Candidates raced to get their paperwork in order for the June 1 filing deadline for the 2023 Wyandotte County elections.
A primary election will be held to narrow the choices for many of the races on Aug. 1. A number of Black candidates are emerging as strong contenders for local offices, bringing diverse perspectives and experiences to the forefront.
The current Register of Deeds, Nancy Burns, isn’t seeking re-election and multiple seats are up for the Board of Public Utilities (BPU), Unified Government Board of Commissioners, and KCK Public School Board USD 500.
Voters have the opportunity to elect individuals who will champion their interests and work towards positive change in the community.
In the race for Register of Deeds, three Black candidates vie for votes alongside the current deputy Register of Deeds, Susie Warner Nelson, who hopes to move up and take her boss’ place. CeCe Harlin is a digital creator and community activist. Madella Henderson is a longtime KCK resident who went to Wyandotte High and KCK Community College. The third candidate is Lawrence Willis.
The Board of Public Utilities (BPU) has three seats up for election. In two of the seats, the incumbents – Rose Mulvaney and Jeff Bryant – are seeking reelection with little opposition.
The big news is that Robert Milan Sr. who has served on the board for decades is not seeking reelection on the BPU. Running for his seat is Pastor Stevie Wakes Sr. who is the senior pastor at Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Kansas City, KS. He also works as an administrative support specialist in District Attorney Mark Dupree’s office. There are two other opponents in that race.
In the USD 500 elections, four seats on the board are up for grabs and all four incumbents are seeking re-election: Randy Lopez, Yolanda Clark and Janey Marie Humphries. Valdenia Winn, who also serves in the Kansas House, is also seeking re-election to the board.
Eight other candidates are hoping to unseat them. In this at-large election, the top four vote-getters in the field of 11 candidates are declared the winners.
The seven member board currently has five Black female members, one Hispanic male and one White female.
A surprising two Black male candidates are seeking election to the board: Pastor Robert Milan Jr., the son of the retiring BPU board member, and Deon Whitten.
Milan Jr. is senior pastor of Greater Faith Baptist Church. Whitten is owner/administrator of Resilient Transitions LLC (RT), a transitional living program designed for youth who are ready to enter a phase of care that will eventually transition them to independent living. In addition, he serves as dean of students at the Ewing Marion Kauffman School, a public charter school in KCMO.
Stacey Yeager (pictured) who served on the board for four years but lost her reelection bid in 2021 is also running again for a seat on the board. The other candidates are: Brenda Scruggs Andrieu, Yolanda Johnson, Mary Ann Mosely and Angelynn Howell.
Five seats are up for election on the Unified Government Board of Commissioners. Three incumbents are seeking reelection and two aren’t.
In District 1, incumbent Melissa Bynum, who has been serving since 2015, faces competition from Ricky Smith. District 2 incumbent Brian McKienna has three opponents. In District 3, incumbent Christian Ramirez, the only Hispanic/Latino member of the commission, faces four candidates. Reflective of the district, three of the candidates have Hispanic surnames.
District 4 incumbent Rev. Harold Johnson Jr., (pictured) who has served on the commission since 2015, is not seeking re-election. Four candidates are vying for the seat, which has traditionally been held by an African American.
Tarrance Maddox, president of the Kansas City Kansas NAACP, is seeking election to the board. He held the seat prior to Johnson. Other candidates for the position are Evelyn Hill, who is on the staff of Avenue of Life and former professor at Faith Bible College; Pamela Penn Hicks, owner of Pjay’s Creative Image Design, a graphic design studio; and Brandie Armstrong, who has a Facebook page up, but we weren’t able to find out much about her background.
District 6 incumbent Angela Markley is not seeking reelection. Three people have filed to run in her district.
Please note that there are also 10 candidates running for the KCK Community College Board of Trustees, which we’ll cover in a future issue.
These elections provide an opportunity for the community to select leaders who will address their concerns and work towards a better future. The primaries are scheduled for Aug. 1, with the general election taking place on Nov. 7. As the election season unfolds, voters will have the chance to learn more about the candidates’ visions and plans for their respective offices.