Archive for Sunday, January 10, 1993

NEWEST COMMISSIONER TO BE SEATED

January 10, 1993

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Hang on:

A member of a generation that graduated high school during the birth of video games will hyperspace from the business world into the Douglas County Commission soon.

And if he needs an escape from issues relentlessly rolling down like barrels in the Donkey Kong video game, Commissioner-elect Jim Chappell, 31, just might head for his downtown convenience store.

There, around the corner from the soda refrigerator is his favorite video game a motorcycle racing game called "Hang On!"

"I love it. I can drive 180 mph and wipe out on a rock and get up and go again," he said. "All the city and county officials should have to play it."

Commissioner Mike Amyx, 39, might have more time to do just that as he ends a 10-year stretch in local government and turns over his 2nd District County Commission seat to Chappell at Monday's meeting.

COMMISSIONERS Mark Buhler, Louie McElhaney, Amyx and Chappell discussed the passing of the torch in separate interviews last week.

Chappell and Amyx are similar in many ways. Both are young Democrats, both have a passion for a good campaign, and both say they feel the community's pulse Amyx at his barber's chair, Chappell behind a convenience store cash register.

But their personalities differ greatly.

Chappell describes himself as outspoken unafraid to voice his opinions on issues. Amyx thinks of himself as quiet and thoughtful willing to hold his opinions inside while he makes a decision.

Tough issues like the proposed juvenile detention center, the future of the Valley View Care Home, and construction bids for the South Lawrence Trafficway will face the new commission in 1993.

TRUE TO his personality, Chappell already has spoken out about the detention center, saying he would not mind delaying its construction if it means savings.

"I am not timid about being opinionated, and at some point that may work to my detriment," he said. "That's not to say I'm going to be a bull in a china closet, but I am going to have definite opinions."

He said he has attended meetings and executive sessions since the election to prepare for the issues.

After growing up watching politics at work his grandfather and uncle were leaders in the Kansas Democratic Party Chappell is nervous and excited about facing the public and making a decision.

Buhler said he learned fast that the commission table and the audience benches were worlds apart.

"Voting for and against friends and neighbors as they stare back at you is very hard and is what it's all about," Buhler said.

IN THE MIDDLE of his first term, Buhler will have a chance to help the rookie, Chappell.

"I lacked background in detail," Buhler said of his first few weeks. "Mike and Louie helped me. That might be my role helping Jim understand the reasons for our decisions over the years."

Buhler said he and Amyx voted the same way most of the time. He said he was unsure how he and Chappell would come down on issues.

Buhler and Amyx often would joke together at meetings and when a baseball field request arose recently, the two recalled playing baseball in Lawrence as boys.

"We all tend to like people who think and vote like we do," Buhler said of Amyx. "Now I'll be able to sit down and have a beer with him."

Amyx was two years younger than Chappell when he began his first term at city hall as a Lawrence city commissioner.

"HERE I WAS, not even sure of which door to go into," he said.

Amyx's advice to Chappell was to keep his ears open to the community and to take his time understanding the basics of an issue.

"County commissioner is probably the most powerful seat in America," Amyx said. "It only takes you and one other commissioner to put something in place."

The only visible results of a commissioner's decisions, he said, were projects.

"Something that I'll miss is seeing projects that I've worked on very hard completed during my term," he said, referring to the South Lawrence Trafficway, Eastern Parkway and the juvenile detention center. "They obviously aren't going to be."

Amyx said he would not miss having little control over his calendar. With a busy schedule of meetings and conferences, he often would be unable to spend time with his wife and son.

"SHOOT, the first thing I'll probably do in spring is paint the house."

McElhaney was reluctant to compare Amyx and Chappell.

"I've enjoyed working with Mike, and I'm sure I'll enjoy working with Jim," he said.

McElhaney and Amyx would not always agree, but McElhaney said that was normal for a political body such as the commission.

"The thing of it is, whoever is voting at the time thinks that they're right," he said.

He said Chappell would have to work hard in the coming weeks to acquaint himself with commission procedures and paperwork.

He's also been listening to advice from those with experience, and he repeated something former Commissioner Nancy Hiebert once told him when she learned he was interested in county government.

"She said to always remember that you're not as big of a fish as you might think," Chappell said.

AS VIDEO games chatter, buzz and beep in the background, Chappell gets another insight when he asks a customer perusing sodas in the downtown convenience store how he is doing.

The man said he knew he must be doing well because he felt nervous like the eerie quiet before the storm.

Chappell nodded.

"I know what you mean," he said. "I've been nervous, too."

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