Incumbent Michael Ashcraft has filed to run for a third term representing the 5th District on the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners, setting up a contested race for the seat.
LeEtta Felter, a current member of the Olathe School District Board of Education, filed for the seat in November.
Ashcraft said he’s seeking a new term on the board to continue his push for open conversation about allocation of county resources and a transparent process for making decisions.
He calls himself a “fiscal hawk,” and says his goal on the commission is not only to conserve taxpayer dollars, but also to ensure that county government is spending money in alignment with the priorities and needs of the community.
Case in point, he said, was a proposal that came before the commission this month to spend upwards of half a million dollars on a parking lot upgrade for the Election Office that would not have fully solved the facilities’ parking issues. As the county faces mounting needs to provide services to citizens with intellectual and developmental disabilities, for example, he questioned whether investing that much money in a parking project was warranted.
“It came out to about $60,000 a parking spot, but it didn’t meet all their parking needs, and eventually they will be back asking for more,” he said of his consideration of the issue. “Is this really where we want to be spending this money?”
A management consultant by training who has done work with with state and city governments across the country, Ashcraft said he’s concerned with the standard revenue-based budgeting culture common in government agencies.
“Are we spending money on things that move our priorities forward? Or are we just spending every dollar we get our hands on?” he said.
Ashcraft indicated that his belief that the County Manager’s office as run by Hannes Zacharias tended toward an approach of “spending money because we’ve got money,” a philosophical disagreement that led him to support the move to oust Zacharias from his seat last year.
“I disagreed with the previous administration’s approach,” Ashcraft said. “We can and should be able to do more with less.”
Felter said that Ashcraft’s penchant for voting against budget and spending items was one of her motivations for entering the race, saying that his focus on “minutia” makes him a “roadblock to innovation or progress.”
Ashcraft counters that his votes are reflective of careful consideration of the issues.
“I’m not a rubber stamp vote,” he said. “I’m there to make sure we are meeting people’s needs. Not the wants of a few individual perspectives.”
Ashcraft was unopposed in his bid for a second term back in 2014. He first earned the seat in 2010 by defeating incumbent Doug Wood 11,484 to 11,353, a margin of 131 votes, or less than .6 percentage points.