Douglas County Commission candidate Nancy Thellman chats about primary election

July 30, 2008

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Nancy Thellman, a Democrat, is running for the 2nd District Douglas County Commission seat.


Hello and welcome to the Election 2008 online chat. I'm online editor Jonathan Kealing and I'll be your moderator today. We have with us Nancy Thellman, a Democratic candidate for the Douglas County Commission 2nd District. Welcome Nancy.

Nancy Thellman:

Thanks so much for this opportunity, John. I'm glad to be here.


Ms Thellman, Can you elaborate on how you would look at long-range land use planning considering our county's economic, environmental and quality of life concerns? Thank-you!

Nancy Thellman:

That's a great question to ask--especially in a time when our economy, our environment, and our community's sense of well being are all challenged at the moment. The key to this question is the term "long range." Our leaders need to consider all land use decision taking the long view, not choosing land uses based on speculative economic promises that might look promising in the short term, but have long range implications which have more downside than benefit.

One of my top concerns is protecting/preserving our limited natural resources. If ever there was a time that we're acutely aware of our finite resources, it's now. Our fuel, our food, our water availability--all are coming to the fore as serious concerns. So whatever economic development/land use plans we make for the future, these concerns need to be part of the equation.

Saving our very best prime agricultural land for future food production makes sense because food from distant places is becoming too expensive. Not building in flood plains and historically flood prone areas makes sense because the cost of building flood protection to protect those developments costs taxpayers is too much. However, Douglas County has numerous sites that are not flood prone, are not prime agriculture, are close to hghway transportation and are well suited economic development projects.

What will help us in the discussion on the topic of long range economic development will be to broaden the definition of economic development--beyond manufacturing and warehousing to include agricultural industry, green industry, eco, agri, and historical tourism.... Douglas County has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to resources for future planning. The key is to get some new energy, new ideas on the table alongside the traditional.


I'll post the next two questions together because they are related.


Do you believe continued development in flood plain/flood prone areas of the 2nd District makes good economic sense for the county and city?


What can our County Commissioners do to protect property in the 2nd District from flooding?

Nancy Thellman:

Another great question! Any new development planned for flood plain, flood way, flood fringe or just plain historically flood prone areas should be discouraged because it invites economic liability as well as a public safety hazard. Recent events in Iowa, Missouri and Illinois should be evidence enough--where lives were lost due to massive flooding with multiple levee failures--and bilions of dollars of infrastructure was lost as well.

Currently, plans to build on river bottom land north of Lawrence are proposed, hoping for annexation and rezoning to change this flood prone land from agricultural use to light industrial use. The cost to the citizens to provide infrastructure to this project is a few million for water and sewer and run off protection. But should development stretch out onto the North Lawrence watershed, the cost will be in the tens of millions of dollars--all devoted to flood protection projects (check out the North Lawrence Drainage Study!) The long range consequences of developing on flood prone areas--particularly areas which rely on levees for protection--are very serious and should discouraged.

I would go so far as to say the Urban Growth Area designation which is currently awarded to the North Lawrence area--including the watershed--should be removed or seriously revised--so that we're not promoting development precisely where it will not succeed (and where it will cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars to pursue).
be a part of any County, City, and Planning Commission discussions as development projects come along.


What do you feel is the largest issue facing the citizens of Douglas County and, if elected, how would you tackle it?

Nancy Thellman:

Water appropriation and land use will be the most pressing challenges facing Douglas County citizens. We have been in the habit of thinking of these resources as unlimited, but we are quickly reaching a critical point of development tension over these particular resources. There are two very serious conflicts over water ongoing in the county now (between Wholesale Water District #25 and the Kaw River Valley Growers) and between the city of Eudora and Rural Water District #4. As these and other development pressure mounts, there will be more and more conflict over rural vs. urban needs--issues of green space, sprawl, infrastructure cost, and quality of life.

Finding leaders who can resolve these kinds of difficult conflicts, who can conserve where needed and pursue development responsibly will be very important. Mediation skills will be a must.


Nancy, two questions.
You have talked about the importance of adding new jobs in Douglas County. Why are you against the proposed industrial park at the airport?
Why did you decide to run for Douglas County Commission?
Thank you.

Nancy Thellman:

I'm all for adding new jobs to Douglas County by way of new industry. But for the jobs and the industry to succeed, the industrial site must succeed. Asking tax payers to invest in a warehousing complex in the flood prone river bottom land of North Lawrence, investing millions of dollars for flood protection for those warehouses, for a project whose numbers are changing all the time doesn't make sense to me. The cost of building on flood prone land, the loss of prime agricultural land, and the use of tax payer dollars for private speculation just don't add up to me.

My experience working through this development issue with many other concerned citizens, becoming familiar with the city's comprehensive plan, studying flood plain development issues, FEMA regulations, exploring alternative development possibilities such as local and regional food production (agriculture is a $25 Million dollar industry in Douglas County alone--and could be worth even more with the promotion of local and regional food policies and production), being someone who can bring POSITIVE SOLUTIONS forward in challenging times prompted me to file as a candidate.

I was born and raised in Lawrence, have strong skills in the health care area (former registered nurse) providing insight into public health budget and policy decisions, and I have strong interpersonal and mediation skills (ordained minister), also very critical in a time when our community often finds itself conflicted in how to move forward. And now, with a very intense year of working within the City and County systems, I'm comfortable saying I'm knowledgeable about the ins and outs of County, City, and Planning processes from the Citizens' perspective--which help make me a well qualified candidate.


We'll have one last question before we let Nancy go.


You seem very similar to the other Democratic primary candidate. Can you provide specific differences between your visions for the future of Lawrence? Why should I vote for you over him?

Nancy Thellman:

Ken Adkinson has been a great opponent in this Democratic primary season. He's been a real gentleman and I know he's been working as hard as I have to make it through August 5th's vote.

I can only say that I believe Douglas County is at a serious crossroads with economic and environmental decisions coming that require serious commitment to policies reflecting 21st century thinking at its very best. We are in a rapidly changing world where doing business as usual will not suffice. I'm committed to making the hard decision that will help us actually be the progressive community we claim to be--comprehensive transportation planning, adequate senior services to care for our growing retirement population, creating sustainable local and regional food system policies to provide for our food security in the future, promoting industrial development that fits our environmental limitations, and plugging in to our many new, future-oriented business leaders who are anxious and ready to come to the economic development table. These are issues our next County Commission must be about. My hope is I'll be a part of that exciting process.


Thanks Nancy for joining us today. That's all the time we have for our chat. If you'd like to check out the transcripts of some of our other chats - including Nancy's primary opponent - log on to And for complete election coverage, visit

Nancy Thellman:

Thanks, John, for moderating this chat in the midst of what looks like a very busy news day here in the JW offices! Let me offer my website address for anyone who would like to learn more about my thoughts on particular Douglas County issues:

Remember to vote! Tuesday, August 5th

Many thanks,


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.