What had been a fairly quiet election season for the Lawrence City Commission began to heat up on Tuesday.
Longtime Lawrence physician Terry Riordan and Lawrence attorney Michael Rost both filed their paperwork Tuesday to become candidates in a race to fill three at-large seats in April’s election.
Riordan — who has been in Lawrence since 1983, when he became a partner in Lawrence’s Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine practice — said he had long been looking for the right time to run for local office.
“I have a situation now where my case load isn’t as much and my experience is much more,” Riordan said.
Riordan, 61, has been involved in City Hall work before. He served on the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission from 2003 to 2006 and also served as president of the Oread Neighborhood Association in the early 2000s.
Creating high quality jobs and spurring more growth in the community will be major goals if elected, Riordan said. Riordan said he had seen many small businesses struggle during the recent economic downturn, which he said should cause the city to place an emphasis on keeping taxes steady.
“I think what the city needs to do is promote growth, keep the mill levy where it is at, and really encourage building construction,” Riordan said. “That has the potential to help a lot of small businesses in town.”
Riordan also said he’ll focus on infrastructure issues — he was on the city committee that selected the site for a proposed $65 million sewage treatment plant south of the Wakarusa River — and he’ll work to promote open government.
“When I was on the Planning Commission, I definitely learned a lot about working with people,” Riordan said. “I learned that there are a lot of different views in Lawrence, and you need to hear them and respect them if you really want to understand the issues.”
Rost, a Lawrence resident who works as an attorney for an insurance and financial services company in Topeka, also entered the race on Tuesday.
Rost, 27, said he’ll seek to bring a dose of conservatism to the City Commission when it comes to financial matters, especially incentives for projects. Rost said he followed the issue over whether the city should allow tax dollars to be used to help pay for parking and infrastructure at the recently approved multistory hotel project at the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets.
“I will be very, very conservative about what I think the city should do with taxpayer money,” Rost said. “My perspective would be that you would have to have a very compelling project that benefits everyone in the city to give taxpayer money to help a project like that.
“On a project like the hotel, I would say that if it is a good project that makes sense and makes money, it should be able to stand on its own feet.”
Rost grew up in Wichita, but came to Lawrence in 2003 to do his undergraduate work at Kansas University. He moved to Topeka to earn a law degree from Washburn, but soon moved back to Lawrence. He currently works as an attorney for IMA Financial in Topeka.
Rost said he hopes to provide a voice to commuters in the community, and he will emphasize the importance of the commission protecting the livability of Lawrence.
“I think there are maybe some different ideas about the direction of Lawrence, its appeal and what type of community we want to be,” Rost said. “I have seen a lot about trying to make Lawrence some type of tourist destination or Legends West or something. That has struck me as not being in line with the things that I appreciate about the community.”
With the two filings on Tuesday, there are now four candidates in the race.
Rob Chestnut, a former Lawrence mayor and a chief financial officer for a Topeka publishing company, has filed for one of the three seats. Scott Criqui, a member of the city’s Human Relations Commission and an executive with a Lawrence-based home health care company also has filed for the race.
City Commissioner Hugh Carter already has announced he won’t see re-election, but will instead focus on his new job with the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.
City Commissioner Mike Amyx has not yet filed for re-election, but he has given indications that he will seek another term. Commissioner Aron Cromwell also has a term that is expiring, but he has not yet indicated that he plans to seek re-election.
Candidates have until noon on Jan. 22 to file for the race. If seven or more candidates file, there will be a primary election on Feb. 26 to narrow the field to six candidates. The general election will be on April 2.