With this economy there are cutbacks everywhere — even in city commission candidates.
Five candidates — the smallest field in recent memory — will campaign for three at-large seats on the Lawrence City Commission. Not joining the group will be incumbents Rob Chestnut and Lance Johnson. Neither commissioner filed for re-election prior to Tuesday’s deadline.
“Honestly, I just need to focus on my family and my business right now,” said Johnson, who owns a Lawrence-based engineering firm. “That’s what it comes down to for me.”
Chestnut, who is the chief financial officer for Lawrence-based Allen Press, also said the time commitment that goes with a seat on the City Commission was a major factor in his decision.
“I’ve just got some other personal and professional priorities that I have to focus on,” Chestnut said. “But it has been an experience that has been as great a professional experience as any I’ve ever had.”
Commissioner Mike Dever — the owner of a Lawrence-based environmental consulting firm — did file for re-election. The commission’s other two members — Mike Amyx and Aron Cromwell — have two years left on their terms.
The other candidates are:
• Sven Alstrom, a Lawrence architect and former member of the city’s Historic Resources Commission.
• Hugh Carter, a financial planner and former Lawrence-Douglas County planning commissioner.
• Mike Machell, a human resources manager and chair of the city’s Library Board.
• Bob Schumm, a downtown restaurant owner and former mayor and city commissioner.
The field of five candidates is the smallest for a City Commission election since at least 1969, said Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew. Records at the county clerk’s office show that the average size field for city commission elections over the last four decades has been about 12 candidates, and once hit 20 candidates. That was in 1975.
Shew said he’s not sure why interest dropped off this year, but he said the poor economy may be causing some potential candidates to have second thoughts.
“With the economy and the issues governments are currently facing, these positions are not easy,” Shew said.
Chestnut said he also thought the economy was playing a role, but from a slightly different angle.
“People have a lot of priorities right now,” Chestnut said. “Everybody has to pitch in a little bit more at their full-time jobs to keep bread on the table. As much as they may want to do public service, there may be other priorities that are holding them back.”
The small field means there will not be a primary election in March. The general election will be April 5.