This JoCo mayor is joining 3 other candidates in vying for county commission chair in 2022

Mike Kelly

Roeland Park Mayor Mike Kelly recently was reelected to his second term, running unopposed. He now says he plans to run to be the next chair of the Johnson County Commission, a nonpartisan position that will be on the 2022 ballot. Above, Kelly during a pre-pandemic city council meeting. File image.

Roeland Park Mayor Mike Kelly on Thursday became the fourth candidate to enter the race next year for chairmanship of the Johnson County Commission.

Kelly, who is also chairman of the regional non-profit Climate Action KC, said he decided to run for the commission’s lead spot in 2022 because he wants the county to continue to have a high quality of life that will retain talented residents.

Two weeks ago, Kelly was re-elected to his second term as mayor of Roeland Park, where he ran unopposed.

“I really have appreciated the trust people in Roeland Park have given to me, but I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t think it was a pivotal moment for Johnson County,” he said. “We’re at a crossroads here and it’s going to be a generational opportunity,” to build on the county’s strengths.

He said he’s committed to continuing in his duties as mayor until at least August 2022, when the primary for commission chair would be held.

Four declared candidates

So far Kelly is the only declared candidate who has not previously served on the commission.

Already in the race are current Commissioners Shirley Allenbrand and Charlotte O’Hara as well as former Commissioner Mike Brown.

Current chairman Ed Eilert, who has served in that position since 2010, has remained quiet about whether he plans to run for reelection next year.

Three other candidates have declared their intention to run for chair, including, from left, Commissioner Shirley Allenbrand, former commissioner Mike Brown and Commissioner Charlotte O’Hara. File images.

Kelly said his executive experience as mayor and regional leadership on climate action would be an asset in steering the commission.

“We will focus on innovative infrastructure that responds to current and future needs. We will prioritize health and protect public safety, value our children’s education, and always be good stewards of the tax dollars entrusted to us,” he said in a release.

In her campaign announcement last month, Allenbrand emphasized her business experience designing residences for seniors and her work on various civic groups.

Brown’s campaign website focuses on transparency and fiscal responsibility in the county’s spending and management.

A campaign website could not be located for O’Hara, but one of her major projects in her first year on the county commission has been to get an abandoned factory near Blue Valley Middle School demolished.

Nonpartisan position

The office is nonpartisan, as are the other commission seats, though O’Hara and Brown have advocated in the past for the commission races to be more openly identified with party politics.

But Kelly said he’s glad the commission race is non-partisan.

“Johnson Countians have so much more in common with each other than might be presented to them on the news or Facebook or on Twitter. Really the things that we are about are our families, our communities, our kids, schools, public safety, parks and libraries,” he told the Post. “Those are the kind of things I think people want to talk about.”

He said that growing the county for the future will be a “welcome breath of fresh air” from partisan bickering at the national level, and he maintained that he was not recruited to run for commission chair by a local political party.

Kelly grew up in Leawood and currently practices law in Missouri and Kansas with an emphasis on real estate, design and construction litigation. He and his wife and two kids live in Roeland Park.

Former County Manager Hannes Zacharias will be Kelly’s campaign treasurer.

Roxie Hammill is a freelance journalist who frequently contributes to the Shawnee Mission and Blue Valley Posts,  as well as other Kansas City-area publications. She can be contacted at roxieham@gmail.com.