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Sedgwick County Commission race: Norton says he isn’t done tackling county’s issues

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012, at 10:18 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, August 27, 2013, at 9:38 a.m.

Tim Norton starts every Sedgwick County Commission meeting with a “Thought of the Day.”

It’s a glimpse into his contemplative personality.

For example, at the Sept. 19 meeting, he evoked these words of Abraham Lincoln’s: “Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time.”

And on Oct. 3, he borrowed from Henry van Dyke: “Use what talents you possess. The woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.”

The 65-year-old Democrat is in his third term as the District 2 commissioner representing south-central Wichita and Haysville. This year he is serving as the board’s chairman, his second time in that role.

He faces Republican Ben Sauceda, an associate pastor of Temple Baptist Church, in the Nov. 6 election.

In his campaign commercials, Norton tells viewers, simply, “You know me.” A former mayor of Haysville and former manager of a Target store, Norton says the reason he is running again for office is simple:

“I think there’s still some very important issues facing the county and this region and even the state.”

President of the Kansas Association of Counties and a past president of the Kansas County Commissioners Association, Norton said he has the “tenacity and knowledge” to help solve problems.

Norton retired from Target after the 1999 tornado that hit Haysville, concentrating on cleanup efforts there.

“I’ve been rooted in the community for 32 years,” he said. “I understand my district, I think, very, very well. I understand the small towns in my district. I understand the south side. I think I bring a real business sense to the commission.”

Norton, who has a degree in journalism from Arkansas State University and a master’s degree in adult education from Newman University, sees jobs and economic development as two main issues for the county.

“Obviously the buzzword is jobs,” he said. “I think that also ties to workforce development, career education. It also ties to the work of the GWEDC (Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition) and REAP (the Regional Economic Area Partnership) and some other organizations. Because it’s also about retaining jobs, not just creating new ones.”

The county must try to diversify the area’s economy but “you don’t want to take your eyes off of aviation because it’s very important to us.”

He said he’s spent much of his time as a commissioner working on drainage problems in his district.

Drainage has been a problem for the south side for years, he said.

“That’s something I worked on back when I was mayor of Haysville,” he said.

Norton said he’s fought for projects for his district, picking off an area at a time to “get ahead of the curve a little bit.”

“Drainage projects are not easy to get done,” he said. “For a long time, commissioners didn’t worry about drainage as much. I feel good that I’ve raised that issue in the consciousness of the county.”

Commissioner Jim Skelton, a former Wichita City Council member, said he has enjoyed a long relationship with Norton working on south-side issues.

“We both worked on the 47th Street project. He and I helped reconstitute the South Area Business Association. Tim goes out to meetings and dedicates himself.”

Norton is involved in dozens of nonprofit groups including the Salvation Army, the United Way, the Boys & Girls Clubs and the Child Abuse Prevention council.

“I certainly understand that you can have high levels of political ideology, but at the end of the day it’s about getting into the community and doing what really makes a difference in people’s lives,” Norton said.

Norton considers himself a consensus-builder. He’s not one to lash out at others at meetings, instead using silence at times to signal his disagreement.

“I think most people that know me know you’re going to be hard-pressed to find a time I personally attack somebody or won’t listen. I just see that it does not forward the public good. It creates conflict where conflict doesn’t need to happen,” Norton said. “We’ve navigated some pretty tough times recently, and I think experience counts.”

Reach Deb Gruver at 316-268-6400 or dgruver@wichitaeagle.com.

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