Six candidates vying to move on in primary for three JCCC trustee seats
Johnson County voters Tuesday will decide which six of eight candidates for the Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees will move on to the general election.
Three at-large, four-year seats are open on the board of trustees, and with the recent controversy over sexual harassment accusations against the college's former president, the race seems to have caught the public's eye, as evidenced by the large number of candidates.
Once more than six candidates filed, a primary was necessary for the three open seats. Voters will identify three or less of the eight candidates for the board of trustees on their ballots, and the top six vote-getters will move on.
Lorianne Fisher Koneczny, 42, Overland Park, was the last candidate to file for office. A business consultant and mother of four, she began taking non-credit courses at the college in 2002 and began pre-medical credit courses in the school's biotechnology program in 2004.
Koneczny is on four committees in the college's Student Senate and a member of both campus honor societies. She is also involved in the PTA and PTO at her children's schools, and five years ago responded to the Blue Valley School District's need for bus drivers and began driving her children's bus.
Koneczny said she decided to run at the urging of fellow students, and the Student Senate has given her a full endorsement. She formerly worked as a senior business development manager in Washington, D.C., where she said she was used to working with high-ranking company officials to create compromises.
"I know I can be a vital asset to the board," she said. "... I think that we can heal from disagreements, we can heal from the scandal. We can move on and we can be an entire body that works synergistically with each other."
More information about Koneczny can be found at www.koneczny.com.
Other candidates include:
- Incumbent Lynn Mitchelson, Mission Woods. Mitchelson, 66, has been a commercial banker in Johnson County for 40 years and is the current chair of the board of trustees.
Mitchelson also has served as chair of many other local boards, including the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce and the K-10 Corridor Association. He said he wanted to run again to continue to provide leadership while selecting a new college president, maintain the college's strong financial position and see the college's current construction projects through.
- David S. Nelson, Shawnee. Nelson, 40, says open, accurate and timely communication is the board's most important responsibility, and he said this is something the board must return to in order to create a trusting environment on campus.
Nelson said he would like to see expansions of the college's biosciences programs, entrepreneurship programs and partnership with the KU Edwards Campus. He said he also would support initiatives to promote greater diversity in the student population at the college.
Nelson, a brokerage specialist, has been a chamber of commerce executive in three other cities and served as chairman of the Shawnee Tomorrow leadership program in the Shawnee Chamber of Commerce in 2004 and 2005.
This is Nelson's first time to run for public office. He said he decided to run to make the board of trustees more accountable, citing the $565,000 investigation into sexual harassment charges against the former college president as one example of the board's recent misspending.
More information about Nelson can be found at www.davidsnelson.net.
- Peter A. Sam, Overland Park. Sam, 46, is a Ph.D. and was an adjunct professor of environmental sciences at Kansas University and the founder and president of AERCG, a non-profit international environmental consortium group.
Sam is currently a committee member of the Blue Valley School District Recreational Committee. He said he wants to promote diversity, free speech and international activities at JCCC, along with strengthening the school's curriculum and creating transparency for the board of trustees.
- Joshua Seiden, Overland Park. Seiden, 27, said he would like the board to ensure that the proper policy and procedures are being followed and open the lines of communication between leadership and students, faculty and staff.
Seiden also said he would like to see the tuition payment plan expanded to include part-time students, something Kansas City, Kan., Community College provides.
Seiden attended JCCC off and on from 1998 to 2006, serving as editor of the student newspaper at one point. He has been a reporter for several local newspapers and is currently in law school at the University of Missouri-Kansas City while working as an assistant manager for Coach Automotive Restyling in Kansas City, Kan.
Seiden said he saw that the college needs a student perspective when forming its policies, because that has been absent in his experience. He also said the board needs to be accessible to everyone on campus.
More information on Seiden can be found at www.joshuaseiden.blogspot.com.
- Incumbent Jon L. Stewart, Overland Park. Stewart, 51, is a JCCC graduate and president and CEO of Metcalf Bank. He has been on the board since appointed in 2004, but he said he has been actively involved in the college's organizations or fund-raising for the last 25 years, once serving as president of its alumni association.
Stewart said he was running to be on the board again because he wanted to give back to the college, as it had provided him with so much success.
- Dwight D. Sutherland, Jr., Mission Hills. Sutherland, 54, is a lawyer who has served as a Republican National Committeeman for Kansas and was a candidate for the Kansas Senate several years ago. He has been involved with the Gift for Life Foundation and the Shawnee Mission Medical Foundation, as well as being active in his church and volunteering his time as an attorney.
Sutherland said he has been impressed by how JCCC has become an important resource for the community as a place for education, cultural events and public forums. He wanted to run for the board in order to be supportive of all of these functions, he said.
- Don Weiss, Olathe. Weiss, 54, is the dean of evening, weekend and graduate studies at DeVry University. Voters may be familiar with Weiss because in November he ran for the Kansas State Board of Education seat that covers Olathe and De Soto.
Weiss said he decided to run for the community college board because, as a professional working on a daily basis in higher education, he thinks it's important to maintain a strong community college, especially with university tuition fees rising.
Weiss can be listed among the candidates who hope to restore trust in the board on the college campus and increase communication between the board, students and faculty.
More information about Weiss can be found at www.donweiss.org.