By Wednesday afternoon, Butch Schlyer already had a meeting set for Friday with Ellis County Administrator Phillip Smith-Hanes to start learning more about county business.
Schlyer won election Tuesday to the three-person Ellis County Commission to represent District 1. He said he will start attending the regularly scheduled Monday evening commission meetings so he’s prepared when he takes office in mid-January.
In January he will also attend a new commissioner orientation in Topeka. The two-day workshop is sponsored by the Kansas Association of Counties.
“I think it’s going to be real informational,” Schyler said.
A seasoned county employee, Schyler worked for Ellis County for 23 years as Health Administrator, retiring in 2016. The victory he scored in Tuesday’s general election as the Republican candidate running against Democrat Chris Rorabaugh and Independent John Walz was not one he took for granted, he said.
“I had a lot, a lot of good feedback as I was campaigning,” Schyler said. “But I knew I was competing against some very good men.”
Schlyer took 43.45 percent of the vote, with 1,443 ballots cast for him. Rorabaugh tallied 1,114 votes, for 33.54 percent. And Walz won 760 votes for 22.88 percent.
Schlyer is replacing Marcy McClelland, who he defeated in the primary for the Republican spot on the ticket. He mentioned he may not be the only new face on the commission if County Commissioner Barb Wasinger wins her bid for the Kansas House of Representatives 111th District. Wasinger and 111th incumbent Rep. Eber Phelps are in a dead heat for the seat, the outcome of which won’t be decided until votes are canvassed Nov. 15. If she leaves the commission, her replacement would be appointed by the Ellis County Republican Party, Schyler said.
“We have to see how that plays out,” he said.
In talking with Smith-Hanes, Schlyer said the budget will no doubt take center stage early on. The County Administrator has estimated that at the current rate of spending and taxation, Ellis County will reach a nearly $10 million budget deficit by 2024. To fund that, the county would need a 17-mill increase based on current valuation, or a 40 percent hike in taxes, Schlyer said.
Smith-Hanes wants to get started on the 2020 budget early, rather than the usual April, he said.
“We’ve got a lot of issues to look over and discuss,” Schlyer said. “It may not be an easy budget year … We have spent the reserves up pretty bad. I think a lot of the hard issues will have to be discussed. The groundwork has to be laid.”