Sedgwick County Commissioner Richard Ranzau said there’s a narrative that Wichita and Sedgwick County are not getting along, and he pointed to Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell for that.
“There’s always been differences between the city and the county,” Ranzau said at the end of Wednesday’s county meeting. “This narrative of city and county fighting didn’t start until the city of Wichita got a new mayor. That’s just plain and simple.”
He also said Longwell is trying to influence the County Commission after Longwell endorsed county candidate David Dennis. Dennis, a retired Air Force colonel challenging commissioner Karl Peterjohn, also got endorsements from Wichita City Council members Pete Meitzner and Bryan Frye on Tuesday.
“He (Longwell) wants his puppet on the County Commission and it’s all political,” Ranzau said.
Longwell called Ranzau’s puppet remark “absolutely absurd.” He said he asked Dennis about running earlier in the year and that he’s been upfront with county officials that he thinks Dennis would improve relations between the two governments.
“I have found him (Dennis) to be a very articulate, bright, caring individual,” Longwell said. “Those are the kinds of people that care about their community and care about working together that we ought to have in office.”
“We have found that it’s been an exercise of frustration trying to work out mutual agreements with them,” Longwell said of county commissioners.
Dennis said he didn’t want to respond to personal attacks and that Ranzau “really needs to get to know me.”
“I’ve never heard of a colonel being called a puppet by anyone,” Dennis said. “We were trained to be leaders and make our own decisions.”
The discussion at the county meeting came about a week after Ranzau and Longwell talked about ways that the two governments are picking up the other’s costs. Ranzau said The Eagle was partnering with Longwell to create the narrative that the two were arguing.
“We just kind of go in different directions. That doesn’t mean we’re fighting,” Ranzau said.
But Longwell said again Wednesday that city officials are increasingly frustrated with county votes to shift costs to the city.
“They do an end-zone dance on how they’re saving taxpayers’ money when all they have done is shifted the obligation over onto the city of Wichita,” Longwell said. “I’m not sure it’s going to get better until we see a bit of a shift of ideologies.”
Ranzau said the County Commission has helped resolve several longstanding issues with the city in recent months.
“We’ve addressed issues like the Law Enforcement Training Center, the tag office, the regional fire training center, the 271 building, projects that have languished for years if not decades in the past,” Ranzau said. “We’re getting things done.”
Asked if his Wednesday remarks would contribute to the perception that the two governments are fighting each other, Ranzau responded that “it’s already out there.”
“The only thing I can do is face it head on and speak the truth,” Ranzau said.