New Tonganoxie City Council appoints former member to fill vacant spot

January 8, 2020

A former Tonganoxie City Council member is returning to the governing body.

Tonganoxie’s new council — Mayor David Frese and Council Member Jake Dale were sworn in at the beginning of Monday’s meeting — selected Chris Donnelly to finish out the unexpired term of Dave Bennett, who stepped down this past November.

Donnelly served on the council for eight years before losing a re-election bid in 2017. That race required a primary for a crowded field. Donnelly advanced past the primary, but did not finish high enough for another term.

On Monday, Donnelly was appointed from a list of eight applicants.

Council members and the mayor voted, 3-2, to appoint Donnelly.

Other residents who submitted applications were Jeremy Albert, Jennifer Kohl, Laura Eichrel, Alexander Wiley, Curtis Oroke, Zack Stoltenberg and Jennifer McCutchen.

In the roll call vote, Rocky Himpel, Lisa Patterson and Loralee Stevens voted for the motion to appoint Donnelly as the roll call moved down the line from right to left. Frese and then Dale both voted no.

As the previous council had done with each member listing their top three choices for appointment, council members shared their top preferences in discussion.

Dale said his top choices were Donnelly, Laura Eichrel and Jeremy Albert. Stevens selected Kohl, Eichrel and McCutchen.

Himpel said he had two: Oroke and Donnelly.

Patterson said the goal was to reach consensus among the council. She had Donnelly on her short list, while Frese said he was content with not listing a Top 3 having heard all of the discussion.

The decision meant that Oroke no longer would be on the council. He placed third in the November election, with the top two vote-getters earning spots on the council. Dale took one spot, while Patterson, an incumbent won the other.

Stoltenberg, who is a current member of Tonganoxie Planning Commission, placed fourth out of four candidates in the general election for council in November.

Each appointment candidate had three minutes to speak at Monday’s meeting. Stoltenberg said he ran for council thinking he did not have much name recognition. He said his goal was to get 100 votes and he doubled that after final votes were tallied.

Monday’s meeting opened with the former council approving minutes of the last meeting.

The only change to the council was with Mayor Jason Ward leaving his post.

Frese had his wife, Natalie, and sons Sawyer and Isaiah join him for his swearing-in ceremony. David’s parents Norman and Carol Frese also came from Alta Vista to be part of the ceremony. Alta Vista is near Council Grove.

Ward handed over the gavel to Frese who joked “Is it like Thor? If I throw it will it come back to me?”

Frese thanked Ward for his service.

“I am here because of you,” Frese said. “You presented such great leadership and professionalism and great grownupness that I admire in the years i’ve worked with you.”

“You got worse than you deserved but I cannot say enough about your leadership in the last years.”

Frese also thanked Oroke for his service on the council, commending him for his deep love for and commitment to Tonganoxie.

As Ward left the meeting, he departed uttering what has become a signature phrase for him.

“Thanks, gang,” he said.

Donnelly will join the council beginning with the Jan. 21 meeting.

The council will not meet on its regular third Monday of the month because it falls on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

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