It’s been nearly 12 years since Bob Knight was mayor.
Knight, 73, the first Wichita mayor elected by a popular vote, plans to file paperwork to begin the process yet again. He was elected to five terms between 1980 and 2003.
“People should work to earn the support of the community and regardless of how many times you’ve done it or how long you’ve done it, they deserve somebody who’s willing to go out and work for it,” he said.
After leaving office, Knight worked as a private consultant and took a year off for major surgery.
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But he’s been keeping a close eye on what’s going on at City Hall, even from a distance.
“I’ve always had an interest since I’ve left in following what they’re doing on certain things, major issues and ordinary things,” he said.
The next mayor will face a variety of issues, such as a new water supply, repairs to water and sewer infrastructure, the fate of the city’s transit system, and continued street maintenance issues.
There’s also the issue of building trust between the community and city government. He said City Hall has seen a lot of turnover since he was last in office.
“You wonder sometimes about the continuity and the institutional memory and you see things maybe being done over and over and expecting different results when the results are typically the same.”
He shied away from stating some of the top issues for his campaign, saying he would wait until he officially announces his candidacy.
“Obviously I have some ideas or I wouldn’t be doing this.”
He did not vote for the recent sales tax issue.
“I didn’t think there was any way it was going to pass, certainly the way it was presented,” he said.
“A municipal corporation has a lot of complexity because you have a lot of shareholders. You have to make sure the ordinary things are done, maintaining the infrastructure and making sure your financial underpinnings are sound... There are some rather daunting (issues). But I do think that even the most intractable challenges we face, in large part, have discernible solutions if we’re able and prepared to pull together as a community.”
The campaign process ahead of the spring election is “not going to be a picnic,” Knight said.
A host of other mayoral candidates have already emerged for the spring ticket, including Jeff Longwell, who has represented District 5 in west Wichita for eight years; Sam Williams, former partner at advertising firm Sullivan Higdon & Sink; former Republican gubernatorial candidate Jennifer Winn; local attorney Sean Hatfield; and sheet metal worker Robert Culver.
The filing deadline is Jan. 27.
Mayor Carl Brewer has served two four-year terms and cannot run again. Knight served as co-chair for Brewer’s campaign eight years ago, and he said his reasons for running do not include any animosity toward current council members.
“My last four or eight years we had a pretty strong council. I’ve served on councils where they didn’t do too much, just kind of a caretaker. And that’s not my style.”