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Archive for Monday, April 13, 2009

New Douglas County Commissioner sworn in

Charles Jones ends 10-year stint on commission

Newly chosen Douglas County Commissioner Mike Gaughan, left, shakes hands with outgoing commissioner Charles Jones during a reception at the Douglas County Courthouse in this 2009 photo. Douglas County commissioners signed off on a 9.12 percent increase on property tax for next year, lower than the projected 15.9 percent.

Newly chosen Douglas County Commissioner Mike Gaughan, left, shakes hands with outgoing commissioner Charles Jones during a reception at the Douglas County Courthouse in this 2009 photo. Douglas County commissioners signed off on a 9.12 percent increase on property tax for next year, lower than the projected 15.9 percent.

April 13, 2009

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Mike Gaughan fills spot on county commission

A change on the Douglas County Commission means 10 years of political experience leaves the courthouse. But the new 31-year-old commissioner says he brings a fresh perspective during tough economic times. Enlarge video

During his 34 years in public administration, Douglas County Administrator Craig Weinaug has worked for 70 to 80 elected officials.

But on Monday, his longest-serving boss, County Commissioner Charles Jones, stepped down after 10 years in office. Mike Gaughan, 31, a Lawrence resident and aide to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, took over Jones’ seat.

“Charles has provided leadership over the last 10 years like no other commissioner I have ever worked for, and he’s reminded us continually how important it is what we do in county government and local government,” said Weinaug, the county’s administrator since 1992.

Jones resigned in March to focus more on his job as director of the Kansas University Public Management Center. A group of Democratic precinct committee members selected Gaughan, who is a former Kansas Democratic Party executive director, to serve the rest of Jones’ term. Gaughan’s seat will be up for election in 2010.

“The nature of the beast is you always have the mixed sense of accomplishment and wishing you could do more, but I’m very proud,” Jones said. “It’s funny, but it’s more pride in our community than it was anything that I did.”

For all but the last three months of his time in office, Jones was the lone Democrat on the commission. Still, he helped strike compromises in county policy, such as the ECO2 concept of balancing industrial development with preserving open space. He has also been a strong voice on urging redevelopment of the former Farmland Industries site.

Before he took the oath of office Monday, Gaughan acknowledged the county’s budget will be a major challenge in coming months. Declining revenues and economic development are the main concerns, he said.

Gaughan joins Democrat Nancy Thellman, who was elected chairwoman Monday, and Republican Jim Flory, a former Douglas County district attorney and federal prosecutor. Both were elected in November and took office in January.

Jones voiced confidence in all three commissioners.

“(The commissioners) have their agendas. They’ll pursue those,” Jones said. “I don’t think you need experience as much as you just need the support of a good staff, and they have that.”

Gaughan said having a fresh perspective can be helpful.

“I think it’s a perfect opportunity for us to kind of take a new look at some of these questions that have been vexing our community for years,” he said.

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