Small towns in Kansas struggle to fill positions in local government

Multiple candidates run uncontested

Loyal voters make their way to the polls, hoping to fill the government positions in their community, but that can prove to be a difficult task.

“Council, mayor, county commissioner, school boards…it’s a full time job if you do it right,” said Wayne Cook, a voter in Baxter Springs, Kansas.

“Local government is a really big part because it has to do with schools and stuff like that, and public education is a really big deal…I feel like in a lot of small towns, it’s overseen and it shouldn’t be,” expressed Jennifer Vickers, another voter in Baxter Springs.

Small towns across the state are struggling to find candidates to run for office. In Cherokee County alone, two towns, Roseland and West Mineral, are complete write-ins. Baxter Springs has only one candidate running for mayor. That’s also the case for Columbus.

“I think it’s harder now than it was in recent years. I think a lot of that comes down to the economics that cities and towns, communities, are faced with being able to have enough revenue,” said Rodney Edmondson, Cherokee County Clerk.

Kansas increased the filing fee for candidates, so it’s now $20 to file for a local city office, but the largest cost is the election itself.

“There’s a lot of equipment, a lot of mandates that we’re required to comply with. It’s an enormous cost, and when you think about the small turnout when you only have 8% maybe 10% of your registered voters that turnout to vote, it’s almost viewed as wasted money. As far as the filing, we just need people to volunteer to serve,” said Edmondson.

While voters appreciate having options, it seems that, across the board, they prefer quality over quantity.

“I’d rather probably have somebody that’s interested enough to put his or her name on the ballot rather than two or three that put their name on there just because,” said Cook.

“If the one candidate that’s running is good, then that’s good, but it is nice to have options,” said Vickers.

Edmondson says that if no one is available to fill a position in an election, it becomes a vacancy for either the city or the school district to fill based on its own rules.

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