Longtime Lawrence resident files for City Commission election, wants to see millennials active in politics

Lawrence resident Ken Easthouse sits before a citizen advisory board assembled to review candidates for a vacant city commission seat, Friday, Sept. 24, 2015 at City Hall.

Lawrence native Ken Easthouse has thrown his hat in the ring for this year’s commission election.

Easthouse, who graduated from Lawrence High School in 2002, filed for a spot on the ballot Thursday. In an interview with the Journal-World, Easthouse said his decision was partially based on a desire to see more millennials active in politics.

“Part of it is, I think it’s part of my generation’s duty to step up and be public servants,” said Easthouse, 33, who works as a supervisor at the General Dynamics Information Technology call center.

“I think there’s a perception that, for whatever reason, people in our early 30s and younger aren’t interested in politics or don’t want to be involved,” he added. “I want to change that.”

Born to a “blue collar, working class family,” Easthouse grew up in Lawrence, where former classmates might remember him from his stint as the Chesty Lion mascot while a senior at Lawrence High. Easthouse then matriculated to Emporia State University, earning a bachelor’s degree in management in 2007.

Kenneth Easthouse

While a relative newcomer to politics, Easthouse has a long history of community involvement, serving as an election judge for Douglas County since 2012 and also staying active on the Lawrence-Douglas County Public Incentives Review Committee. In 2015, he was one of 12 semifinalists for the City Commission seat left vacant by former mayor Jeremy Farmer.

As a City Commission candidate, Easthouse said he sees Lawrence approaching a crossroads “where we could really grow as a community in terms of our regional economic influence.” If elected to the City Commission, Easthouse said he’d work toward offering incentives to companies, including those dealing in technology and alternative energy, looking to expand in Lawrence.

The City Commission, Easthouse said, has been looking at bringing high-speed fiber internet to Lawrence for some time now. It’s a goal he’d also like to pursue if elected.

“Part of what I’d like to propose is the creation of a public option so the City of Lawrence runs our own high-speed internet service, almost like a utility,” he said. “That ties into a number of different areas in the community. It helps incentivize job creation in Lawrence.”

Those are funds, Easthouse added, that can be used toward affordable housing and other community improvement projects.

The terms of commissioners Lisa Larsen, Mike Amyx and Matthew Herbert are expiring this year. Easthouse is the sixth candidate to file for the election, following filings by Herbert, Larsen, Jennifer Ananda, Bassem Chahine and Dustin Stumblingbear.

The filing deadline for the City Commission race is noon on June 1. Candidates will have an Aug. 1 primary, if needed, and the general election will be on Nov. 7. Primaries will be scheduled only if the number of candidates who file is more than two times the number of open seats.