The face of Douglas County government changed Monday as two long-time commissioners gave way to their newly elected replacements.
“I think this commission accomplished quite a bit. We did what we had to do,” said Jere McElhaney, who along with Bob Johnson served eight years before both decided in 2008 not to run for re-election.
“It’s been a great experience,” Johnson said.
McElhaney’s 3rd District seat was taken over by Jim Flory and Nancy Thellman took Johnson’s 2nd District spot. Both thanked their families and people who supported their campaigns after taking the oath of office from Douglas County Chief Judge Robert Fairchild.
“I’ll spend every day in the office trying to earn their confidence,” Flory said.
Thellman said she sought a “good and welcoming” government.
“I’m committing myself to doing a lot of listening in this room and learning,” she said.
Flory and Thellman took their seats next to the lone incumbent, 1st District Commissioner Charles Jones, who is midway through his third term. The new commission’s first order of business was to elect Jones board chairman and Thellman vice chairwoman.
Jones then said he wanted to divide some of the chairman’s responsibilities among his counterparts so there would be more focus on certain issues.
Jones asked Flory to be the county’s liaison to the Kansas Bioscience Authority and to work on the issue of cleaning up and redeveloping the former Farmland plant property. He asked Thellman to represent the county in economic development partnership meetings with the city of Lawrence and the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. Jones said he would continue his efforts on transportation, Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area and other matters.
“I think this distribution is very promising,” Jones said.
Before stepping aside, Johnson and McElhaney said they thought the former commission worked well together, noting that they and Jones tried to reach compromises on a broad spectrum of issues and usually voted unanimously on those issues.
Other officeholders who were elected last fall and their deputies also were given the oath of office by Fairchild, including District Attorney Charles Branson, Sheriff Ken McGovern, Clerk Jamie Shew and Register of Deeds Kay Pesnell.