When David Schauner, the general counsel for the Kansas National Education Association, rises to argue a case before the state's Supreme Court, he does so without notes.
No, Schauner doesn't need any help talking. He proves that, he admits, nearly every Tuesday night in his role as a city commissioner.
"I feel like my role on the commission is to ask questions," Schauner said. "I know I do ask a lot of questions. I think there is always more to the story than what you hear at first blush. I think there's always a back story.
"I'm confident some of my fellow commissioners are saying to themselves, 'can't you just shut up and move on.' But I guess that's not me."
Schauner is one of nine candidates seeking a seat on the Lawrence City Commission. It's a familiar position for him. He's served on the commission since April 2003, but this is his third campaign. In the 2003 and 2005 elections, Schauner finished third in the polling, meaning he earned a two-year rather than a four-year term.
Although he insists he doesn't particularly like campaigning, Schauner said the third-place finishes haven't bothered him because he thinks it is just a sign that his campaigns have done it the hard way, by focusing on attracting support from neighborhoods and individuals rather than courting business organizations or other special-interest groups.
"This community, like most, are made up of neighborhoods and individuals," Schauner said. "Those are the folks I've tried to advocate for."
Schauner relates to those folks because neighborhood issues were what got him involved in city politics in 2003. At the time, he had been in Lawrence for only three years - he lived in Topeka for 27 years - but ended up going down to a Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission meeting to listen to plans for a proposed Wal-Mart at Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive, which is near his west Lawrence neighborhood.
"I didn't go down there intending to say anything," Schauner remembers. "But I couldn't just sit there."
City Commissioner David Schauner explains his reasons for seeking reelection
A few days after speaking against the project, Schauner received a phone call from Melinda Henderson, an organizer of a new group called the Progressive Lawrence Campaign. She ultimately talked Schauner into seeking a seat on the commission. Schauner in 2003 and 2005 ran under the PLC banner, which advocated for better planning of growth and urged policies that would require developers to pay for more growth-related costs.
Schauner, 61, said his two terms have been more rewarding than he thought they would be. He said the job of a city commissioner plays in well with what he does as the general counsel for the KNEA, a position he's had since 1979. As the association's top attorney, he represents teachers across the state who have been fired or face disciplinary actions.
"What I do every day in my job is gather facts and analyze those facts in the context of the law and try to solve problems," Schauner said. "I see myself as a problem solver for my clients. I think that is a skill that is directly transferable to city government."
Schauner - who grew up in Wichita as the son of a union electrician - said he moved to Lawrence after he became concerned about how Topeka was allowing large numbers of new retail development on its western edge at the expense of all other retail in the community, he said.
As a result, retail issues in Lawrence are a major concern to him. He said he's not convinced the city needs as much new retail development as some people think.
Name: David SchaunerAge: 61Address: 5002 Jeffries CourtProfession: General counsel for the Kansas National Education Association.Education: Undergraduate degree in history from Wichita State University, 1968; law degree from Washburn University, 1976.Family: Single, no childrenPast political experience: Elected to a two-year term on the Lawrence City Commission in 2003; re-elected to a two-year term in 2005.
"I think too many people believe that if we expand our retail base that we're expanding our economic development base, and I don't think that is true," Schauner said. "If I had five more places to buy things, I'm not necessarily going to buy more than I used to. I just will reallocate where I buy things."
Schauner said he thought the question of whether Lawrence was overbuilding its retail market may be a "fundamental difference in the community."
"I'm not against retail," Schauner said. "I just don't want us to kill our current retailer on the alter of the newest, brightest, shiniest suburban retail."
On other issues, Schauner said:
¢ The community needs to recognize that its current strategies for attracting new and high-paying jobs to the community aren't working.
"I understand that the economic development market is very competitive," Schauner said. "What I suggest is that we stand back and figure out what we're not doing right because, obviously, we haven't done something right."
¢ He would be willing to spend $20 million to $30 million on a library as long as the public supported it in a public election.
"Whether we need to spend that type of money is a question only the voters can answer," Schauner said. "I want voters to have a full picture of what it means, and then if 51 percent of them say build it, then we should build it."
The primary will be Feb. 27, when voters will narrow the field from nine candidates to six candidates. Voters will elect candidates to fill three at-large seats on the five-member City Commission when they go to the polls in the general election April 3.
Other candidates in the race are James Bush, a Lawrence minister; Carey Maynard-Moody, a retired school social worker; Rob Chestnut, chief financial officer for Allen Press; Mike Dever, owner of a Lawrence-based environmental consulting firm; Sam Fields, a Lawrence bail bondsman; Commissioner Boog Highberger, an attorney for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment; Michael Limburg, a Lawrence forklift operator; and Jake Davis, a musician and data entry operator.
City commission race 2007
City commission race
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