Another Parsons City Commission veteran candidate joined what has become a crowded race on Friday along with three others.
Jonna Gabbert, who finished in fifth place in 2017, filed as a candidate in the Nov. 5 election. She ran for election for the first time during the same year as Verlyn Bolinger, who filed for this year’s election on Tuesday.
Ryan Robertson, who has served on the Parsons Police Department and the Labette County Sheriff’s Office, also filed for the election Friday as did Taco Mayo manager Eric Strait and Sontana “Tana” Johnson.
The four most recent people to join the city race brought the number of candidates to 10, all of whom filed this week to beat the noon Monday deadline. Because there are more than three times as many candidates as there are positions to fill, the city will need to have a primary election on Aug. 6 to narrow the field down to nine.
The terms of Commissioners Kevin Cruse, Peter Cook and Bill Hogelin, who is serving as mayor this year, will expire in January. Cruse filed for re-election on Tuesday. Hogelin said he would only run if there weren’t enough candidates. Cook ruled out a re-election bid before resigning his position effective Saturday to take a new job that will require him to be gone much of the year.
Others in the race are Brady Magner, Leland Crooks, Jeffrey Stammer and Braden Lett.
Gabbert, a former Parsons Chamber of Commerce director, was unavailable for comment on Friday. When she ran in 2017, Gabbert said many people encouraged her, telling her it was time for a woman to serve on the commission. She also said in 2017 that she wanted to give back to the community that had given her so much and that she has a lot at stake, having children she is raising in Parsons.
Robertson, who now works full time at Ray Products Co. and is a part-time sheriff’s deputy, has attended many commission meetings over the last few years after taking an interest in local government. He said he had been toying with the idea of running for commissioner for a long time.
“I saw an opportunity and thought now would be a good time to give it a shot,” Robertson said.
Robertson said he agrees with a lot of polices and decisions the commission has made but also sees some things that need to change.
A need for change is exactly why Johnson decided to enter the race.
“I decided to run because I want to make a change. I want to make a change in the community on a lot of levels,” Johnson said.
Johnson, who is on disability, said now is the time to make a “real change.”
“I’m just ready,” she said.
Raising a child in town, Strait has a vested interest in the city and school system.
“I just feel like I should get a little more involved,” he said.
Strait, who has been general manager at Taco Mayo for 15 years, also said he can bring some business sense to the commission as well as a fresh perspective as a 34-year-old.
“I’m just running to bring a new perspective from a little bit younger generation,” Strait said.
Stammer was unavailable for comment on Thursday when the Sun contacted other candidates who filed on Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday Stammer, an information technology support technician for Tank Connection, said he had read in the Sun that with only 10 days left before the filing deadline no one had joined the race. He said he asked his wife, “Why not me?”
Stammer said he was born and raised in Parsons and has lived here for 30 of his 32 years. He plans to stay here.
“I know this town and its people. Parsons is a great small town, but it needs some new ideas, and I want to be a part of that,” Stammer said.
In addition to the Parsons City Commission race, there are seats up for grabs on all local school boards and city councils as well as the Labette Community College Board of Trustees, which gained two candidates Friday as incumbent Mike Howerter and newcomer Beatrice Fontelroy, both of Parsons, filed. They joined incumbents David Winchell and Montie Taylor and challenger Laurie Lewis, all of Parsons, on the ballot.
Fontelroy also filed for the Parsons USD 503 Board of Education race. All four of the incumbents, Michael Kastle, Louis “Lou” Martino, David Ray and Joan Thompson, have filed also.
Incumbent John Davis filed as a candidate for the Oswego City Council on Friday, joining incumbent Brandy Grassl and Justin McKee. Darren Tynan hasn’t filed for re-election.
Jason Zwahlen of Oswego filed Friday as a candidate for the Wildcat Extension District board, joining incumbents Jeff Bohnenblust and Janet Phillips.