryn Shields

Jolie Justus spoke during Kansas City Mayor Sly James’ victory party at Union Station after their victories on June 23.
Jolie Justus spoke during Kansas City Mayor Sly James’ victory party at Union Station after their victories on June 23. JTOYOSHIBA@KCSTAR.COM

Mayor Sly James revealed his inner cabinet choices on Thursday, and the initial winners were Scott Wagner and Jolie Justus. Katheryn Shields, however, did not fare as well.

Two key points:

▪ James made a wise choice in naming Wagner, a returning City Council member, as the mayor pro tem. Wagner is a hard-working, even-tempered guy who does his research. He’ll be a good go-to person for James in his second term, which starts with the inauguration ceremony for the entire council on Saturday at the Gem Theater.

▪ The most intriguing part of James’ announcement showed that he holds Justus, a former state legislator and incoming council member, in high regard.

He named her as chairwoman of the new Airport Committee. It’s expected to make a recommendation of whether to build a new terminal at Kansas City International Airport, a key issue for the council.

James also named Justus as co-chair of the Legislative Committee along with council newcomer Kevin McManus, which makes sense given their service in Jefferson City.

But veteran politician Shields — a former two-term council member and 12-year Jackson County Executive — didn’t get named as the chairwoman of any of the 10 panels James put forward Thursday.

Shields did nab the title of “vice chair” of the Neighborhoods and Public Safety Committee, which will be led by newcomer Alissia Canady, and of the Youth Development Committee (led by James, by the way).

The snub of Shields answers the question of whether he was going to embrace her as one of his inner cabinet members. So far, the answer is no.

Shields ran a substantial campaign to unseat veteran council member Jim Glover, showing she’s still smart and feisty enough to wage successful political combat in Kansas City.

Over the next few months, we’ll see how well Shields uses her political skills to have an effect on the issues debated at City Hall — even if she’s not chairwoman of a powerful committee.

To reach editorial page columnist Yael T. Abouhalkah, call 816-234-4887 or send email to abouhalkah@kcstar.com. Twitter @YaelTAbouhalkah.

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