Four running so far for Skelton's Wichita City Council seat

A busy year in City Council elections got busier when Jim Skelton announced an early exit from his District 3 seat in southeast Wichita last week.

Skelton will step down Dec. 29 in preparation for his new role as a Sedgwick County commissioner.

The field of candidates hoping to take his place is growing.

Roger Smith, a 57-year-old retired aircraft industrial engineer, is seeking the interim position, which would likely run from early January until the April 5 elections.

Interim council candidates will have to collect 100 signatures, be interviewed by district advisory board members and be voted on by the City Council.

Smith said he may run for the remaining two years of Skelton's term if he is appointed for the interim and finds that it's a good fit for him and the community.

He'll have competition if he does.

Clinton Coen, a 19-year-old who declared his candidacy for mayor earlier this year, has discontinued his bid to unseat Mayor Carl Brewer and will instead run for the District 3 opening.

He has been a sharp critic of special tax incentives to businesses and an advocate of smaller government.

He said he opposes the proposed trash cooperative.

"It will eliminate consumer choice and it is just one more way the city government will become involved in business," he wrote in an e-mail.

James Clendenin, a 36-year-old machinist at PCI Composites, also intends to run for the remainder of Skelton's term.

He recently got 44 percent of the vote in the District 98 state House race, losing to Democratic incumbent Geraldine Flaharty.

Clendenin said southeast Wichita lagged behind for years, but has moved forward with Skelton's leadership.

"I'd really like to see the continued movement forward for District 3 that Jim Skelton has been able to provide the last five years he's been in office," he said.

But, unlike Skelton, Clendenin doesn't like the sound of the city's proposed trash hauling plan.

"I really feel that consumers deserve a choice in who they're going to use as their trash service," he said. "When you take competition out of the scenario, one of two things happens: prices skyrocket or service goes down."

Clendenin said his primary focus will be on finding ways to create jobs. But he also hopes to spur development in the defunct Joyland amusement park area and find a resolution for residents frustrated by the Cornejo & Son's landfill near K-15 and 31st Street South.

Roger Smith, who also wants the interim position, said he generally supports the city's proposed trash plan.

The primary reason is recycling, he said, noting that he volunteered with others who jump-started the Miller Recycling Center in south Wichita.

Smith said his focus as interim council member would be to listen to residents and resolve their complaints.

Hoyt Hillman, a chemical engineer and a member of the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, said he plans to seek the interim seat and run in the April election.

He said his recent retirement and his experience on various city boards qualify him for the job.

"I have background, the experience and the time to do a good job," he said.

Hillman, 65, said he strongly supports recycling but would like to see more details of the proposed trash plan before endorsing it.

A primary election will be held if more than two people file for the seat. The primary would be March 1. The general election is April 5.