TOPEKA — Joan Wagnon, secretary of the Kansas Department of Revenue, plans to retire when a new administration takes office in January, but she said she doesn't plan to start taking life easy.
Wagnon, who was also mayor of Topeka and a Kansas House member, said Thursday that she was proud of the work she's done since being appointed to the state tax agency by Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in 2003. But she said with Republican Gov. Sam Brownback taking office next month, she is looking for something "interesting to do."
"I signed on for eight years, and that eight years ends on January 10th. I plan to work until the last day. I have loved it. Just loved it," Wagnon told the Topeka Capital-Journal.
When she was appointed to the revenue department, it "wasn't at the top of everyone's favorite list." In particular, the Kansas Society of Certified Public Accountants had the department on its "hit list," Wagnon said.
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"I think we've established a real partnership with them," Wagnon said. "The department has a good reputation for customer service."
Bob Clubine of Salina, chairman of the Liaison Committee of the Public Accountants Association of Kansas Inc., agreed. And he said Wagnon had been instrumental in encouraging more Kansans to file their tax returns electronically.
When Wagnon took over the department, her goal was to get 90 percent of Kansas residents to file their tax returns electronically, she said. Currently, 84 percent use electronic filing, which she said is a huge savings for the public.
Wagnon served in the Kansas House from 1983 to 1994. She then became the first female mayor of Topeka and served from 1997 to 2001 before finishing third in the 2001 primary election.
After that, Wagnon was president of Central National Bank until she was appointed revenue secretary by Sebelius, a colleague of hers in the Kansas House.
Bob Beatty, political science professor at Washburn University, said Wagnon had epitomized the term "public servant."
"When you look at her career, it's actually remarkable to have a leadership role in the state Legislature, the city and then the Cabinet," he said. "She's still part of that generation of women who paved the way for other women to go into leadership positions. It used to be a tough road for women, but people like Joan Wagnon made it easier."