Parsons city commissioners tossed around some ideas but didn’t reveal any names while talking about who they may choose to fill the unexpired term of Peter Cook.
Although they stated in their June 3 meeting that they would like to fill the post quickly, the commissioners weren’t ready on Monday.
“Doing it fast is good. Doing it right is better, and we better do it right,” Commissioner Tom Shaw said.
A decision should come in the next regular meeting, which will be July 1. The commission plans to discuss the issue during a work session on June 27.
“And we will make that decision at the next regular meeting, one way or another,” Mayor Bill Hogelin said.
Cook resigned on June 1 after taking a new job that will require him to be out of town for much of the rest of the year. His term is set to expire in January following the Nov. 5 election. Besides Cook, Hogelin’s and Kevin Cruse’s terms will expire as well. Hogelin isn’t seeking re-election, but Cruse is.
When Commissioner Aaron Keith Stewart resigned in 2017, the commission appointed the candidate who took fourth place the year Stewart was elected — Dan Goddard.
The fourth-place finisher in 2017, when Cook was elected, was Verlyn Bolinger, who is running for election again this year. Most of the commissioners don’t want to appoint Bolinger to Cook’s term because they think it would give him an unfair advantage in November.
Shaw said he was worried in 2017 that the commission would set a precedent by appointing Goddard, and he favored appointing someone who hadn’t run in the previous election and who wasn’t a declared candidate for the next election.
“I was concerned about setting a precedent then, and I still feel that concern,” Shaw said.
Despite his concern, Shaw ultimately joined the other commissioners in voting to name Goddard to the vacant position.
Shaw said he had another candidate in mind then. This time, he also has a person in mind for the job, but he didn’t want to announce the person’s name yet. He said his potential nominee has attended about as many commission meetings as Shaw has over the last 16 years and also is an “honest to goodness hero.” David Larsen, a decorated Navy veteran who regularly attends commission meetings, fits that description. Larsen also is a member of the planning commission.
Ross Albertini, city attorney, wasn’t entirely sure that a planning commission member could serve concurrently as a city commissioner. After hearing interest from the commission in naming a planning commission member, he emailed the League of Kansas Municipalities attorney for guidance. On Monday, he said he hadn’t heard back yet, but he thinks that a planning commissioner would be a viable option.
Cruse said he has wrangled with the issue since learning about Cook’s resignation. He contacted two people to see if they were interested in filling the term. Neither were ready to commit, and one said he or she may move out town before the end of the year. Cruse also plans to talk to a couple of other people. He was ready to specify who he was talking about, but Hogelin said he didn’t think Monday was the right time to discuss names.
Cruse joins Shaw and Hogelin in not wanting to appoint Bolinger to the position because of the advantage it may give him in the election. Hogelin said the commissioners discussed at length in 2017 that they didn’t want to influence future commissions by naming Goddard to the board and made it clear that the decision wouldn’t set the process in stone for the future.
“Just because it works now, doesn’t mean it will work then,” Hogelin said in 2017.
Cruse, though, said on Monday that the commission “did in a way kind of set a precedent.”
Commissioner Jeff Perez said the commission can call it a precedent or not, but the fact remains that a good share of voters chose Bolinger.
“To me, that means something,” Perez said. “People did get out and vote for him, and I do have a hard time ignoring that fact.”
Hogelin said it is a shame the city can’t let the voters decide whom to appoint to the position, but a special election would cost the city thousands of dollars.
Hogelin said delaying the decision for another two weeks will allow residents to weigh in on the issue.