When longtime City Council member Jim Skelton moved over to the Sedgwick County Commission last month, his council district lost a strong advocate.
Now four candidates are vying to become the south side's voice on the City Council.
"We have a lot of rentals down here, and people complain about rentals," said Bill Davis, president of the South Central Neighborhood Association. "But Jim has backed us. He knows how to get results."
Among other things, Skelton worked to get a fire station for the district and the interchange at I-135 and 47th South. The latter is expected to lead to the development of a shopping center.
"Jim was very vocal and protective of this area," said Carole Campbell, president of the South City Community Association. "He did so much to keep our area alive.
"I'm hoping whoever we vote in has the same drive for the betterment of our south city area."
James Clendenin, Clinton Coen, Mark Gietzen and Hoyt Hillman seek the seat. Interim council member Roger Smith is not running.
The primary is March 1. The top two finishers will advance to the general election on April 5.
None of the four candidates plans to duplicate Skelton's style, which could be colorful. But they said the district needs someone who isn't afraid to make some noise, and they all promised to do the same.
"We need a strong voice," Coen said.
Gietzen said, "Jim was pretty outspoken. I'll stand up for the district even stronger than Jim did. I don't think it happened under Jim, but for many, many years, this was a neglected part of town."
Clendenin said, "I have a different personality than Jim. He was very forward, and I'm more laid back. But I still get the job done."
Hillman and Clendenin said it is important that Skelton's replacement go into the position with an attitude of being willing to work with others.
"The remarkable thing is we have some very bright people in the city staff. If you ask for help, they will give it to you," said Hillman, a member of the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission. "You have to be diplomatic as you take your scoop out of the bin."
Clendenin said, "The city of Wichita needs to be strong as a whole, and District 3 needs to be a part of that."
The four candidates aren't copies of each other.
They range in age from 19 (Coen) to 66 (Hillman).
Coen and Gietzen oppose any form of city incentives for businesses.
"I'm concerned about government involvement," said Coen, a 2009 graduate of South High School and a student at Cowley Community College.
Gietzen said the free market — not government money — should determine what businesses succeed or fail. "Let people vote with their dollars," he said. "The government shouldn't be picking winners and losers."
Clendenin said incentives should be considered case by case.
"We should take into consideration economic development, job creation and the benefit to citizens," he wrote in response to a response a question in The Eagle's voter guide.
Hillman was most cautious in the use of community improvement districts (CIDs) as an incentive.
"A CID is best used in an isolated area (where infrastructure has not been established)," he said.
A CID allows a business to add a charge of up to 2 percent for a specified period of time and use the revenue to pay for improvements.
Each of the candidates emphasized concerns for a positive business environment, but they also said they would target areas that need immediate attention.
Coen wants to work to lower taxes and spend less. He didn't have specific areas that need to be addressed.
"I'd have to look at the budget," he said.
Streets, infrastructure and building railroad overpasses —specifically at K-15 and Pawnee — are important issues for Clendenin.
"What people have told me is, 'I wish our streets were paved as nicely as this or that part of the city,' " he said. "Now whether that's true or not, I want to make sure we have the funding at the proper level (for the streets)."
Streets are also high on Gietzen's list of things that need attention.
"As soon as you pull off Hydraulic, you're on dirt streets in a lot of areas," he said. "If Wichita can't treat all the districts fairly, then I think we have a problem."
Hillman said creating jobs would be one of his top objectives. Development around the interchange at 47th Street South is important to reaching that goal. "That's going gangbusters," he said.
Whoever gets elected should know they will be compared with Skelton. And that they will need to stay in close touch with the folks in District 3.
"I had Jim's personal cell number," Davis said. "If I couldn't get results from the city, all I had to do was call him and he'd get results."