Longtime Tonganoxie council members to square off in mayoral race
This spring’s Tonganoxie mayoral race is one that has plenty of experience on both sides.
Incumbent Jason Ward was elected to the council in 2005 before becoming mayor in 2010.
Ward actually appointed Peak to the council in 2010, though Peak spent time on Tonganoxie Planning Commission before the appointment. He then won election in 2011 and opted to run for mayor instead of seek re-election.
Here’s a closer look at the candidates:
A resident of Tonganoxie for more than a decade, Council member Bill Peak has been active in local government. A former Tonganoxie Planning Commission member, Peak, 63, started attending City Council meetings as an interested citizen.
In 2010, Ward appointed him to the open seat of Tom Putthoff, who stepped down from his council seat.
Now, Peak is running against the person who appointed him five years ago.
“One thing neither Mayor Ward nor I can control is the apathy,” Peak said. “Last time one of the issues I ran on was apathy. I think we still suffer from that. It’s improving.”
Several people are running for office, which Peak said was encouraging.
He said there were some subtle differences between Ward and him, but that his involvement in the community and government — he has 43 credit hours with the League of Kansas Municipalities in budgeting, personnel, ethics and open meetings laws — make him a viable choice for mayor.
“I’m very proud of that fact,” said Peak. “I’m trying to keep on that.”
Peak also is program director for the Tonganoxie Community Historical Society, volunteers with reading at the elementary school and assists with school field trips to the historic site. He’s also a member of the Retail Commercial Development Committee.
Peak said he’s diligent in researching the council’s agenda packet in advance of meetings and doesn’t hesitate to answer the hard questions.
He said he’s proud of getting procedure at meetings changed so that citizens now can raise their hands and comment on issues throughout a council meeting.
A retired employee of the U.S. Postal Service, Peak graduated from Kansas University with a degree in history. Originally from Paola, Peak and his wife, Kathy moved to Tonganoxie from Lake Dabinawa. He also formerly owned a mobile home park in the area.
Peak said he decided to not seek another council term and run for mayor partly because Ward was running unopposed.
“If it’s my last gasp, so be it, but at least we have two voices out there discussing the issues,” Peak said.
While on the Tonganoxie City Council for roughly a decade, Mayor Jason Ward has served in various roles.
He first won election in 2005 and was council president in 2010 when former Mayor (and current council member candidate) Mike Vestal resigned. Ward took over as mayor in Vestal’s absence and then won the mayoral race in 2011.
Ward said he is seeking another mayoral term because of the direction Tonganoxie is headed.
“I think it’s simply because we have so many great things going on in Tonganoxie,” he said. “I’ve had such a long tenure on council. I have experienced the good times and the bad and I think there’s a great deal of positive momentum and opportunity for the city.”
Ward, 44, pointed to the Chieftain Trail expansion and renovations at Brothers Market as signs of momentum.
He pointed to growth in Lawrence and Kansas City, Kan., as well as Tonganoxie’s connectivity to Interstate-70 with the County Road 1 interchange as more reasons to be excited about the coming years.
“I think the next few years will be critical for the future of Tonganoxie,” Ward said. “I think all cities go through periods of the decisions that are made have a long-term impact. And I think the next few years is one of those periods for Tonganoxie.
Ward said he views his role as mayor as one of facilitator on the council and a consensus builder in the community.
There also has been turnover on the council with several resignations over time. Ward initially appointed four people to the council — Chris Donnelly, Peak, Andy Gilner and Kara Reed.
A Shawnee Mission South High School graduate, Ward earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and a law degree, both from Washburn University. He also took some classes at KU. He is an attorney specializing in product liability litigation with Shook, Hardy and Bacon.
Ward and his wife, Amy, have been a part of the community for several years. Ward implemented a food drive challenge with Tonganoxie Elementary School students. The drive coincides with the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Lighting. He’s also is a