The race to become northeast Johnson County’s next representative on the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners looks to get considerably more interesting in the coming weeks.
Mission Mayor Laura McConwell on Thursday confirmed a report from The Pitch’s Steve Vockrodt that she was considering entering the race for the District 1 Commission seat. Prairie Village Mayor Ron Shaffer is at present the only declared candidate for the seat, which is being vacated by Ed Peterson, who is challenging Ed Eilert for County Commission Chair.
And while Shaffer’s campaign had heard rumors of several possible candidates preparing to throw their hats in the ring, it almost certainly came as a shock to them that McConwell may run.
Prior to Shaffer’s announcement in November, he, McConwell and Mission Hills Mayor Rick Boeshaar met and agreed that if one of them ran for the seat, the others would not. By McConwell’s telling, Shaffer initially indicated he was not particularly interested in running and she indicated she was. But several weeks later, Shaffer told the group he did want to run, and McConwell said she would sit out.
McConwell told the Prairie Village Post Thursday that she changed her mind in recent weeks after considering her own background compared to the current makeup of the board. There are no women on the commission, and the commissioners are by and large from an older generation than McConwell.
“As the months have gone by, I’ve thought a lot about what we’ve accomplished in Mission, and thought about the fact that there are no women on the commission and that it’s an older commission,” she said. “I intend to run on what I would bring and the work I’ve done. I have a lot of energy.”
McConwell contacted Shaffer on Monday to tell him she was exploring the possibility of entering the race.
Shaffer, first elected as Prairie Village mayor in 1999, has a longer tenure than McConwell, who took office as mayor in March 2002. Shaffer also has a larger constituency, with around 21,500 Prairie Village residents, compared to Mission’s 9,500.
Both mayors face pockets of discontent in their own cities. Shaffer voted twice in favor of the controversial Mission Chateau senior living development – and proved to be the deciding vote at the January meeting where the plan was finally approved. McConwell, who announced in January that she would not be seeking reelection, faces critics who fault her for overseeing a substantial increase in the city’s debt level as it has taken on major infrastructure and development projects.
The jump to the Board of County Commissioners would provide a salary increase to both Shaffer and McConwell. County Commissioners are each paid approximately $54,000 per year for their service. McConwell makes $12,000 a year for her work as mayor. Shaffer doesn’t receive compensation for his work as Prairie Village mayor.
The general election for the Board of County Commissioners will be in November.