By Ben McCarthy
Marc Elkins was on the ballot Tuesday to replace Peggy Dunn as Leawood’s Mayor, but he was also on his phone throughout the day for a very different reason.
His daughter was expecting.
The baby boy, his fourth grandchild, did not make an appearance (now with a scheduled delivery for Thursday), so Elkins and his wife, Jana, kept things fairly low-key at home. Jack Stack barbecue, from Martin City, was the only delivery made during the evening, as the vote tallies came through.
As 10 p.m. drew near, final results from the Johnson County Election office were posted showing Elkins had won the race and will be taking over for Dunn after 26 years. The longtime member of the Leawood Planning Commission and Board Member of the Leawood Community Foundation could feel the weight of the campaign lifted and begin turning his attention to the expectations of elected office for the first time.
“It’s a great way to end a long day,” Elkins said. “It’s a relief that I won’t be waking up and campaigning tomorrow, but rather just beginning to work through the transition into a leadership role with the city.”
Elkins opponent, Steve Hentzen, had sought to present himself as a differentiating candidate from Dunn’s tenure. He told the Telegraph last month that Elkins would be following in the exact same footsteps as Dunn, while he would be providing leadership to take the city in a bit of a different direction. Elkins embraced the association Tuesday night as he said he would look to continue Dunn’s legacy after a quarter century in office.
“I’m humbled that the folks here are giving me an opportunity to pick up the reins from the Mayor and continue her legacy,” Elkins said. “It starts with working through this transition.”
Elkins collected 5,121 votes for 57.33% of the ballots cast in Leawood. Hentzen garnered 42.31% of the vote, for a final tally of 3,780 votes.
City Council Finds Two New Faces
Andrew Osman was not seeking re-election, leaving his seat in Ward 1 open. The race came down to three candidates, with Alan Sunkel winning with a 53.1% majority vote (1039 votes total). Matt Peppes finished second with 676 votes (34.2%) and Bob Brettell collected 239 votes, (12.2%).
Sunkel said Tuesday night that he was very pleased with the chance to serve the city that he and his family have called home since 1989.
“I felt good about the campaign today, and I felt like I left it all out on the table,” Sunekl said. “It’s going to be strange waking up without having to campaign tomorrow. I did lose a lot of sleep, especially over the last couple months – I hope I can catch up a bit before being sworn in on January 2nd.”
Like Dunn, Jim Rawlings did not seek reelection for an office he has held in Leawood for over two decades. Rawlings, a City Councilmember for 24 years, endorsed Sherrie Gayed, for his Ward 2 seat. Like Elkins, Gayed won her race with over 57% of the vote. With 1,278 votes (57.3%), Gayed defeated her opponent, Margaret Burger who collected 950 votes (42.5%). Gayed, the Commissioner on the Leawood City Planning Commission, spoke with Rawlings after the final votes were posted, and thanked him for his support and guidance through the process.
“I hope to do his seat justice,” Gayed said. “I feel so honored that the residents have such faith in me. I am looking forward to working with the other council members and Mayor… to continue making Leawood a great community.”
Rawlings had also endorsed Elkins for Mayor. He said it was a tough decision to move on from office, but felt it was time.
“You have to make way for new blood and new ideas,” Rawlings said. “The city is in good hands with both of them moving forward.”
Rawlings said he would be happy to continue volunteering in another capacity with the city, if the new Mayor sees fit. He spoke of seeing Leawood transform from a bedroom community (commuter town), to one that has grown exponentially with retail activity, but still maintained exceptional core services for residents.
“Retail on 119th and Roe was just beginning to take shape when I was first elected,” Rawlings said. “I would still point to our police and fire departments as the finest in Johnson County, and maybe the Midwest for that matter.”
Rawlings expects Leawood will continue its reputation as a safe city, with quality public works, all-around.
“We have some of the best in the region, bar none,” Rawlings said. “When people cross that state line during a snow day, they see a difference – they see the snow has been plowed and know they’re back in Leawood.”
Incumbent Lisa Harrison ran unopposed for her seat in Ward 3. Dr. Stephen Kaster ran unopposed, and was elected in Ward 4.
Johnson County Election office reported that 116,210 ballots were cast countywide, drawing from 455,894 registered voters (25.5% turnout). For Leawood, 9,175 total ballots were cast.