Melinda Henderson, who died this week, remembered by local leaders for her ‘honest’ and ‘lively’ advocacy

photo by: Scott Rothschild

In this November 2012 photo, Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew and Melinda Henderson, president of the League of Women Voters of Lawrence-Douglas County, look at Douglas County voting records from 1912 when Kansas approved a constitutional amendment giving women equal voting rights.

Whether it was at City Hall or the Douglas County Courthouse, Melinda Henderson was not shy about making her opinions heard, and local leaders say her engagement with community issues will be missed.

Henderson, 68, died Tuesday, and local leaders took time during their meetings this week — where Henderson was so often a public commenter — to commemorate her. Mayor Brad Finkeldei said at the opening of the City Commission’s meeting Tuesday that he wanted to acknowledge Henderson, who was a regular voice at City Hall.

“If anyone is a frequent watcher of the City Commission, you have seen Melinda here stating her mind and giving her opinions and representing her community, particularly the Brook Creek community, in a lively way,” Finkeldei said. “And she’ll be missed.”

Henderson was an outspoken commenter who did not mince words, both in person and on Twitter, in city, county and state politics. At local meetings, she regularly commented regarding issues that affected residents or her neighborhood of Brook Creek.

According to her obituary, Henderson first became involved in local issues when she advocated against an ultimately defeated proposal to build a 400,000-square-foot American Eagle distribution center on farmland near the eastern edge of Lawrence. She went on to focus on land preservation, fighting increased taxation, and later on affordable housing and other community issues. Henderson was a co-founder of the Progressive Lawrence Campaign, active in the Brook Creek Neighborhood Association, a supporter of Justice Matters, and a former president of the Lawrence-Douglas County League of Women Voters.

Douglas County leaders also acknowledged Henderson at their meeting Wednesday evening. Commissioner Patrick Kelly said that many in local government knew Henderson, who he said always made sure people found out all the information on an issue and was helpful to him when he was first thinking of running for office.

“She was probably the first Twitter response I got, and I always really appreciated her,” Kelly said. “She always talked very honestly and very plainly. We will miss her engagement across this community.”

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