Skelton, Ranzau address Pachyderm Club

Sedgwick County Commissioner Jim Skelton got a bit testy when a Wichita City Council member asked him Friday whether he would support a Democrat as chair of the County Commission.

City Council member Michael O’Donnell asked commissioners Skelton and Richard Ranzau, guest speakers at the Wichita Pachyderm Club’s weekly luncheon, whether they would support Commissioner Tim Norton as the next board chairman. Norton is a Democrat; the other four members of the board are Republican.

O’Donnell said the majority party should lead the commission and council.

This year, the chairman of the commission is Dave Unruh. Norton is pro-tem chairman, meaning he leads meetings in Unruh’s absence.

Skelton looked around the Petroleum Club’s banquet room, where the Republican-affiliated club’s luncheon was held, and noted “there are people here who are Republicans who supported a Democrat in my race. I can sit here and ask you why.”

Ranzau said he would not support Norton as chairman. He said he gets along well with Norton but agreed with O’Donnell that the majority party should lead local government.

Skelton and Ranzau talked about their first year on the commission. Skelton is a former City Council member.

Ranzau said he wants the county to get to a zero deficit by next year instead of by 2013, as is now planned.

“We just don’t know what the future is,” said Ranzau, who consistently votes against accepting federal grant money for local projects.

Sen. Dick Kelsey, R-Goddard, asked Skelton and Ranzau about the dinners that county commissioners invite local legislators to each year. Kelsey, who termed the dinners lavish, told Skelton and Ranzau that they don’t need to take him to an expensive restaurant to talk to him.

Ranzau said he’d be willing to stop the dinners.

“I vote ‘no’ to spend money all the time,” Ranzau said, drawing laughter from the crowd.

Skelton and Ranzau also talked about consolidation between the city and county, each saying they support it when it makes sense. Ranzau said consolidation doesn’t always save money but can make government more efficient.

Skelton said he supports current efforts to consolidate building code enforcement and would look at other areas where consolidation could make doing business with the county smoother for residents.