Leawood City Hall poised for major change this election cycle

Leawood City Hall is poised for a significant changing of the guard, no matter who wins local elections this November. Last Thursday, June 1, marked the filing deadline for candidates

Leawood City Hall is poised for a significant changing of the guard, no matter who wins local elections this November.

Last Thursday, June 1, marked the filing deadline for candidates hoping to run for Leawood City Council and mayor, as well as other municipal and local offices across Johnson County.

Notably, Mayor Peggy Dunn is not running for reelection, opting to step down from the role she’s held for more than a quarter century.

At the same time, three current city councilmembers — representing nearly half the governing body — will also not run this November. And races for two of those seats will be contested.

All seats on the Leawood governing body are formally nonpartisan and salaried, with the mayor earning an annual salary of $20,000 and councilmembers earning an annual salary of $11,000.

Leawood elections
This fall, Leawood will elect its first new mayor since 1997. Above, Leawood City Hall. Photo credit Lucie Krisman.

Two candidates will face off to succeed Dunn

  • Marc Elkins is the current chair of the Leawood Planning Commission, a position he has held for the past nine years, after serving as a board member on both the Planning Commission and Leawood Arts Council.
  • If elected, Elkins said he will want to prioritize development along 135th Street, bringing more senior living options to Leawood, generating more public engagement in the city’s comprehensive plan and keeping the city’s crime rates low by continuing to invest in public safety.
  • “Our slogan for 25 years has been to ‘Grow with distinction,'” he said. “And now we’re kind of at the end of that growth stage. From a big picture standpoint, it’s the idea of making the pivot from ‘Growing with distinction’ to ‘Living with distinction.'”
  • Also running is Steve Hentzen, an IT developer and founder of the nonprofit Prostate Network, which he established after surviving cancer 13 years ago.
  • Hentzen said one of his early goals as Leawood’s mayor would be establishing more transparency between Leawood residents and city hall by making city decisions as public as possible.
  • “I want to have a fully transparent relationship with everyone in the city, whether that’s with residents or the business community,” he said. “I think that’s the key to taking what we’ve already got and making it even better.”

 Three longtime councilmembers are stepping down

  • Current councilmembers not running for reelection include Andrew Osman of Ward 1, Jim Rawlings of Ward 2 and James Azeltine of Ward 4, all of whom have served on the governing body for more than a decade.
  • Osman said while he has loved his time on the council, he looks forward to giving other people opportunities to help shape the city: “When you have a whole bunch of people that have been on for an extended period of time, you lose a lot of leadership, a lot of knowledge and a lot of connections. But at the same time, new people that are running can build new bridges and also kind of take the city in a new direction.”
  • Rawlings agreed that this year’s election serves as a good time to get new perspectives on the council, but he hopes to stay active on city committees and in the Leawood Rotary Club.
  • “I’ve seen a lot of development, a lot of changes in Leawood from a bedroom community (to a city with) vibrant retail,” he said. “I would tell the next person (in my position), always vote in what you think is the best long-term interest.”
  • One incumbent city councilmember — Lisa Harrison in Ward 3 — is running again this year and is unopposed.

Who is running for city council?

  • Races for the open seats in Wards 1 and 2 races are contested, while Harrison and former Menorah Medical Center chief medical officer Steven Kaster are running unopposed in Wards 3 and 4, respectively.

Ward 1 race 

  • Bob Brettell, an energy consultant who has been a vocal advocate for repealing the city’s pit bull ban, said his early goals on the council would be to make city decisions more transparent with “factual investigations” and advance notice for residents ahead of city council votes, as well as helping the city lean into county and state issues.
  • Matt Peppes, the owner of a digital marketing firm, said his early priorities for the position would be improving the city’s relationships with its Homeowners’ Associations, supporting and adding to Leawood’s public safety resources, helping the city expand with development while preserving the environment, supporting the city’s parks and recreation resources and improving the city’s online presence.
  • Alan Sunkel, a retired businessman, says he wants to prioritize finding relief for those impacted by local property tax increases, keeping residents informed of development projects, protecting the individual rights of residents and preserving the city’s natural environment.
  • This race will not require an August primary.

Ward 2 race 

  • Margaret Berger says her main priorities on the council would be to maintain Leawood’s safe environment while helping taxpayers keep as much of their money as possible.
  • Sherrie Gayed, who currently sits on the Leawood Planning Commission, says she would bring an “analytical lens” to the issues facing Leawood, including developing the city’s remaining vacant land, while keeping the best interest of residents in mind.

Go deeper: Johnson County elections 2023 — See who will be on your ballot