Archive for Thursday, November 14, 2002

Surbaugh’s election should be good for De Soto

November 14, 2002

For the first time in its history, Johnson County will have an elected leader of county government.

In the past, the county chairman was little more than a figurehead. The position was passed around annually from one commission seat to the next. There was much talk about the chairperson setting the Commission agenda, but that ability was hampered by the lack of real authority and the short tenure of the position.

Privately, commissioners said the frequent changes contributed to a lack of focus. Not all commissioners were successful in getting county staff or fellow commissioners to buy into pet projects, which would often be set aside or downgraded at the end of the one-year term. One former commissioner said the tag-team approach to leadership contributed to the Commission's awkward handling of Oz Entertainment Co.'s redevelopment proposal for the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant. Four different chairpersons served during the time it was before the commission.

That should change when Annabeth Surbaugh takes the reins in January. With 60 percent of the vote, she has a clear mandate. The full-time nature of the position will give her time to advocate her vision with residents, staff and commissioners.

Surbaugh wasn't the choice of De Soto voters. Her opponent Charlotte O'Hara was more active here and connected with voters when she pointed to the growth in west Shawnee and its effect on the local mill levy. We don't disagree better planning could have mitigated some of those consequences, but it's too late for the county to do anything to slow growth in those municipal areas.

We would argue growth is the only solution to the burden the district's eastside residential boom is placing on De Soto homeowners. The land use maps of Shawnee and Lenexa show few areas of commercial and industrial growth within the De Soto school district. The only sites that kind of development is possible to any significant degree are along Kansas Highway 10. The reality is the county must support that development if it is to blossom.

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