The municipal elections may still be a months away, but Prairie Village politics got a significant shake-up Wednesday.
In an email to members of the city council and staff, Mayor Laura Wassmer announced she would not be seeking a second term.
“After much contemplation and soul searching, I have decided not to run for re-election,” Wassmer said. “In January I will be turning over the reins in order to pursue other passions and to spend more time with my family who all live out of state.”
Following Wassmer’s announcement former city councilman Eric Mikkelson announced he was filing to run for the mayor’s seat in this November’s election. (Prairie Village shifted its mayoral election cycle from spring to fall in adherence to state law, cutting Wassmer’s term short of a full four years).
“Working with Mayor Wassmer – whose service has benefited Prairie Village for many years – provided invaluable experience preparing me to lead Prairie Village,” Mikkelson said in a release. “Moving forward, we have an impressive Council, exceptional staff, and engaged residents. The only thing missing for a future of excellence in Prairie Village now is a qualified Mayor dedicated to progress. I am ready to be that Mayor.”
Wassmer is the longest-serving member of the governing body, having started her service as a Ward 4 representative on the city council 20 years ago. Following then-mayor Ron Shaffer’s election to the county commission in 2014, Wassmer’s council peers voted to have her fill the short remainder of his term before the April 2015 elections. She was unopposed in that race and elected to a full term.
Early in her tenure, the city announced an agreement with VanTrust Real Estate and Johnson County Park and Recreation District that brought a new 84-acre public park to Prairie Village, along with new housing developments, on the site of the former Meadowbrook Country Club. She also presided over the council’s moves to secure the Faith Lutheran Church property for a new park at 67th Street and Roe Avenue.
Earlier this year, her family’s involvement in a lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase over the company’s handling of her father’s estate took her away to Texas for a period of weeks. A jury found in Wassmer and her brother’s favor in the case, awarding them a total of $6 billion in punitive damages and around $10 million in actual damages and fees.
Mikkelson was elected to the council in 2014, taking the seat vacated by former mayoral candidate Mike Kelly after he moved out of the country. An attorney by profession, he is a partner at Stinson Leonard Street LLP. He announced last year that he would not seek a second term on the council after saying he was convinced that some “impressive, young, energetic, new candidates are eager to serve.”
He said he was running for mayor because he wanted to both “preserve and enhance” the city’s quality of life.
“We have a great city, but it did not come easily and it can be squandered quickly,” Mikkelson said. “We can not take our quality of life for granted. It takes experienced, skilled leadership to continue moving Prairie Village forward.”