Former Prairie Village city councilor Mike Kelly may have left northeast Johnson County for Canada, but his impact on city politics is clearly still being felt.
On Tuesday, two Prairie Village residents who played an active role in Kelly’s 2011 campaign for mayor – Eric Mikkelson and Jori Nelson — won seats on the Prairie Village Council. After the election results came in Tuesday night, Mikkelson and and other Kelly allies spoke to the former councilor on a cell phone as they celebrated at the Blue Moose with a group of supporters and two other victorious candidates, Dan Runion and Terrence Gallagher.
Tuesday’s results continued a fundamental shift in the makeup of the Prairie Village council. Over the course of the past two city council elections, eight of the 12 council seats have changed hands. Of the members of the council who will be seated next week, only councilors Ruth Hopkins, Steve Noll, Andrew Wang and Laura Wassmer were part of the governing body in March 2012.
Opposition to the Mission Chateau project played a significant role in at least two of the races, with Ward V candidate Runion — a member of the Mission Valley Neighbors Association — handily defeating Marc Baratta, who became a proponent of the project prior to the January vote. Nelson, a Ward I resident, was a vocal critic of the project, and used incumbent Dale Warman’s vote in favor of it as a foundational campaign issue.
Prior to the release of the final results Tuesday, Warman told group of supporters at his home that he didn’t expect to win. Wednesday morning, he congratulated Nelson on her victory and said she’d worked very hard on her campaign.
“There are a lot of changes,” Warman said of Tuesday’s results. “Mission and PV both — we’re going to have a lot of new people involved, many of whom haven’t been involved in government before, so it’s going to take some time for them to get up to speed. But this is what the people want. You hear a lot about change, so we’ll have to sit back and see where it leads.”
Nelson, who in the past has been an aggressive critic of the city’s spending policies, said she didn’t have any issues in particular she wanted to tackle upon taking office.
“There’s so much for me to learn from the council person’s side. I need to see it from a different perspective,” she said. “I’m excited to be representing the residents of Ward 1 and I want to thank Dale for his service.”
Mikkelson said he was excited to help the city explore options for developing a more robust parks and trails system, and that he wanted to look into forming a “schools committee” to foster collaboration between the city and the Shawnee Mission district. He also said he thought the city could “benefit from some healing.”
“There has been a tear in our community over the past elections,” he said. “Not an irreparable one, but it is there, and I think we should work to bring people back together.”