Voters on Tuesday ensured there will be a four-letter word ringing throughout City Hall in the coming weeks and months: Jobs.
Voters in the Lawrence City Commission race (see detailed results) made clear-cut winners out of candidates Mike Dever and Rob Chestnut, who spent most of their campaigns talking about the need for more jobs in the community.
Incumbent Commissioner Boog Highberger held on and finished third, which will give him a two-year term on the commission. Incumbent Commissioner David Schauner lost his bid for re-election, finishing fourth in the race.
"Our job numbers in this community speak loudly," said Dever, the owner of a Lawrence-based environmental consulting firm. "They show we can really do better."
The election results mean there will be two new faces on the five-member commission when Dever and Chestnut begin four-year terms next Tuesday. Commissioner Mike Rundle did not run for re-election.
In an election that featured a turnout of 18.9 percent, Dever led the six-member field with 7,349 votes, or 20.6 percent of the total. He was followed by:
¢ Chestnut, chief financial officer for Allen Press, with 6,797 votes, or 19 percent.
¢ Highberger, an attorney for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, with 6,191 votes, or 17.3 percent.
¢ Schauner, general counsel for the Kansas National Education Assn., with 5,491 votes, or 15.4 percent.
¢ James Bush, a former pastor at a Lawrence church, with 4,960 votes, or 13.9 percent.
¢ Carey Maynard-Moody, a retired school social worker, with 4,784 votes, or 13.4 percent.
A preliminary analysis of vote totals showed that Dever and Chestnut did particularly well in the western portion of the city. Chestnut said while walking those neighborhoods, he found residents were especially concerned about the city's economy.
"There are a lot of commuters in those neighborhoods," said Chestnut, a Lawrence native. "They are concerned about a lack of jobs (in Lawrence)."
Some candidates, though, questioned whether the election results - coupled with the record amounts of money Chestnut and Dever raised - signaled a major building boom in west Lawrence at the expense of other parts of the community. Maynard-Moody said she was "concerned about the urban core."
Schauner - who congratulated the winners on running good campaigns - said community members should "keep an eye on" the Wal-Mart proposal for Sixth and Wakarusa Drive that has the city involved in a lawsuit set for trial April 16.
"I think you will see a lot of change in the amount of retail square footage out in west Lawrence," Schauner said. "I think there will be a lot of changes out west."
Dever and Chestnut, though, sought to quell any notions that the election had created a split within the community.
"I won't be representing any single part of the city," Dever said. "I promise I will be concerned about every square foot of the city. Anybody who says otherwise doesn't know me."
Highberger, who was first elected in 2003, also said he would be working to maintain many of the policies that the commission has created during his time in office. He said he didn't view the election results as a mandate for complete change.
"I think the votes show that there are still a significant number of people who are pleased with what we've been doing and what we've accomplished," Highberger said. "I'm going to continue working hard."