Local nonprofit founder Justine Burton files for election to Lawrence school board and City Commission

Justine Burton is pictured in this 2018 file photo.

Lawrence resident and social services professional Justine Burton has filed to run for both the Lawrence school board and the Lawrence City Commission.

Burton, who grew up in Eudora and Lawrence, is the founder and executive director of StopGap Inc., a nonprofit organization that supports youth who are aging out of the foster care system, and also works as a caregiver with Home Instead senior care. Burton said if she were to win seats on both governing bodies, she is prepared to serve on both.

“For me, I have interest in both,” Burton said. “With the homeless portion of it, as far as the City Commission part of it. And with the school district, just trying to figure out other alternatives to closing schools.”

The school board has voted to close or repurpose four schools in the past few years due to budget challenges, and Burton said she wants to see conversations at the board level about alternatives to school closings and for more consideration to be given to how closings impact students.

“My biggest focus is on kids and how all this affects their maturity growing up,” Burton said.

She also said she’d like to see the district be more proactive when it comes to safety, taking steps to prevent violence or shootings.

The terms of School Board President Shannon Kimball, Vice President Paula Vann, Past President Erica Hill and board member Carole Cadue-Blackwood will expire at the end of this year. In addition to Burton, Rachel Stumblingbear, Anne Costello, Yolanda Franklin, Cadue-Blackwood and Kevin Coronado have filed for election.

As far as issues for the City Commission, Burton said she thinks the city needs to come up with different alternatives for those experiencing homelessness. Burton, who experienced homelessness herself as a teen and young adult, said she thought the city needed to discuss a different approach that also considers the community impact of homelessness.

“I think we need to take care of the homeless, but we also need to continue to take care of the community as a whole,” Burton said. She said she didn’t have specific changes to propose, as she thought any changes should be a topic for discussion.

Burton said she also sees inclusiveness as an important city issue, saying that she wants to have a community where everybody can work together to make the community a better place for everyone.

The terms of commissioners Courtney Shipley, Amber Sellers and Brad Finkeldei are expiring this year. All three incumbents have filed for reelection. In addition to Burton, Dustin Stumblingbear and Mike Dever have also filed for election.

When it comes to Burton filing for both school board and City Commission, Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said the law allows a person to be on the ballot twice in city/school elections. Shew said it is not common for someone to file for both, and there is some Attorney General guidance on potential conflicts of interest. He said if someone were to win both seats, the decision regarding whether the person can serve on both bodies would be up to the legal counsel of the school district and the city.

The filing deadline for both the school board and City Commission races 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.


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