Correction: Sam Williams is not currently a certified public accountant. An earlier version of these endorsements included incorrect information.
The following are The Eagle editorial board’s recommendations for the March 3 primary for Wichita mayor and Wichita City Council. Only races with more than two candidates have primaries. The top two finishers in each race will advance to the April 7 general election. We offer these recommendations as information to consider as you make up your own mind about the candidates and issues.
Sam Williams is the best choice to replace term-limited Mayor Carl Brewer. He has the business and civic experience and fresh perspective to lead the state’s largest city effectively.
Williams, formerly a certified public accountant, retired last year after a long career as chief financial officer at Sullivan Higdon and Sink advertising agency. He also has chaired the board of directors of the Quivira Council of Boy Scouts of America, Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, Wichita Downtown Development Corp. and Envision. He led a United Way of the Plains annual fund drive and chaired Gov. Sam Brownback’s school efficiency task force.
Williams’ top priority is job creation. He wants to build on Wichita’s entrepreneurial heritage, focusing on small-business growth and creating a business-friendly tax and regulatory environment. He supports Wichita State University’s Innovation Campus and finding ways to diversify the local economy.
Williams won’t say whether he supported last year’s sales tax initiative – a troubling stance for someone advocating more transparency in government. He agrees that the city needs a long-term water source but is not convinced what the best solution is. He doesn’t like business incentives but acknowledges that they may be necessary sometimes.
The biggest hope for Williams is that he can help bridge the ideological divide and trust gap that exist between the City Council and some citizens and businesses in the community. “I know how to bring people together, have the tough discussions and problem-solve,” he said.
Wichita City Council members Jeff Longwell and Lavonta Williams are also good candidates. Longwell’s priorities are changing how the city does economic development, focusing more on quality-of-life issues, and restoring community faith in public safety. Williams’ priorities include water supply and infrastructure, street repair, city transit and jobs.
Also running are Jennifer Winn, Sean Hatfield, Frances Jackson, Robert Culver, Dan Heflin, Tony Rosales and Tracy Stewart.
Wichita City Council
Council member Pete Meitzner has more than earned a second term in this far-east Wichita district. Meitzner, whose business experience is in telecom and data security, has been a voice for fiscal restraint and a leader and consensus builder on transportation issues, including the efforts to finish Kellogg construction and to bring passenger rail back through Wichita. His knowledge of the issues will be needed as a new mayor and council seek strategies and funds related to water and sewer, buses, and business recruitment and retention. Among his smart ideas: explore a regional water authority and engage the state and the congressional delegation in the effort to ensure a long-term water supply.
Meitzner’s challengers are Anthony Mitchell and Jim Price. Mitchell lacks the community and business experience to serve on the council; Price, who ran for the Kansas House last year, has had two criminal convictions, a bankruptcy and other legal problems.
Wichita park board president Bryan Frye is the best candidate to succeed Jeff Longwell in this northwest district, because of his good mix of district and community experience and his knowledge of the city’s infrastructure and quality-of-life challenges. Frye, director of marketing at KAKE-TV, understands that in the wake of November’s sales tax defeat the city needs to be more transparent and responsive to citizens if it wants to build trust. He said his “top priority is to get our priorities in order.” He would be effective in working on his fast-growing district’s issues, including overcrowded Westlink Branch Library and a needed police substation.
Gary Bond, a sales and marketing professional, also is a well-informed candidate whose top focus would be infrastructure and other basics.
James F. Breitenbach and William Beliles also are on the ballot.