Archive for Sunday, January 7, 1996

AGNES T. FROG OUT OF POND

January 7, 1996

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A chapter in the South Lawrence Trafficway's early history will be preserved in the Kansas State Historical Museum.

Agnes T. Frog, the only confessed amphibian to seek elected office in Douglas County, has come out of hibernation long enough to be immortalized in state history.

The Agnes T. Frog costume, which was the mascot for a 1986 county commission campaign, has been accepted into the permanent collection of the Kansas State Historical Museum. The frog's candidacy was designed to raise awareness for the Haskell-Baker Wetlands and to prevent the South Lawrence Trafficway from being routed through that natural area.

Agnes, who ran a write-in campaign and garnered nearly 28 percent of the vote in the 1st District county commission race, was a northern crawfish frog, a threatened species whose primary habitat was in the wetlands.

Anne Marvin, the museum's curator of fine art, clothing and entertainment, said the costume will be part of an exhibit on the history of water resources in Kansas, which will be on display from April 20 through mid-November.

``I thought that being able to use the Agnes T. Frog costume in the water resources exhibit would be a way to introduce an element of humor into the issue of concern for the environment and water resources,'' Marvin said.

``It's a symbol of the types of development issues people have been concerned about.''

When the exhibit comes down, Agnes will retire to her own lily pad in the museum's warehouse, along with microfilm of her archives, an assortment of local and national press clippings detailing her brief but celebrated political career. The frog received mention in Time magazine and USA Today and gave interviews to radio shows throughout the country.

John Simmons, a collections manager at the Kansas University Museum of Natural History, was treasurer for The Committee to Elect a True Amphibian and appeared with Agnes whenever she granted an interview.

``The frog only spoke in a series of ribbets," Simmons said. "I would interpret.''

The identity of Agnes has never been revealed, he said.

The campaign drew much of its notoriety from the gimmicks, such as a ``tad poll'' taken to gauge public opinion, and spoofery designed as attention-getting devices.

``We were trying to find an angle on getting the public's attention for saving the wetlands,'' Simmons said. ``It brought that to the forefront of the public debate and, of course, that issue is still with us.''

Simmons said one of Agnes' finest moments occurred during her ouster from the Kansas Statehouse by the governor's security force. Simmons, who held lobbyist's credentials, said the frog was visiting the Legislature as his one allowed guest when guards escorted them out of the building on grounds that the frog was a security threat.

A member of the Douglas County legislative delegation, who received a phone call on the floor of the House, made sure that Agnes was allowed to hop back in.

``The principle of telling a lobbyist to leave the building got a lot of people upset," Simmons said, "regardless of what they thought of Agnes.''

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