Later this month Butch Schlyer and Dustin Roths will be off to Topeka to train for their new jobs as Ellis County Commissioners.
They were in the audience Monday evening at the regular meeting of the Ellis County Commission, where they observed the final decisions made by the two outgoing commissioners they replace.
County Commission Chairman Dean Haselhorst acknowledged the newcomers as he wrapped up the evening’s business.
“We’ve got two new commissioners coming in so it’s going to be interesting to start over again,” said Haselhorst. “But I’m looking forward to that challenge. Both of them are here tonight.”
Schlyer replaces First District Commissioner Marcy McClelland, whom he beat in the Republican primary before winning the Nov. 6 General Election.
Roths was elected by the Republican Party to finish the term of Second District Commissioner Barb Wasinger, who also heads to Topeka as a legislator after election to the 111th District seat of the Kansas House of Representatives.
“I think you can whip them into shape pretty quick,” Wasinger joked, to which Haselhorst, a farmer and rancher, quipped, “as long as they don’t gang up on me.”
“Make sure he doesn’t bring the cattle prod,” Wasinger advised the new commissioners.
Haselhorst, also a Republican, entered Wasinger’s resignation letter into the minutes.
“To my fellow commissioners, it’s been a lot of fun,” Haselhorst told McClelland and Wasinger. “We’ve done more things the past four years than I think many, many commissioners combined ever did in the lifetime of Ellis County.”
He noted the commissioners built a jail, remodeled the courthouse, got an EMS fire station, and renovated the Extension Office with the help of County Administrator Phillip Smith-Hanes.
“It was a lot of fun,” Haselhorst said. “Thank you both for putting your faith in me on those projects. I’m going to miss you both. We had a lot of firsts in Ellis County; it’s the first time we had two ladies ever serve on the Ellis County Commission. I was glad to be part of that also.”
Also thanking the two outgoing commissioners were Kerry McCue, health services director, and weed supervisor Gary Haas, among others.
“I also would like to thank Commissioner Wasinger and Commissioner McClelland for their service,” said County Counselor Bill Jeter. “I don’t think people realize how much time you put in as a county commissioner. I think both of you put that time in and made well-informed decisions and I thank you for that.”
Also speaking was County Administrator Smith-Hanes.
“I will pile on with the thanks. I’ve truly appreciated working with Commissioner Wasinger and Commissioner McClelland,” said Smith Hanes. “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to work here in Ellis County.”
McClelland offered her appreciation to her fellow commissioners, all the county’s elected officials, and to Smith-Hanes and Jeter.
“This has been an eye-opening adventure for me as an Ellis County taxpayer,” said McClelland, whose tenure on the commission at one point hit a bump when her dissenting vote stopped a housing development Wasinger and Haselhorst supported. That then triggered a lawsuit over the powers of a county commissioner that was ultimately decided in favor of McClelland.
“I’m proud of the fact that the sales tax was enough to complete the projects that were started and trust that they will soon be finished,” McClelland said. “This county has a very good working organization, so let’s keep it that way. Our employees are diligent and loyal to their jobs. Our roads are some of the best in any county in the state of Kansas, all as a result of good employees. Thank you.”
Wasinger, who over the course of the summer was vocal in voting “no” to protest McClelland’s veto, didn’t allude to that discord Monday evening. Instead, she agreed with McClelland.
“I think she said it all,” Wasinger said. “It’s been great to work with everybody, and I’m not going to stop serving Ellis County, I’m just serving Ellis County in a different position.”
Wasinger said she’ll continue to be around and thanked everyone for their help and support, in particular Smith-Hanes.
“It’s been an honor to serve Ellis County in this capacity,” she said. “I’ll miss you all. Scarecrow, I think I’ll miss you most of all. It’s been wonderful and I appreciate that there’s no better place to live, I think, than in Kansas and here in Ellis County. We’ve got a pretty good thing going, hard workers and wonderful people, and I’m proud to be serving Ellis County in the state Legislature.”
When asked by McClelland what legislative committees she’ll serve on, Wasinger answered taxation, financial institutions, pensions and higher education budget.
Wasinger also thanked Haselhorst, who had been her campaign co-chairman.
“You ushered me into this job six years ago and now you’re ushering me out,” she said.
“It’s a bittersweet moment to see you both leave,” Haselhorst told McClelland and Wasinger, “but it’ll go on, so thanks again.”
In other county business, the commissioners agreed to seek input from the county’s Wage and Benefits Committee, made up of county employees, on how to divvy up $136,074 in the budget for employee raises in 2019.
Also, Smith-Hanes advised that the director of the Munjor Improvement District is moving out of the district, so nomination of a new director will be brought forward at a future meeting.
Finally, the commissioners gave McCue the go-ahead for Ellis County EMS to apply for a grant for seven mechanical CPR devices. The $100,256 grant, if approved, would be matched 50 percent by Ellis County with $50,128.