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Public servant

Most people generally accept the maxim that politics makes strange bedfellows. We believe the antithesis likewise to be true, as sometimes having a familiar face with experience is precisely what's needed.

Such is the case with the Hays City Commission. At Thursday's meeting, the panel selected Eber Phelps to serve the balance of Commissioner Barbara Wasinger's unexpired term. Phelps will be sworn in at the Jan. 3 work session. The term ends in April.

Wasinger is departing the city because of her victory during the November general election. She will join the Ellis County Commission as its first woman -- an almost shocking fact given the number of prominent positions women have had in this community for decades. In fact, it was 1933 when Hays native Kathryn O'Loughlin McCarthy was the first woman elected to Congress from Kansas.

"It's an exciting new opportunity, and I'm deeply grateful for the chance to do this," Wasinger said after the votes were counted on election night.

The former mayor's victory in the county's 2nd District created a vacancy the city needed to fill.

Four individuals put their hats into the ring, although one -- Jason Klitzke -- withdrew prior to Thursday's decision. The other three names included Phelps, Shaun Musil and John Basso. Commissioners opted to go with Phelps, who won't have a learning curve to contend with.

On Phelps' extensive public service resume includes six years as a Hays city commissioner. Municipal records show he occupied the City Hall seat from 1991 to 1997, including as mayor from April 1993 to April 1994. He resigned ultimately for the same reason as Wasinger -- he'd been elected to a higher office. In Phelps' case, it was the Kansas House of Representatives, a body he ably served until being defeated last month during the governor's push to remove all non-ultraconservative legislators.

The state's loss is the city's gain.

"I do agree, too, that we are very fortunate to have someone with Eber's abilities willing to do this," said Vice Mayor Kent Steward after the unanimous vote.

We echo the sentiment. And would add we're pleased Phelps continues to accept civic responsibilities as if they were obligations. He epitomizes the notion of public servant.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net