Race assured for top spot in county government
Former Overland Park mayor and current Johnson County Commissioner Ed Eilert filed to run last week for Johnson County Commission chairman, joining incumbent Annabeth Surbaugh in the race.
Eilert said his 24-year tenure as mayor of the county’s largest city will help him realize his goals as county commission chair of job growth, expanding private sector economic opportunity and restoring fiscal restraint to the county budget.
“As mayor of Overland Park, I made sure that the city adapted rapidly to changing conditions in order to keep our budget in balance and our taxes low,” he said. “Unfortunately, current county leadership is mired in the status quo, leaving our budget with projected deficits and our residents threatened by future tax increases.”
She welcomed the longtime mayor of Overland Park to the race, Surbaugh said.
As for the county’s financial status, Surbaugh said it was the envy of the state.
“We have the lowest mill levy in Kansas of the 105 counties, and it is the lowest by 7 mills,” Surbaugh said.
She also pointed to county government’s triple-A bond rating. Bond rating agencies always point to the county’s strong financial management and healthy reserve when making their assessments, she said.
The five-year model the commission signed off on would use the reserves to help maintain services without raising taxes during the recession, Surbaugh said.
“That’s what reserves are for,” she said. “At no point will we let the reserve go below 20 percent.”
She and the commission also favored cutting expenses rather than raising taxes during the economic downturn, Surbaugh said.
“I will not raise taxes in these hard times,” she said.
Surbaugh has been commission chair since 2002 and is the only person to hold the position created as part of reform package of county elected offices voters approved in November 2000. She was a member of the county commission from 1992 to 2002.
Eilert has been the Johnson County Commission’s 4th District representative since 2006.
In a statement announcing his filing, Eilert said the key to the county’s well being was growth of its private sector, which would grow employment and the tax base.
“Most of the economic development that has occurred in our county has been initiated by our cities and their local economic development teams,” he said. “That process should continue. However, I think we should move outside the box and take full advantage, in a collective effort, of our assets to support job growth and economic development.”
Eilert cited the new Kansas University/K-State Johnson County Research Triangle as an opportunity for the county to capitalize on an industry incubator unique to the county.
“We need to maximize our communities’ marking and recruiting efforts to bring job opportunities in the area of human health and medical research, food safety, animal health and related businesses,” Eilert said. “Such activity would also serve to expand the market for support businesses, creating additional job opportunities.”
Eilert earned an bachelor’s of science in business administrator and master’s in business education from Emporia State University. He has been a business teacher at Shawnee Mission East High School, a financial advisor with A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc. and Bache & Co., a member of the Metcalf Bank board of directors and the Emporia State University School of Business council of advisors.
The Johnson County Commission chair is a non-partisan election.
Should more than two candidates file in the race, an August primary will narrow the field to two candidates for the November general election.
In her first two races for the position, Surbaugh faced off in the general election against Charlotte O’Hara of Spring Hill.
An activist with ties to Kansans for Life, O’Hara was able to survive primaries in which Surbaugh and other candidates split the moderate vote and earned more than 49 percent of the vote in 2006.