Topeka City Councilman Brendan Jensen was elected Tuesday evening to be deputy mayor for the coming year.
The city’s governing body, consisting of the nine council members and Mayor Michelle De La Isla, voted 10-0 to choose Jensen for the position previously held by Councilman Jeff Coen, who nominated Jensen. No one else was nominated.
“Thank you all for the privilege of serving,” Jensen said. “I look forward to this opportunity.”
The governing body also elected new Councilmen Mike Padilla and Michael Lesser to join Jensen and De La Isla in holding the city’s four voting positions on the board of directors of the Joint Economic Development Organization.
Padilla and Lesser each received eight votes compared to four for fellow nominee Tony Emerson, with each governing body member having two votes to cast. Councilwomen Sandra Clear and Karen Hiller were nominated but didn’t accept.
Padilla received votes from himself, De La Isla and council members Hiller, Clear, Jensen, Coen, Lesser and Sylvia Ortiz. Lesser received votes from himself, De La Isla and council members Clear, Emerson, Padilla, Jensen, Coen and Aaron Mays. Emerson received votes from himself, Hiller, Ortiz and Mays.
JEDO is a body of city and Shawnee County elected officials that oversees $5 million raised annually for economic development through a countywide, half-cent sales tax.
Tuesday’s deputy mayor’s vote followed the governing body’s tradition of assigning that position to whoever has served on the council the longest without being deputy mayor, provided that person wants the job.
The most senior council members who hadn’t been deputy mayor before Tuesday were Jensen and Clear, both council members since April 2015.
The deputy mayor receives no extra pay and continues to hold his or her council seat. That person’s responsibilities include carrying out the mayor’s duties in the mayor’s absence.
Coen, who ran successfully against Jensen last January to become deputy mayor, said he’d enjoyed holding that office.
“It’s nice to be plugged in and know what’s going on in the city,” he said.
Coen recalled that as deputy mayor, he’d remained a voting member for a third year on the JEDO board, where he’d served the previous two years; been able to make welcoming remarks at a neighborhood cookout at the Hillcrest Community Center; and been able to welcome groups, such as the American Legion, to Topeka.
Coen said he’d also enjoyed taking the lead as deputy mayor in the process for hiring a new assistant to the city council, Liz Toyne.
The governing body also:
- Voted 10-0 to elect Hiller and new Councilman Mays to fill two open positions on the Metropolitan Topeka Planning Organization policy board. Emerson was nominated but didn’t accept.
- Heard Hiller note that the governing body is scheduled at its Feb. 6 meeting to discuss city fireworks laws.
- Heard comments from four people from a group that had previously spoken critically several times at council meetings of the city’s response to the fatal Sept. 28 Topeka police shooting of Dominique White. One, Rose Welch, said she didn’t want governing body members to think she was down on them. “We’re here because we still believe in you guys, and we believe in Topeka,” she said.
- Heard an update from city levee engineer Kelly Ryan on the city’s ongoing efforts to rehabilitate its Kansas River levee system. The project is currently on track to finish $2 million to $3 million under budget, Ryan said.
- Voted 10-0 to approve a conditional use permit enabling the city government to build a sanitary sewer pump station adjacent to an existing pump station, which needs to be replaced, south of N.W. Williams Street and about 185 feet east of N.W. Tyler.
- Discussed and suggested potential amendments but took no action on a measure it is expected to consider later regarding potential changes to its rules and procedures.
- Met behind closed doors twice in executive session to discuss labor contract negotiations and attorney-client privileged matters involving worker’s compensation.
Reporter Tim Hrenchir can be reached at (785) 295-1184 or @timhrenchir on Twitter.