Sedgwick County's 1st District will soon have its first new representative on the County Commission in 16 years.
The district, which covers the northeastern section of the county and part of downtown Wichita, has been represented by David Unruh since 2002. He's also been viewed as a calming voice on a commission that's had a year marred by verbal brawls between some of the other commissioners. There's also the impending investigation into the commission.
Two-term Wichita City council member Pete Meitzner said he understands the difficulty the commission faces but decided to run for the 1st District seat anyway. He says his years in business prepared him for dealing with turmoil. He gave an example from the 1990s when his telecommunications company purchased another company that was struggling.
"Our board said 'Pete, why don't you go run the company?'" Meitzner said. "I was like, 'holy …,' you know. But we turned that company around."
Meitnzer joined the City Council in 2011. In recent years, the council has moved toward more public-private partnerships. Meitzner said he learned how to make those work because of his days working out those partnerships from the private side.
Seeing how disconnected some communities were led Meitzner to his philosophy for how the City Council — and the County Commission — should treat businesses.
"We need to have more red carpet and less red tape," Metizner said.
Meitzner said he would use the area's economic power in Kansas to better advocate for the region's needs. He would also push the county to invest more in Wichita and other cities.
"Sedgwick County should be helping more," Meitnzer said during a recent campaign event. "They have this reluctance to be too involved in helping cities."
Renee Duxler is also running for the 1st District seat. According to Duxler, while the city's self-image has improved, leaders like Meitzner have failed to deal with the county's other concerns.
"We are again not addressing crime," Duxler said. "We are not addressing the economy in the way we should be. There's a lot of different things that are crippling us as a region."
Duxler is a local businesswoman and a board member of the Douglas Design District. She describes herself as a moderate Democrat who's also a fiscal conservative. For her, that means smarter investing in social infrastructure, like the libraries that have faced closure.
She said her 15 years as a social worker gave her an inside view of several of the programs the commission oversees, as well as the county itself.
"I'm probably the only commission candidate that's actually driven every square mile of the county several times over because of the work I did out in the community," Duxler said.
When it comes to addressing the dysfunction on the county commission, Duxler says it needs a diplomatic voice — the kind she's developed in her various roles in the community.
"And I'd like to kind of bring that voice of reason and that diplomacy to the commission so that we can get things done," Duxler said.
Election Day is on Nov. 6; early voting began earlier this week.
Stephan Bisaha, based at KMUW in Wichita, is an education reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio, KCUR and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. Follow him on Twitter @SteveBisaha. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.