Field large for potential Wichita mayoral candidates

09/26/2013 8:27 AM

09/26/2013 8:33 AM

The field of candidates to replace two-term Wichita mayor Carl Brewer in 2015 is beginning to take shape.

Former Wichita Mayor Bob Knight says he’s not ready to announce a bid to return to City Hall yet — despite persistent reports from supporters that he’s in the race.

“I don’t feel compelled to make that announcement at this time,” he said this week.

Knight, 72, is one of several names mentioned for a possible bid to replace Brewer. Others include Sam Williams, managing partner at Wichita advertising firm Sullivan Higdon & Sink; Sedgwick County Commissioner Dave Unruh; former Spirit AeroSystems head Jeff Turner and incumbent City Council members Jeff Longwell, Pete Meitzner and Janet Miller.

All are Republicans except Miller, who is a Democrat. The city election is nonpartisan.

The next mayor will face a variety of potentially expensive issues, like a new water supply, repairs to water and sewer infrastructure, the fate of the city’s transit system, and continued street maintenance issues.

Knight did say that he’s continuing to consider a bid. “We’re continuing to talk to people.”

He was the first Wichita mayor elected by a popular vote and served five terms between 1980 to 2003.

Knight has moved back into the Wichita city limits, next door to another potential candidate, Unruh.

But Unruh, 70, said Wednesday he’s not going to pursue Brewer’s seat. Instead he plans to run for another term on the county commission “representing the people of my district.”

Another candidate who is the subject of persistent rumors is Williams, a former chairman of the Wichita Area Chamber of Commerce. Williams was out of town Wednesday and did not return calls seeking comment.

Turner, 62, said he “finds the idea intriguing ... but I’m strongly ambivalent about it.

“I just retired and I didn’t retire with the idea of taking another full-time job. But I have lived in Wichita all my life and I’d love to contribute to its growth,” he said. “But I can’t sit here right now and tell you that a mayoral run is the best way to accomplish that.”

Of the three incumbents, only Miller, 48, denied any interest in the mayor’s seat.

“I’m not running for mayor,” she said Wednesday.

Meitzner, 58, vice mayor, said he’ll evaluate the race “at a later date.

“It’s too early right now, and I’ve got a lot of things I’m working on in the city that we’ll need to accomplish,” he said. “There’s a lot of work to be done.”

Longwell, 54, said essentially the same thing.

“We’ll sit down and make an announcement later on the whole ordeal,” he said. “We just have to figure out a few things.”

Brewer is completing his second term, the limit for time served in the mayor’s seat or on the council.

The mayor receives around $83,000 a year and is the only full-time elected official at City Hall.

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