Female first-time candidates notch victories across the ballot in Shawnee Mission

Jill Chalfie and supporters celebrated at an election watch party in Shawnee Tuesday night.

A wave of female first-time candidates had strong showings at the ballot box Tuesday, taking more than a dozen offices in contested races.

In the Shawnee Mission School District, SM Northwest candidate Jamie Borgman and SM South candidate Jessica Hembree put up two of the strongest wins of the night, defeating their opponents with vote totals above 70%.

In races for the Shawnee city council, Tammy Thomas and Jill Chalfie won their first elections. As did Whitney Wilson and Melanie Kraft on the WaterOne board; Julie Sayers and Courtney Eiterich in Lenexa; Whitney Yadrich in Merriam; Trisha Brauer in Roeland Park; Inga Selders and Bonnie Limbird in Prairie Village; Jenna Brofsky in Fairway; Holly Wimer and Laura Steele in Westwood; and Holly Grummert in Overland Park.

Tammy Thomas, center, in red and black vest, said she wants to focus on the city’s finances, including how it will pay for its aging stormwater infrastructure.

Thomas defeated incumbent Jim Neighbor for a Ward 1 seat on the Shawnee council, and said her priorities upon being seated will be to focus on police, fire, infrastructure and property taxes.

“I think, more than anything, I’m humbled because I ran to represent the citizens of Shawnee and the citizens of Shawnee spoke and got behind me,” Thomas said Tuesday as she celebrated with supporters in downtown Shawnee. “And so I’m truly humbled by the vote.”

At another watch party nearby, Chalfie and Borgman expressed similar sentiments, thanking their supporters and volunteers for helping put them in office.

“I appreciate all of my supporters, and I really think it came down to…standing for something as opposed to being opposed to everything,” Chalfie said. “So I look forward to continued growth in Shawnee. I think we will certainly have our struggles moving forward to keep us moving forward in a good direction, but I’m confident that we can do that.”

Borgman said she was excited by the victory, but she was also focusing on getting ready to serve on the board of education.

Holly Grummert unseated long-serving councilwoman Terry Happer Scheier in Tuesday’s election.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity, so grateful to be elected, but ultimately we always have to be putting kids first,” Borgman said. “I think with every vote, with every decision that’s made, we need to ask number one how is this benefitting kids and number two what do our teachers think? And so I feel like if we have those two questions answered, then we’re at least in the right direction.”

Across town at a watch party at the Fox & Hound on Metcalf in Overland Park, Yadrich and Grummert said they believed a focus on getting input from constituents had been key to their campaigns’ success.

“I think that ultimately what [voters] were saying is that they’re putting faith into a leader who wants to collaborate with all the residents on the challenges we have and really focus on that relationship,” Yadrich said.

Grummert struck a similar tone.

“I think that [voters] are ready for their voice to be heard, for citizen engagement,” Grummert said. “I think they’re ready to be more welcoming.”

Leah Wankum and Juliana Garcia contributed reporting to this post.