Daily Archives: Jan. 13, 2009

New majority for county commission

For years, it’s been the Sedgwick County commission’s tradition to “promote” the board’s vice chairman to chairman.

It’s not looking likely that that will happen Wednesday when the board chooses a new leader for the year.

Former chairman Tom Winters lost his seat on the board to new commissioner Karl Peterjohn, a Republican. Tim Norton, a Democrat, has served as vice chairman the past year.

An effort is under way to make Republican Kelly Parks the new chairman.

“I can’t say for sure who’s going to be elected tomorrow, but the way things look, we believe it’s going to be Kelly Parks for chair and me for vice chair,” commissioner Gwen Welshimer, a Democrat, said Tuesday. “But you know, there’s a surprise around every corner.”

Winters, Norton and commissioner Dave Unruh typically were the majority on the commission when votes split. The commission often votes unanimously, but when members do split, typically Winters, Norton and Unruh voted together and Parks and Welshimer together.

Welshimer said voters expect a change on the commission and “we’re looking forward to doing some things a little differently. There’s a little bit of struggle for people who’ve had the majority. They have a big investment, and they don’t want to lose that investment, and that’s understandable. But then those people who are the new majority have an investment to make.”

Welshimer — as well as political observers — expects the majority to shift to her, Parks and Peterjohn.

While there’s been a “little” stress over the shift, she said, “I don’t think it’s going to turn into anything that we can’t smooth over. But this is a transition, and it’s going to be bumpy.”

Welshimer said she plans to ask to move the election of the new chairman up to the beginning of Wednesday’s meeting, have Norton chair the election and then have the commissioner elected chairman lead the rest of the meeting.

Unruh also cautioned that he couldn’t say for sure what would happen.

“Normally Commissioner Norton would be voted in to that spot because he’s been pro tem and has experience and people know him. But I think that’s not going to happen,” Unruh said. “I think the chair and prot tem will change in light of the new makeup of the commission.”

Norton was not available for comment early Tuesday afternoon.