Shawnee approves appointments to new police bias advisory board, other city commissions and task forces

Shawnee Park 67 shooting

The newly established Community Police Advisory Board will, among other things, be tasked with looking into complaints of bias against Shawnee police officers. Five volunteers were appointed to the new board, in staggered terms that all start July 1. Photo credit Mike Frizzell.

Shawnee has made new appointments and reappointments to several of its boards and commissions, including the newly established Community Police Advisory Board to handle complaints about racial and other biased-based policing.

Meanwhile, the city replaced long-time Shawnee Parks and Recreation Advisory Board member Donna Sawyer, who died in the middle of her most recent term after serving on the board for more than 23 years.

After sharing positive comments about her and her contributions, city leaders agreed to seat Neal Sawyer, her husband, in her stead.

The Shawnee City Council voted 5-0 to approve all appointments and reappointments. Councilmembers Jill Chalfie, Lindsey Constance and Kurt Knappen were absent.

Shawnee Parks and Recreation Advisory Board

The city appointed Neal Sawyer to fill the unexpired term of his late wife, Donna Sawyer, who had served on the board since 1997. Neal Sawyer’s term starts July 1 and ends Dec. 31, 2022.

“She’s got some pretty big shoes to fill for the spot she’s leaving vacant,” said Councilmember Mike Kemmling, who had recommended Neal Sawyer, a former councilmember. “Once again, I’m honored to recommend his name, and just want to say thanks to Neal for stepping up and being willing to fill that position.”

Shawnee Planning Commission

The following volunteers were reappointed to the Shawnee Planning Commission, with terms starting July 1 and ending June 30, 2024:

  • Bruce Bienhoff
  • Genise Luecke
  • Kathy Peterson

Dennis Busby, chair of the Shawnee Planning Commission, removed his name from consideration for reappointment. As a result, the commission will have a vacancy when his term ends in a few weeks.

Councilmember Eric Jenkins commended Kathy Peterson (above), member of the Shawnee Planning Commission, for her consistent questioning of new developments coming to Shawnee. File photo.

After some tension between the planning commission and the Shawnee City Council over future development in the city, a handful of commissioners resigned about six months ago.

The city has developed a new policy that lays out new parameters for removing commissioners, including a clause for making comments that could be deemed politically biased.

Councilmember Eric Jenkins, who opposed comments by commissioners who made what he called “political statements” from the dais encouraging voters to vote out councilmembers, said Monday night that he appreciated Commissioner Kathy Peterson’s contributions to the commission and was pleased to see her reappointment.

“We did receive some comments from Ms. Peterson, but it was done in an in-house email; she certainly has the right to express her opinions, but she didn’t do it at the dais,” Jenkins said. “She does, also, a very nice job — she’s one of the ones on the planning commission that does ask questions and does try to flesh out what that development is going to do.”

Shawnee Community Police Advisory Board

The Shawnee City Council also appointed five volunteers to the newly established Shawnee Community Police Advisory Board.

The board, among other things, will be tasked with looking into complaints of bias against Shawnee police officers.

The advisory board will be separate from the city’s Civil Service Commission, which governs promotions and discipline of Shawnee police officers and also reviews appeals by officers for disciplinary findings.

All of the new advisory board members’ terms begin July 1, but their terms’ end dates vary in order to stagger terms moving forward.

  • Gregory Akridge, term ending June 30, 2025
  • Kristoffer Barikmo, term ending June 30, 2024
  • D’Arlyn Bell, term ending June 30, 2024
  • Colleen Hammock, term ending June 30, 2024
  • Heather Saenz Smith, term ending June 30, 2025

Members seating on new task forces for public art, community engagement

The city has seated 11 members for each of the new task forces that will address the topics of community engagement and public art in the city.

Terms of office will be one year from the date of each task force’s first meeting, unless extended by the Shawnee City Council.

On the new Community Engagement Task Force, 11 members include two residents from each ward, a business representative, a city councilmember and Mayor Michelle Distler.

Here’s the list of new members:

  • Gail Hoover King (Ward 1)
  • Susan Tolleson (Ward 1)
  • Cristina Cranwill (Ward 2)
  • Carolyn Boyd (Ward 2)
  • Vanessa West (Ward 3)
  • Patrick Fitzgerald (Ward 3)
  • Anne Spenner (Ward 4)
  • Beverly Weber (Ward 4)
  • Carla Dyer, owner of Wandering Vine at the Castle
  • Councilmember Jill Chalfie
  • Mayor Michelle Distler
Several stakeholders will sit on the new Public Arts Task Force for the city of Shawnee. Above, “Taking Time,” a sculpture of Chief Charles Bluejacket and his children at Herman Laird Park. File photo.

On the new Public Arts Task Force, 11 members include four residents with skills or professional experience in art, design or history, one elected city official, along with representatives from various interest stakeholder groups.

Here’s the list:

  • Jennifer Rivas, resident
  • Greg Pfau, resident
  • Caitlin Tremain, resident
  • Jim Charlesworth, resident
  • DeAnn Gould, Shawnee Parks and Recreation Advisory Board
  • Kristen Shelly-Chapin, Shawnee Chamber of Commerce
  • Cary Danielson Pandzik, Visit Shawnee
  • J.J. Miller Jr., Sister Cities Committee
  • Mitzi Ryburn, Friends of Shawnee Town
  • Lisa Larson-Bunnell, Monticello Historical Society (also a city councilmember)
  • Mayor Michelle Distler

Other boards and commissions

Shawnee Civil Service Commission

The following volunteers were reappointed to the Shawnee Civil Service Commission, with terms starting July 1 and ending June 30, 2024:

  • James P. McNabb
  • Matt Mill

Board of Zoning Appeals

The following volunteers were reappointed to the Shawnee Board of Zoning Appeals, with terms starting July 1 and ending June 30, 2024:

  • Charles Jean-Baptiste
  • Kent McCord

Shawnee Code Board of Appeals

Richard Hoelting, a volunteer with the Shawnee Code Board of Appeals, was reappointed with a new term starting July 1 and ending June 30, 2026.