Topeka 160: Check out the faces and history of the 51 men and one woman who've been mayor of Topeka

1 of 52

Loring Farnsworth, 1858-1859

Topeka was founded on Dec. 5, 1854, and incorporated on Feb. 14, 1857.

Topekans in 1858 elected their first mayor, a New Englander named Loring Farnsworth. His one-year term included the construction of a wooden bridge over the Kansas River, which was washed away by heavy rains a year later.

2 of 52

Lorenzo Dow, 3/1859-4/1859

Topeka’s second mayor, Lorenzo Dow, was elected in 1859 but resigned later that year to be replaced by Cyrus K. Holliday, who was among the city’s founders.

3 of 52

Col. Cyrus K. Holliday, 1859-1860, 1867-1868, & 1869-1870.

Holliday traveled that year to the state’s Wyandotte Convention and successfully lobbied to have Topeka chosen as the capital of Kansas when it became a state in 1861. Holliday would serve three different times as Topeka’s mayor.

4 of 52

Hiram W. Farnsworth, 1860-1861

5 of 52

Harris F. Otis, 1861-1862

Harris F. Otis became the only Topeka mayor to die violently in office.

Otis, 44, was inspecting a business building in 1861 when he accidentally lost his footing and fell while stepping from a flight of stairs, according to newspaper reports. He died from his injuries.

6 of 52

N.W. Cox, 1862-1863

7 of 52

J.F. Cummings. 1863-1864

8 of 52

Samuel H. Fletcher, 1864-1865

9 of 52

Maj. W. W. Ross, 1865-1866

10 of 52

Ross Burns, 1866-1867

11 of 52

Orin T. Welch, 1868-1869 & 1871-1873.

12 of 52

Rev. J.B. McAfee, 1870-1871

13 of 52

Maj. Henry Bartling, 1873-1875

14 of 52

Maj. Thomas J. Anderson, 1875-1877

15 of 52

M.H. Case, 1877-1881

16 of 52

Joseph C. Wilson, 1881-1883

17 of 52

Bradford Miller, 1883-1885

18 of 52

Rossewll L. Cofran, 1885-1887, 1889-1893, & 1913-1915

Only one other Topekan served three terms as mayor besides Cyrus K. Holliday: Rosswell L. Coffran, who held that office from 1885 to 1887, 1889 to 1993 and then 1913 to 1915.

19 of 52

Judge D.C. Metsker, 1887-1889

20 of 52

Dr. D.C. Jones, 1893-11/1893

21 of 52

Col. T.W. Harrison, 1893-1895

22 of 52

Chas A. Fellows, 1895-1899

23 of 52

Chas. J. Drew, 1899-1901

24 of 52

Gen. J.W.F. Hughes, 1901-1902

25 of 52

Albert Parker, 1902-1903

A newspaper account said Albert Parker, Topeka’s mayor from 1902 to 1903, chose not to seek re-election after Blanche Boise — a member of the Women’s Christian Temperature Union and friend of saloon smasher Carry Nation — came to City Hall, accused him of being responsible for alcohol being sold openly in Topeka and used a horse whip to strike him across the head and shoulders. Parker took the whip but chose not to file a complaint.

26 of 52

W.S. Bergundthal, 1903-1905

27 of 52

W.H. Davis, 1905-1907

28 of 52

WM. Green, 1907-1910

Topekans voted in 1909 to replace the city’s mayor-council form of government with a city commission government form in which citizens elected a finance commissioner, park commissioner, street commissioner and water commissioner to run those departments while the mayor oversaw the city’s other departments. The new government form took effect in 1910.

29 of 52

J.B. Billard, 1910-1913

30 of 52

Jay E. House, 1915-1919

After being elected in 1913 to what would be his final term as mayor, Coffran created controversy when he appointed two women to the police department. His opponent, Jay E. House, won the 1915 mayoral election after saying, “The woman policeman is the biggest joke in the world.” Both female officers resigned after House took office.

31 of 52

Herbert J. Corwine, 1919-1923

The Kansas Attorney General’s office in 1922 filed ouster proceedings against Mayor Herbert Corwine, charging him with failure to enforce anti-liquor and cigarette laws. The Daily Capital indicated Corwine was cleared through a District Court decision that the city had a corrupt police court system but the mayor was unaware of it.

32 of 52

Earl Akers, 1923-1925

33 of 52

James E. Thomas, 1925-1927

34 of 52

W.O. Rigby, 1927-1931

35 of 52

Omar B. Ketchum, 1931-1935

36 of 52

Herbert G. Barrett, 1935-1939

37 of 52

John F. Scott, 1939-1941

38 of 52

Frank J. Warren, 1941-1951

Topeka’s longest-tenured mayor was Frank J. Warren, who held three terms from 1941 to 1951. Warren was able to remain in office 10 years because of the passage of state legislation — later repealed — that allowed city officials to hold four-year terms in office between 1943 and 1951.

39 of 52

W. Kenneth Wilke, 1951-1953

40 of 52

George C. Schnellbacher, 1953-1959

41 of 52

E.J. Camp, 1959-1963

42 of 52

Hal W. Gerlach, 1963-1965

43 of 52

Charles W. Wright, Jr. 1965-1969

Mayor Chuck Wright gained acclaim for guiding Topeka’s city government after a monster tornado ripped through the city in 1966.

Wright also spearheaded the city commission’s passage the following year of a fair housing ordinance, which banned property owners and managers from refusing to rent or sell to someone on the basis of race.

44 of 52

Gene C. Martin, 1969-1971

45 of 52

William B. McCormick, 1971-1983

46 of 52

Douglas S. Wright, 1983-1989

Wright’s son, Doug Wright, was mayor from 1983 to 1989.

Topekans voted in 1984 to adopt a strong mayor-council form of government, which effectively put the mayor in charge of the city. That government form took effect the following year.

47 of 52

Harry "Butch" Felker, 1989-1997, & 2001-10/2003

48 of 52

Joan Wagnon, 1997-2001

Topeka’s only female mayor, Joan Wagnon, was elected in 1997.

She lost her bid for re-election in 2001 to Harry “Butch” Felker, who had also been mayor from 1989 to 1997.

Felker then resigned in November 2003 while facing an ouster action alleging he violated campaign finance laws.

49 of 52

Duane Pomeroy, 10/2003-1/2004

50 of 52

James A. McClinton, 1/2004-4/2005

Council members in December 2003 elected James McClinton, who became the city’s first African-American mayor.

Topekans — who had previously defeated bids in 1929, 1952, 1962, 1964 and 1969 to adopt a form of government featuring a city manager — voted in 2004 to adopt a council-manager government form.

The mayor’s responsibilities in that form of government are limited largely to overseeing city council meetings, voting at those meetings and carrying out ceremonial duties.

McClinton responded by choosing not to seek re-election, saying “A mayor under this form of government would basically cut ribbons and shake hands.”

51 of 52

William W. Bunten, 4/2005-4/2013

Bill Bunten was elected mayor when the new form of government took effect in April 2005, and remained in office for eight years.

52 of 52

Larry E. Wolgast, 4/2013-Present

Larry Wolgast was then elected to that office in 2013, and has held it since.


Fifty-two people — 51 men and one woman — have served as mayor of Topeka. The powers and duties of those mayors have differed, depending on when they held office.

This slideshow is a part of The Capital-Journal's "Topeka 160" special section commemorating the 160th anniversary of the city's incorporation.

Related slideshow: 25 celebrities with Topeka connections

This Week's Circulars