We have volunteered as business and community members for years on boards and initiatives to advance our community. Through these efforts we’ve experienced working with great public servants who are local elected leaders.
For 16 years, Sedgwick County has been fortunate Dave Unruh served as one of those elected leaders. After building a successful business, he ran and won four consecutive terms. He chose to retire, and his fourth term ends this week. He easily won re-election because his constituents and the rest of us knew he was dedicated to strengthening our community, region and the state.
Commissioner Unruh supported game-changing initiatives, and through them he demonstrated his commitment to people and the organizations serving them while also remaining a fiscal conservative.
His humility allowed him to listen to others. He was a great partner who realized when the county needed to lead and when it was time for others to lead. He asked questions to learn what worked best — whether for government, nonprofit or business.
It takes courage to embrace a vision or implement change. It takes more courage to act. For every one of these big initiatives, Commissioner Unruh helped lead because he believed they had the ability to change the community and region for the better for now and for generations. Many have already demonstrated their value for our long-term future.
In economic development Commissioner Unruh was chairman in 2006 when the board voted to build a world-class technical-education facility to ensure we remained competitive for new jobs. The National Center for Aviation Training is home to the growing WSU Tech. He also championed smart economic development programs that generated additional tax dollars and regional cooperation through REAP and other efforts.
In quality of life, Commissioner Unruh is the last commissioner who served 15 years ago when voters approved the sales tax to build Intrust Bank Arena, now open nine years. His leadership helped ensure the Sedgwick County Zoo could inspire future generations to protect elephants through a nationally recognized exhibit. He supported Exploration Place, where many children and their families have their first opportunity for hands-on learning, especially in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) careers.
In public safety, Commissioner Unruh advocated for important policy decisions that saved the county and taxpayers money while ensuring a safe community, including eliminating the need for a jail expansion. His support of new mental health programs and public health issues changed lives for many.
These and hundreds of other efforts required teamwork among multiple organizations, partners, people and governments. Commissioner Unruh would be the first to give credit to the entire team of other leaders, the support of the community, nonprofit partners and especially, great county staff.
Throughout Dave Unruh’s business and elected career, he has been dedicated to our community. In his perseverance to get things done and his belief in our future, he’s made a difference. We join with the community in thanking him and wishing him well.