New Prairie Village Mayor Eric Mikkelson used his swearing-in ceremony on Monday to map out a set of guiding principles for governing of the city into its 70th year and beyond.
Mikkelson, who served a full term representing Ward 3 on the city council before rolling off early last year, said that matters of public safety, fiscal responsibility and infrastructure maintenance will continue to be the foundations on which good city government is built — and he credited outgoing Mayor Laura Wassmer with handing over the city in excellent shape on those counts.
But, he said, the city will face a number of tough questions in the coming years that will fundamentally shape how Prairie Village functions five, ten and 20 years down the road.
Mikkelson said the current governing body will shape what the city looks like in the future through updates to its comprehensive plan in the coming years, and noted the growing pressures inner-ring suburbs have seen to increase the density of development.
“We have to collectively decide what Prairie Village character and charm means, whether it’s worth preserving, and, if so, how,” Mikkelson said. “Much change is coming either way, but what our city looks like, what it feels like to live here, who can afford to live here, the diversity of our residents and opportunities, the success and quality of our local businesses, the inter-city competition for Millennials buying the first house, they’re all in play over the next few years.”
Mikkelson also stressed a theme that was a major part of his mayoral campaign: Being a proactive steward of the city’s environmental resources. He said he would be pushing the governing body to consider energy efficient choices in a number of decisions, from how to provide power at the city’s new parks to heating and cooling at city buildings to what kind of vehicles are kept in the city’s fleet. Mikkelson said that Prairie Village should be actively weighing both the costs and benefits of sustainable energy solutions.
He asked for cooperation and collegiality from members of the council.
“Council, I’m back,” Mikkelson said at the start of his speech. “I won’t ask if all of you missed me. But I will ask you to join me now to dedicate the next few years of our public service lives to the greater good of our city. There will be disagreements. Good democracy is messy by nature. But if we all rededicate to civility, we’ll be in good shape.”
Honoring outgoing Mayor Laura Wassmer
Prior to taking over behind the dais, Mikkelson took a moment to thank outgoing Mayor Laura Wassmer for her decades of service to the city, noting that she had been an instrumental force on the city’s parks and recreations committee, communications committee and other areas during her time on the governing body.
Mikkelson read a proclamation declaring it “Laura Wassmer Day” in the city.
Wassmer took over as mayor in 2015 following Ron Shaffer’s move to the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners. Prior to becoming mayor, she served 18 years on the city council representing Ward 4. Wassmer decided against running for a second term as mayor.
Before departing council chambers Monday, Wassmer thanked all of the colleagues she’d worked with over the years.
“Obviously, I didn’t do any of this by myself,” she said. “So, just a huge thank you to all of you in this room — staff, councilmembers, former councilmembers, former staff. It’s truly been my honor to work with everybody over the past 21 years.”