Archive for Thursday, May 2, 1996


May 2, 1996


The senior member of the Douglas County Commission will step down at the end of his term so that he can remain Wakarusa Township Fire Chief.

Louie McElhaney, who has chaired the Douglas County commission for the past five years, said Wednesday that he will not seek a third term.

During his tenure, McElhaney has given the commission a decidedly conservative bent, opposing the expansion of county government services, supporting budgetary thrift and looking out for property rights in land-use planning issues.

A Republican, McElhaney represents the 3rd District, which includes most of Lawrence west of Iowa Street and the western half of Douglas County, including the city of Lecompton.

McElhaney, 61, said the decision not to run was one he regretted to make. However, in order to seek re-election, McElhaney said he would have had to resign his job as Wakarusa Township Fire Chief. By taking early retirement from that position, he would have forfeited a portion of his pension.

``I have appreciated being able to serve, but I had to make a choice between the two jobs,'' he said Wednesday night.

In 1993, after McElhaney had been elected to his second term, a Kansas Attorney General's opinion found that the positions of county commissioner and township fire chief were incompatible. The issue was not raised before his election in 1988 and 1992 or when he made an unsuccessful bid for the office in 1984.

Although the law did not require McElhaney to resign the county commission post when the conflict came to light, the opinion created an election issue to be contended with this year.

McElhaney said the Wakarusa Township Board had been willing to change his title and job description to erase the appearance of a conflict but that he had decided against it.

``I was afraid people would not be comfortable with that,'' he said.

Among accomplishments during his time in office, McElhaney listed improvements to the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds, establishment of the court trustee office to improve child support collections and construction of the Northeast Kansas Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

McElhaney also has been the commission's representative in the site selection and design of the new county jail, which is being built east of Lawrence and will open in 1999.

``I've learned that a commissioner on his own doesn't get anything done,'' McElhaney said. ``I've appreciated the help that I've had from the other commissioners.''

Another Republican, former undersheriff Don Dalquest, already has declared his candidacy for the 3rd District post. In addition, two Democrats have entered the race. They are Larry Kipp, a businessman and entomologist, and Beverly Worster, a teacher at Lawrence High School.

County Commissioner Jim Chappell, who's seat also is up for election this year, already has announced he won't seek re-election. Commissioner Mark Buhler does not face re-election until 1998.

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