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Published Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Bunten to lead city

Statehouse veteran beats councilwoman


For Bill Bunten, the third time was the charm.

The former Kansas legislator garnered more votes than City Councilwoman Lisa Stubbs on Tuesday to win the mayoral seat for which he was previously rejected once by voters and once by the city council.

Bunten, 74, will become Topeka's first mayor under the new city council-manager form of government, which will launch April 12.

On a day when voters chose new city council members to represent four of the five seats that were up for election, he said, the people sent a message that they wanted change.

"With the help of the council, we're going to make changes in this town that will be positive," he said.

Stubbs, 43, said she didn't regret having given up her District 7 council seat to run for mayor, adding that she would "absolutely" continue to play a role in local politics.

"They can't get rid of me that easily," she said.

Unofficial results provided by the Shawnee County Elections Office showed Bunten received 17,595 votes, or 56 percent of those cast, compared to 14,050, or 44 percent, for Stubbs.


Nick Krug/The Capital-Journal
Bill Bunten, the newly elected mayor of Topeka, center, is congratulated by friend and campaign supporter Dan Cain following his Tuesday night victory speech at the Ramada Inn Downtown. Bunten's wife, JoAnn, right, talks with campaign supporters.
Supporters cheered Bunten as his victory was announced during a watch party in the Grand Ballroom at the Ramada Inn Downtown. Bunten, who was elected after a campaign in which he and Stubbs appeared together at numerous forums, told supporters he was glad they both "took the high road" and focused on their qualifications instead of criticizing each other.

Stubbs said she knew she had been at a disadvantage in her race against Bunten, who she said had gained tremendous name recognition among voters after serving 30 years in the Kansas Legislature.

She said she may have been hurt by the fact that she is an incumbent when voters appear to want change.

"They tend to paint the brush very broadly instead of looking individually at whether a person was a part of the problem or part of the solution," Stubbs said.

She said that though it would have been safer to run to try to keep her District 7 council seat, she didn't regret that she aimed higher.

"In my case, it would have been nothing risked, nothing gained," she said.


Mike Shepherd/The Capital-Journal
Mayoral candidate Lisa Stubbs gets a hug from supporter Helen Crow as former City Councilman Jim Reardon, back left, and Stubbs' campaign manager, Jeff Wagaman, look on. Stubbs garnered 44 percent of the vote.
Bunten will be sworn in April 12 as Topeka's first mayor under the new form of government.

Since 1985, Topeka has had a strong mayor-council government in which the mayor runs day-to-day operations. But Topekans voted Nov. 2 to adopt the council-manager government form and remove the administrative powers of the mayor, who will still run council meetings, promote economic development and be the city's ceremonial head. On Nov. 9, the council reduced the mayor's annual pay effective next week to $20,000 from $60,000.

Bunten said that as mayor-elect, he hoped to talk to city council members soon about the task they face next week of hiring an interim city manager. That person will run the city until a permanent city manager is hired later this year.

Bunten and Stubbs earned the right to face off for mayor by becoming the top two vote-getters in the March 1 mayoral primary election. Bunten received 12,836 votes in the primary, while Stubbs had 9,174, elections office records show. Five other candidates received a total of almost 5,000 votes.

Bunten first ran for mayor four years ago, losing in the February 2001 general election to Butch Felker. Bunten then was among 42 candidates who sought to fill the mayoral seat left vacant when Felker resigned late in 2003 while facing an ouster action. Council members chose Mayor James McClinton, 43. McClinton decided not to run to keep his seat after voters in November removed the mayor's administrative powers.

Bunten represented southwest Topeka's 54th District in the Kansas House of Representatives for almost 28 years, winning election to 14 straight terms as a Republican beginning in 1962. He then spent two years in the Kansas Senate after being appointed in November 2002.

Bunten has been president since 1984 of Bunten Co., which manages the US Bank building at 800 S.W. Jackson and other investments.

Stubbs had represented southwest Topeka's District 7 on the city council since 2001. After helping lead successful efforts to give Topeka a city council-manager form of government, she gave up her seat effective April 12 to run for the mayoral job she helped change.

WHAT'S NEXT

Bill Bunten will be sworn in Tuesday as Topeka's first mayor under the city council-manager form of government, which takes effect that day. The city council at that day's meeting plans to hire an interim city manager to run day-to-day operations until a permanent city manager is hired, which council members hope to accomplish this year.

Tim Hrenchir can be reached at (785) 295-1184 or tim.hrenchir@cjonline.com.