In County Commission races, makeup of parks board at stake as well

Michael Pirner, right, is the incoming chair of the Board of Park and Recreation Commissioners — but his term expires in January 2019.

When voters head to the polls on Tuesday to select Johnson County commissioners, their choices will have repercussions beyond just who sits behind the dais in the county board room.

It could have a massive impact on the makeup of the Johnson County Park and Recreation District board as well.

Under the county charter, each sitting member of the board of county commissioners has the power to appoint a member to the Johnson County Park and Recreation District board. As it happens, three of the four parks board members appointed by county commissioners on the ballot this month have their terms set to expire in January.

Nancy Wallerstein, who was appointed by District 1 commissioner Ron Shaffer; Leslie Rivarola, who was appointed by District 5 commissioner Michael Ashcraft; and Mike Pirner, who was appointed by District 4 commissioner Jason Osterhaus could all potentially roll off the parks board Jan. 31 if not reappointed.

And Shaffer, Ashcraft and Osterhaus are facing credible challenges from candidates Becky Fast, LeEtta Felter and Janeé Hanzlick. Should any of the challengers prevail, there’s a good chance they would select a new person to appoint to the board – although Wallerstein, who has been on the board for nearly two decades, has been reappointed to the District 1 position by multiple previous commissioners.

Still, turnover of two or three members would represent a significant change in personnel on the parks board — particularly if Pirner, who is set to take over as parks board chair next year — were not reappointed. (Pirner is active in Johnson County politics, and has managed the campaigns of several conservative Republicans in the area).

Of note, Steve Baru, who was appointed by County Chair Ed Eilert, has a term set to expire Jan. 31, 2020, so he is guaranteed to remain on the parks board for at least another year even if Eilert were to lose his reelection bid to Trinette Waldrup.

Among recent major initiatives by the parks board was the approval of the agreement with the city of Prairie Village and VanTrust that led to the creation of the nearly completed Meadowbrook Park and under-construction clubhouse. In the coming months, it’s expected to take up issues related to the planned Cedar Niles Park, to be located on a 900-acre site west of highway K-7 in Olathe.