Four Wichitans have emerged as leading candidates to become the city’s next mayor. In the Aug. 1 primary, incumbent Mayor Brandon Whipple will be challenged by Bryan Frye, Celeste Racette and Lily Wu. Unless one receives a majority, the top two vote-getters will face off in the November general election.
Whipple is a former state representative and college instructor who has served one term as mayor. Frye is a businessman and two-term City Council member representing northwest Wichita. Racette is a former bank examiner and founder of the Save Century II organization. Wu is a former television broadcaster who’s active on several local boards.
The Active Age asked each candidate these questions:
1. As mayor, what would be your top three priorities for Wichita?
2. Do you have any proposed initiatives or policies specifically intended to benefit residents 60 and older?
3.The city currently cedes responsibility for most senior-related services and spending to Sedgwick County. Are you satisfied with this arrangement and, if not, what would you do about it?
4.What in your record indicates that you are the best candidate to represent older Wichitans as mayor?
1. Continue to invest in police and fire. Improve response times by stepping up recruitment and retention efforts to fill open positions. Prioritize budget dollars for pay, training, connecting social/mental health workers alongside police officers, and expanding the Integrated Care Team.
Taking care of water, roads and facilities infrastructure by focusing on fixing the needs before tackling the wants.
Finally, it’s about jobs. Keep Wichita open by building an economy with a variety of employment opportunities.
2. Affordable housing is a concern for all ages but especially seniors on fixed incomes. We must value the vulnerable by identifying solutions that allows Wichitans to stay in their homes longer. A proposed zoning adjustment that could positively affect seniors is the allowance of accessory dwelling units on single family residential lots. I support this as it has the potential to allow seniors with fixed incomes to live independently yet closer to support systems.
3. As a council member and former park board commissioner, I’ve championed increased programming for adults in park & recreation, cultural arts and the public library. I’d like to expand opportunities for community education, Senior Wednesdays and the Fitness, Health & Wellness program.
4. I’m a lifelong Wichitan and devoted servant leader who has spent decades working to build a better Wichita for all. I’m proud to be Wichita made because it made me Wichita motivated.
30+ year business career. 8+ years Wichita City Council. 8 years Board of Park Commissioners. 8 years District 5 Advisory Board. Dozens of community volunteer roles. 4x business owner/operator.
I’m the only candidate with leadership skills in business, non-profit, government and entrepreneurism.
1. Ensure that essential services such as public safety, quality of life, and transportation are supported. Address the homeless situation with housing, mental health facilities, work training, and counseling in one location.
Restore public confidence in City Hall by providing competent oversight to taxpayer funds. Spending priorities need to shift away from developers and back to the public.
Provide passionate leadership in a cooperative approach to inspire pride in our great community.
2. I would initiate a public conversation to address the rising local property taxes, which disproportionately burden senior citizens on fixed incomes. We need to cap property taxes through careful spending. Transportation for seniors is critical, particularly for reasonable priced, reliable service. I would create a website to link people with transportation options. Residents 60 and older should be engaged in regular conversations to ensure their voices are heard.
3. Sedgwick County is a subdivision of state government and leads in providing essential services required by senior citizens. As mayor, I will be vigilant for opportunities to enhance senior-related services with Sedgwick County. I will encourage all city departments to factor senior needs into program development. One alarming area of concern is elderly fraud, which is on the increase through romance scams, fake grandchildren emergencies, and fraudsters posing as government agencies (IRS and SSN).
4. My 25-year job experience in the banking industry has given me the skills to be a watchdog on behalf of taxpayers. No other candidate has my extensive background in accounting. I served as an accounting officer, chief internal auditor, and FDIC bank examiner and fraud investigator. I have written contracts, prepared multi-million-dollar budgets, supervised employees, and led business teams. As the founder of Save Century II, I have given a voice to all Wichitans.
1. As mayor, my top three priorities have been to reform the way business is done at City Hall so it is more fair and transparent to the taxpayer; to ensure all Wichita neighborhoods are safe, no matter where you call home; and growing our economy to attract new investment and tourism resulting in increased opportunities for residents and revenues that allow us to enhance city services.
2. As an elected official, I value communication with my constituents. Oftentimes, when governments modernize, they stop utilizing multiple channels of communication. While the internet is a good tool, it is important to me that we communicate as a City using traditional mediums as well. As Mayor, I consistently push to communicate with residents via mail and in person, so those options remain available to our residents that prefer to receive communications offline.
3. Wichita must collaborate with our partners to provide effective services. As the Board of Health, healthcare services for seniors are best managed by Sedgwick County. Our role is to enhance the quality of life for seniors, including Golden Age Club and recreation classes designed for seniors. I am focused on making housing affordable, especially for those on a fixed income. When we remain independent in our own homes, we live longer, healthier and happier lives.
4. When I was elected Mayor, City Hall was on autopilot and I’ve focused on making City Hall work for all our residents. I have a proven record of thoughtfully reviewing our city services and making adjustments following best practices. Most recently, we remodeled City Hall’s first floor to create a customer service hub, which makes it easier to speak directly with someone when you need help with a water bill, housing or other common services.
1. Many Wichitans are dissatisfied with the status quo and have lost faith in local government. Wichita is hungry for new leadership and a fresh perspective. As mayor, my focus will be ensuring public safety, strengthening our economy, and restoring trust in city hall. I’ll work with anyone who wants to improve our city, bring our community together, find common ground, and make Wichita proud.
2. People on fixed incomes shouldn’t have to pay higher taxes due to budget mismanagement. We must ensure public safety by focusing on recruitment and retention within our police, fire, and public works departments, and strengthen our economy by increasing collaboration between government, education, and industry. As mayor, I’ll build unity and consensus between council members and county commissioners, bring an end to the divisive politics, immaturity, and back-room deals, and provide you clear, transparent communication.
3. Given the impending budget deficit, it would be difficult for Wichita to assume more responsibility. I intend to improve the relationship between city and county, as collaboration is necessary to ensure senior-related services are delivered most effectively. In addition to government, I also believe there is value in public-private partnerships. Our seniors deserve exceptional care and support, and I will be very mindful of and careful to watch over our senior-related services.
4. Respect for elders is the foundation of my culture and respect for all is one of my core values. Representing our older generation, many of whom also bravely and nobly defended our nation’s freedoms, would be an incredible honor. I’m an outsider focused on results over politics and, as mayor, look forward to working collaboratively toward the best possible solutions.