news feature
March 25, 2005

 

Two seasoned politicians vie to lead Wyandotte County
by Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell

For many people in Wyandotte County, the race for Mayor/CEO of the Unified Government is a win-win for what once was the least popular place in the metro to call home. Both candidates are considered by many to be forward thinkers.

Joe Reardon (r), flanked by his wife and primary challenger Doug Spangler, at Reardon's victory celebration after the March 1 primary, listens as Spangler enthusiastically throws his support behind him. Reardon will face off against Rick Rehorn on April 5. (photo by Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell)

Joe Reardon is a young man with an old political name easily recognized in Wyandotte County. His father, Jack Reardon, served as mayor in the 1970s and has the city’s convention center named for him.

Rick Rehorn is also a recognized political name in the county. He assisted with the effort to unify the county and city governments in 1997, and served in the KS House of Representatives for three terms. He gave up his 32nd District seat last year to run for mayor.

The primary race for mayor of the Unified Government was watched closely by residents and “out of towners” (as many people within KCK call anyone else in the metro) because of the great success touted by state and local officials of the Kansas Speedway tourism district, which includes Village West. Local officials, particularly those along the I-435 corridor hope to see Wyandotte County continue on its upswing, as the growth spreads along the corridor.

Before the Speedway/Village West district claimed to be the state’s top tourist draw in 2004, Wyandotte County had been on a steady decline, loosing over 30,000 residents since 1980. Also, with its reputation for having a high crime rate and high property taxes, the county was desolate in terms of retail.

But that has begun to change. For the first time in more than a decade, residents can shop in their own county, the number of violent crimes are coming down, property tax rates have been reduced (although that reduction has been offset by higher property valuations) and new single family home building permits are up — there are over 4,000 platted subdivision lots planned in the western section of the county.

Both candidates in the race for mayor cite all of this as progress and both agree that more needs to be done. Reardon and Rehorn also agree that property tax rates need to come down and the county needs to continue to focus on the momentum in the western part of the county.

Reardon, 36, said he thinks the county is on the right track.
“I think we need to build a community that retains young people, families and seniors in all parts of our community,” he said.

Reardon, a law firm account manager with Thomson West, received his law degree from the University of Kansas School of Law. He has served on the Unified Board of Commissioners in District 2 since 2003.

Reardon is a board member of CHWC (Community Housing of Wyandotte County) and has seen that organization through its efforts to build new housing and rehab older homes on Strawberry Hill in the urban core. The agency recently finished town homes in that area with at least one having an asking price of over $200,000.

“I think one of the most important issues is to find success in building in all part of the community,” said Reardon. “We need to be able to lower property taxes, but also make sure there is success in all parts of the county.”

On primary election night, onlookers were a little surprised to see Doug Spangler, who ran on a campaign that most criticized the current government, show up at Reardon’s party and endorse Reardon.

“I was happy and pleased to see my fellow candidate endorse me,” said Reardon.

Reardon’s name recognition — obviously an asset — could also hurt him if voters connect the name too much with the past. Reardon said he is proud of his family name but people should not connect his stand with that of his father.

“I’m very proud of the family tradition of public service to Wyandotte County, which I think has been exemplarily,” said Reardon. “My father has been (deceased) now for 12 years and I’m running a campaign on the issues that’s important to the future of Wyandotte County, and I say let’s look forward.”

Reardon also has several endorsements from other commissioners on the current board of commissioners for the Unified Government.

Rick Rehorn receives congratulations from supporters after his March 1 primary victory. (photo by Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell)

Rick Rehorn, 43, is well known in his Rosedale district, but until the primary election very few recognized his name outside of that area. His name recognition got a boost after the current Mayor/CEO Carol Marinovich endorsed him before the primary. Rehorn also received a high-profile endorsement from Dr. J.J. Swanson, a former commissioner and well-respected long-time businessman in the community.

“For more than the past decade, I’ve worked to get Wyandotte County turned around,” said Rehorn. “I believe that Wyandotte County is on the path to progress, but we have not yet turned the corner.”

Although Rehorn agrees that the county needs more retail development, he contends that will not happen unless property taxes are lowered. He feels the biggest issue facing the county is property taxes and hopes to find a way to drop the tax rate, while also giving incentives for people to renovate homes in the older areas of the county

“For years the property values in Wyandotte County were under appraised, but the state stepped in and property values have skyrocketed,” said Rehorn. “The government has not dropped the mill levy enough to offset the valuation and it is crushing small businesses and seniors. Our progress will be crippled if there’s not property tax relief soon.”

Rehorn is also an attorney and like Reardon, received his law degree from the University of Kansas School of Law.

Besides serving as a state representative since 1998, he worked on the Citizens for Consolidation and has served on the Rosedale Development Association board and is a former member of the zoning appeals committee. Rehorn also has the endorsement of current state representative Louis Ruiz.

The election is April 5.

Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell can be contacted at publisher_editeKC@kcactive.com.



              
              
                 

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