For Sollie Flora and Hillary Parker Thomas, reading the news had gotten to be exhausting. There were fresh horrors coming out of Washington, D.C., and Topeka at a steady clip. But the prospect of having a major impact on anything happening at the state or national level seemed relatively slim.
“It’s overwhelming if you look at national political sphere, or even the state political sphere, it’s hard to see where you can step in and make a difference,” Flora said.
But in their own backyards, they thought, there would be the opportunity to make an impact by getting elected to the city council. It turns out they also made history.
With their election last fall — Thomas to replace the retiring Thomas Geraghty in Ward 1 and Flora emerging from a three-way race for the Ward 4 seat held by Suzie Gibbs — Mission now has a female-majority on its city council for the first time in city history. Mission is just the second Shawnee Mission area city currently to have a majority-female governing body. (Westwood Hills, population 392, has four women and two men on its governing body).
Also of note, the council now has four members — Thomas, Flora, Nick Schlossmacher and Arcie Rothrock — who are under the age of 40. That’s a shift that Thomas hopes will ensure a representative view of Mission issues from the council.
“I looked at the council, and I didn’t think it was accurately reflecting what a lot of Mission residents are, which are young professionals and young families,” she said of her decision to run for council. “I really felt like there was a voice that wasn’t currently seated.”
Flora and Thomas ran two of the more active and visible local campaigns last election cycle, and the efforts appear to have gotten them early traction in their neighborhoods. Flora notes that turnout in her ward was nearly double the turnout at the county level. Thomas said she’s started to hear more and more from neighbors about city issues.
“Being able to take your energies and put them into the local sphere is relieving,” Thomas said. “I don’t have time to focus on what Donald Trump said today because I’m too busy focusing on Mission.”