What’s at stake in the Wichita mayor’s race is not just whether the city continues on its positive trajectory — there’s a lot of good happening, after all — but how leaders should conduct the city’s business.
The candidate we endorse in the Aug. 6 primary — Lyndy Wells — has pledged to increase transparency in city government, seek more input from residents, and end questionable backroom deals involving public land and Wichita’s future.
Wells, 67, a retired public affairs director for Intrust Bank, stands out from the nine-candidate field because of his business and civic experience.
He serves as chairman on boards for the Ascension Via Christi Health System and WSU Tech, and previously has chaired the Greater Wichita Economic Development Committee, the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce and Prairie View Inc.
Wells understands that leadership begins with listening. As mayor, he says, he would work to engage community members and seek input from the entire city, not just a select few.
“I am concerned that we’ve made some decisions . . . throughout the last period of years that are done without a lot of community input,” Wells said.
For a mayor and City Council, “the money that you are spending is the money of the taxpayers of the city of Wichita,” Wells said. “It’s not your money, it’s not your friends’ money, and we have an obligation as a public agency to represent the interests of everyone.”
BEHIND OUR REPORTING
Who decides the endorsements?
Members of The Wichita Eagle editorial board interview political candidates. The editorial board is separate from The Eagle’s news department. Members of The Eagle editorial board are: Eagle general manager Dale Seiwert, executive editor Michael Roehrman and editorial page writer Suzanne Perez Tobias. Read more by clicking the arrow in the upper right.
What does the endorsement process entail?
The Eagle editorial board meets with political candidates. The interviews are largely focused on public policy, and each lasts about an hour. Board members do additional reporting and research to learn as much as possible about the candidates. The editorial board then convenes to discuss the candidates in each race. Board members seek to reach a consensus on the endorsements, but not every decision is unanimous.
Is the editorial board partisan?
No. In making endorsements, members of the editorial board consider which candidates are well prepared to represent their constituents — not whether they agree with us or belong to a particular political party. We evaluate candidates’ relevant experience, their readiness for office, their knowledge of key issues and their understanding of public policy.
Why are endorsements unsigned?
Endorsements reflect the collective views of The Eagle’s editorial board — not just the opinion of one writer. Board members all discuss and contribute ideas to each endorsement editorial.
Wells supports a coalition of Wichita boosters that is helping shape the Riverfront Legacy Master Plan — an effort to take a broader look at how existing and future development can fit together along the east bank of the Arkansas River downtown.
He won’t say whether he thinks the Century II convention center should be razed or renovated, but said Wichita is missing out on convention business and performing arts opportunities “because of the inadequacies of our current facilities.”
Wells thinks major capital projects are “crowding out basic services” such as street repairs, and that Wichita should beef up its police force as recommended by a 2017 study of police staffing.
“We have an obligation, just like any household, to cover basic services before we start buying the new car or buying the new house or whatever that might be,” Wells said.
This is Wells’ first time seeking elected office, but the Newton native and his wife, Marty, have been an active part of the community for the past two decades.
Our hope is that Wells can keep Wichita’s impressive economic and quality-of-life momentum going while bringing together varied constituencies and making sure city leaders do the people’s business in public.
Incumbent Mayor Jeff Longwell is running on a record with several accomplishments, including substantial downtown development and helping negotiate a deal to keep Cargill’s headquarters in Wichita.
Longwell’s primary legacy — wooing a Triple-A baseball team to Wichita and spearheading construction of a new ballpark development at Maple and McLean — unfortunately is marred by the fast-track, “just trust us” approach he employed. He’s right to say the city can’t always negotiate in public, but he’d do well to recognize that public projects deserve a thorough public airing.
We’re also impressed by state Rep. Brandon Whipple, who touts a notable record as a state legislator, and Amy Lyon, a political newcomer who speaks with passion about making Wichita a better place for all residents.
Also running are Joshua Atkinson, Brock Booker, Ian Demory, Mark Gietzen and Marty Mork.