The simple answer to why Terry Riordan chose a career as a pediatrician, as opposed to some other more glamorous medical specialty, is that he likes kids.
As a father of six, he'd better.
But there’s another answer that is a bit more telling.
“The other thing is adults don’t always tell me the truth,” Riordan said. “Kids almost always tell me the truth.”
Riordan is one of 11 candidates seeking a seat on the Lawrence City Commission.
Address: 1613 Tennessee Street
Education: Undergraduate degree in biology from Rockhurst College, Kansas City; medical degree from Kansas University; medical residency at Letterman Army Medical Center, San Francisco
Family: Wife, Elaine; six children
He is the first medical doctor in recent memory to seek a seat on the commission, and Riordan said he thinks it would be a good prescription for the community.
“Every day as a physician I’m helping people, and that is what this job as a city commissioner should be about too,” Riordan said.
A caring place
Riordan, 61, is a partner in Lawrence’s Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine Group. But before he came to Lawrence in 1983 to join the practice, he was an Army doctor looking for a new home upon his discharge.
He and his wife have a daughter with a mild mental handicap who would need some special attention in the school system. Riordan grew up in Johnson County, and it didn’t take him long to remember Lawrence’s reputation.
“We wanted to go to a place where she would be accepted, and that place was Lawrence,” Riordan said.
Ensuring that Lawrence continues to be that type of place is one of the goals Riordan has as a commissioner.
“I hope this city can continue to be the type of city I saw when I came here — the type of city that cares for its citizens and desperately wants everyone to do well,” Riordan said.
Riordan said having a physician in a leadership position in the city may provide a valuable perspective. If nothing else, it should provide a unique one. Riordan said his research indicates Lawrence has never had a doctor who has served as mayor. And Riordan has done a little bit of mayoral research. A history buff, he and his family live in the historic Ludington-Thacher home in Old West Lawrence. Reuben Ludington was a Lawrence mayor during the time the city was rebuilding from Quantrill’s Raid.
“There is an art of medicine,” said Riordan, who said he has no plans to retire from medicine if elected. “Part of that is understanding what people’s real needs are instead of what they say their real needs are. You have to really like to talk to people, and you need to be intuitive. You have to like the challenge of solving problems.”
Riordan said he likes the idea of trying to solve problems as a city commissioner, but he also said it will be interesting to see what it is like to do so from a political office. Riordan said he figured out long ago — during his senior year at Rockhurst University, when he was student body president — that he didn’t want to be a politician.
“Politicians take a poll and decide what they are going to say after they see the results,” Riordan said. “My thought is to find out what the best situation is for the people, and then do that. That is what leadership is.
“It is not doing what 50 or 60 percent of the people want you to do. You need to do what is right and what is best for everybody.”
Riordan said one of the issues he hopes to tackle is a problem that has been hanging over the city since before he decided to move here 30 years ago.
“I was told not to come to this town because there was too much fighting,” Riordan said. “People told me that is all they do there. We need to get past that perception. I have a concept of one Lawrence. Not east or west or north or south or Chamber (of Commerce) or non-Chamber.”
On other issues, Riordan said he:
• Wants to work on making Lawrence stronger from an economic development standpoint, particularly by increasing the vocational education opportunities in the city.
• Would continue to promote the special role downtown Lawrence plays in attracting people to the community.
• Plans to seek ways to find significant funding to improve the Lawrence Police Department’s facilities. “The situation they have today doesn’t work,” Riordan said. “It is atrocious what they are having to deal with. We have limits to what we can do, but we need to try to do as much as we can for that department.”
A Feb. 26 primary will narrow the field of 11 city commission candidates down to six. The general election — where the top three vote winners will take a seat on the commission — will be April 2.