Age: 55 Address: 2312 Free State Lane Family: Wife, Marilyn; one grown son. Occupation: Barber Substantial business interests: Owner of Amyx Barber Shop Inc., and a separate business that owns the barber shop buildings at 842 and 842 1/2 Massachusetts Street. Owns a four-plex apartment building in the 2600 block of Red Bud Lane, and a rental house in the 2000 block of Rhode Island Street. Receives compensation for work on the Kansas Board of Barbering, and owns a minority interest in Fowl Line Bird House Co.
A 29-year-old Mike Amyx stood in the Douglas County Clerk’s office and watched an election official scrawl vote totals on a chalkboard.
“I’m an excited young man,” Amyx told a Journal-World reporter, as he learned that he had enough votes to win a two-year term on the Lawrence City Commission.
That was in 1983, and you would have thought the excitement would soon wear off. Granted, media pundits then weren’t declaring the economy the worst since the Great Depression, but the economic numbers in some ways were scarier than today. The national unemployment rate in April 1983 was 10.2 percent, and the good economic news was the average interest rate on a 30-year mortgage had fallen. It was down all the way to 13.35 percent.
Twenty six years later, Amyx is no longer the young, wide-eyed man of the Lawrence City Commission.
“What did you call me?” he said to a visitor. “The old man of the commission?”
Actually, the visitor called him the old hand of the commission, but Amyx will answer to either title.
“I’m hopeful that I could serve a role on the next commission as being someone that new commissioners or even seated commissioners could have confidence in and appreciate the sense of history I have,” said Amyx, who is one of eight candidates seeking three at-large seats on the commission. “You know, a lot of what we’re doing is still looking at what we’ve done in the past.”
In particular, Amyx said he thinks understanding how the city has dealt with tough times in the past will be useful as the city faces its latest budget crunch.
“I think it helps me keep current issues in perspective,” Amyx said.
Amyx first served on the Lawrence City Commission from 1983 to 1988. He then won a seat on the Douglas County Commission, and served there from 1988 to 1993. After that, he took a dozen years off from elected office before making a successful run for the City Commission again in 2005.
On the move
Amyx, 55, gathers fodder for his history lessons not only from his time on the elected stage, but also from a lifetime in the city. Amyx was born in Lawrence — spending the first few years of his life on the second floor of his grandparents’ home at Ninth and Rhode Island — and has never lived outside the city.
But just try finding a part of Lawrence that he hasn’t lived in. Fellow commissioners sometimes joke that when a constituent comes to speak before the commission and gives his address, Amyx will begin a story about how he used to live on that block.
And for the most part, the stories are true. When Amyx and his wife moved to their South Lawrence home in 2008, it was about the 13th or 14th house that they’ve lived in, Amyx estimated.
“I always tease people that I’ve moved 500 miles and never left the city,” Amyx said. “But I think it does help me recognize the different situations that exist in each of the neighborhoods. There are definitely differences in housing stock, infrastructure, and different issues for each neighborhood.”
What he doesn’t pick up on in the neighborhoods, he has plenty of opportunities to gather at work. Amyx and the profession of barbering are almost synonymous in Lawrence. Amyx’s grandfather began barbering at the corner of Ninth and Massachusetts streets in 1942. Amyx’s dad got into the business, and then after a stint at Kansas University, Amyx joined his father at the shop full time in 1975. Amyx has owned the shop since 1998.
Amyx has long said that he gets as much public comment about city business from people stopping by his shop as he does from people who come to City Hall. He said he finds the more informal comment helpful, in part, because it is easy to engage in a conversation at a barber shop. In fact, he’s said his ability to talk was a main reason he got into the barber business.
“That’s still true,” Amyx said. “I still like to talk, and I have stories.”
Like his last run for the City Commission, increasing the number of jobs in the community is a major part of his campaign platform.
“The big thing is we have to make sure the community is able to support the type of jobs that we can attract,” Amyx said.
Amyx said he supports the idea of moving ahead with purchasing the former Farmland Industries site to use as a new business park, calling it a “natural progression” of the adjacent East Hills Business Park, which he played a role in forming during his first stint on the commission.
In other issues, Amyx:
● Has come out against the idea of raising the city’s property tax mill levy to fill expected gaps in the 2010 city budget.
● Has said he expects cuts to both social service agencies and to city departments as the commission puts together next year’s budget. He said he would try to ease those cuts by looking at delaying some equipment purchases, urging volunteers to pick up some city duties, and looking for ways to cut the city’s electricity usage.
“But no matter what we do, this is not going to be the easiest time to govern,” Amyx said.