Northside newcomers Brandon Johnson and Cindy Claycomb and incumbent James Clendenin won decisive victories over their opponents Tuesday in the race for three seats on the Wichita City Council.
Johnson won with 65 percent of the vote to Mike Kinard’s 34 percent in what was seen as the marquee matchup of the election. Incumbent Lavonta Williams faced term limits and could not run again in District 1, which stretches northeast from downtown.
Claycomb had 86 percent of the vote over Sybil Strum, who did not actively campaign, in District 6 in central and north Wichita. Clendenin had 70 percent of the vote over William Stofer in District 3 in southeast Wichita.
Clendenin said he's looking forward to working with Johnson and Claycomb, who have about two months to prepare to take their seats.
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"I think they'll hit the ground running, because they've already done quite a bit of advocacy in community," he said. "We'll be cohesive, but I think they'll bring their own fresh perspective to city issues."
Johnson is an activist who founded the Community Operations Recovery Empowerment in 2011. CORE is active in police/community relations, economic development and youth mentoring. He serves on the District 1 District Advisory Board and is a former member of the Kansas Advisory Group on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
He said the first thing he wants to do is set up meetings with the neighborhood association presidents.
“We want to build those stronger so we can help take better care of our neighborhoods,” he said. “Then, beginning to look at the budgetary issues going forward – looking at what Century II is going to be and really trying to grasp that.
“If we can make even just a small impact in the community, it would be huge, especially in areas where we see divestment and businesses leaving. If we can just change that just a little bit, it’s big for the community.”
Kinard, a photographer and business owner, is a former member of the Wichita school board.
One of the major issues separating the candidates was the fate of the closed swimming pool at McAdams Park.
Johnson sided with vocal residents who have been working to stop city plans to demolish the pool and replace it with a “splash pad” for children. Kinard sided with the city, saying the area around the park has been largely industrialized and pool use has declined. He said that justified shifting the funding to other amenities.
That issue was part of why voter Brigetta Young picked Johnson. “I want them to save the pool,” she said. “I want there to be a lot of activities for children in District 1 and not have to send them across the city.”
Johnson benefited from the support of civil rights lawyer and Democratic congressional candidate James Thompson and his “Thompson Army” of volunteers.
In District 3, Clendenin’s overarching campaign theme was his record as a council member.
He pointed at city projects designed to improve the quality of life in the district, including the purchase of a new train ride at O.J. Watson Park, the opening of a Save-A-Lot grocery store in a space abandoned by Dillon’s on South Broadway, the rebuilding of the Lincoln Street bridge over the Arkansas River and preservation of the John Mack Bridge on Broadway.
In District 6, Claycomb said the first thing she plans to focus on is what to do with the Century II Convention and Performing Arts Center. The city is in the midst of considering whether to tear down the iconic blue-roofed building to make way for a new center, or to bring the current building up to modern performing arts standards.
“Whatever we do, we can’t just be OK with it and say, oh, it’s OK for Wichita, because it’s not,” she said. “This is a generational decision. This is a decision for 50 years out. ... It’s really for our kids and their kids.”
Claycomb is a special assistant to Wichita State University President John Bardo and chairwoman of the city Park Board and the Wichita Downtown Development Corp. Incumbent Janet Miller could not run again because of term limits.