With two more candidates emerging on Wednesday, the race for the Lawrence City Commission will require a primary election, and it appears it also will feature a debate over the proposed $25 million recreation center.
City Commissioner Mike Amyx and Lawrence attorney Reece Hays announced their candidacies on Wednesday. That brings the candidate field to seven, which triggers a primary election on Feb. 26 to narrow the field to six candidates. More candidates may enter the field too. The filing deadline is noon Tuesday.
Both Amyx and Hays indicated they plan to raise during their campaigns the issue of a proposed $25 million recreation center in northwest Lawrence, even though the current city commission is tentatively scheduled to vote on the project in mid-February.
“I have noticed there are people asking quite a few questions about it,” said Amyx, who has been the one commissioner on the current commission that has cast votes against part of the project. “I know I have a different opinion than the majority of the commission, but I will continue to raise questions about the money, potential operating shortfalls, the bidding process and other issues.”
Hays also brought up the proposed recreation center in announcing his candidacy.
“It sounds like there is a concern about how that project is coming about,” Hays said. “While it is not a bad idea, the way it is being carried out may not be the best.”
Amyx, 59, will be seeking to extend a City Hall career that began in the early ’80s. Amyx served on the commission from 1983 to 1988, and then left the commission to serve on the Douglas County Commission from late 1988 to 1993. Amyx, who is the owner of a downtown barber shop, won election again to the City Commission in 2005 and has served ever since. He has served as mayor of the city four different times.
“I work in the front window of a family-owned business everyday and a lot of people have the opportunity to come in and tell me what’s on their mind, and they do,” Amyx said. “I feel very lucky to be that close to constituents.”
Amyx said he’ll run a campaign that highlights the importance of keeping the city’s mill levy steady while protecting basic services such as police, fire and utility services. Amyx said he also wants a chance to help guide redevelopment of the former Farmland Industries plant into a business and industrial park.
He said figuring out a way to improve the city’s economy through new jobs would be a priority, while also building city budgets that recognize an economic recovery hasn’t yet fully taken hold.
“We have to recognize the fiscal times that we live in,” Amyx said. “I talk to a lot of people about their concerns about money that they don’t have.”
Hays, 36, is the chief litigation counsel for the Kansas Board of Healing Arts in Topeka, which licenses physicians and other medical professionals. Prior to that, he served in the U.S. Air Force from 2006 to 2011, including time as a Judge Advocate General where he provided counsel to Iraqi judges on the rule of law.
“I’m running because I want to ensure the citizens of Lawrence have a voice that will respond to them and hear their wishes,” Hays said. “I really want to make sure that we have transparency in government.”
Hays — who moved to Lawrence in 2003 to attend law school at Washburn University and subsequently kept Lawrence as his home while he was on active duty in the Air Force — said he thinks his government service will help him at the City Commission level.
He said he would work to hear the issues on the minds of Lawrence residents during the campaign and bring them to the commission’s attention.
“As a representative in government, I believe each representative has to answer to the people who they serve — not carry out an agenda they may have,” Hays said.
Hays filed his paperwork to enter the race on Wednesday. Amyx announced his candidacy on Wednesday but said he would file the necessary paperwork on Thursday.
Amyx will be the only incumbent on the commission seeking re-election. Commissioners Hugh Carter and Aron Cromwell — the other two commissioners with terms expiring — have announced they will not seek re-election.
Other candidates in the race are: Rob Chestnut, a former Lawrence mayor and a chief financial officer for a Topeka publishing company; Scott Criqui, a member of the city’s Human Relations Commission and an executive with a Lawrence-based home health care company; Jeremy Farmer, executive director of the Lawrence-based food bank Just Food; Terry Riordan, a Lawrence physician and a former Lawrence-Douglas County Planning commissioner; and Michael Rost, an attorney for a Topeka insurance company.
The primary election will be on Feb. 26. Voters will elect three commissioners in the general election on April 2.