Council members Jared Cerullo and Cindy Claycomb are leaving City Council in January after losing their re-election bids. (Photos courtesy of Cerullo and Claycomb)
Council members Jared Cerullo and Cindy Claycomb are leaving City Council in January after losing their re-election bids. (Photos courtesy of Cerullo and Claycomb)

A free email newsletter breaking down the issues that affect Wichitans the most.

Delivered every Tuesday and Thursday morning

Nearly four years ago, Wichita City Council member Cindy Claycomb was sworn into her seat after winning a landslide election for her District 6 seat. 

Nearly nine months ago, City Council member Jared Cerullo took office after the existing council appointed him, in a 4-to-2 vote, to fill a vacant District 3 seat. 

Now, Claycomb and Cerullo are preparing to leave the City Council on Jan. 10. Both lost their re-election campaigns in November. Claycomb will be replaced by Maggie Ballard and Mike Hoheisel will follow Cerullo. 

Each took the time to share their greatest accomplishments, biggest regrets and advice or concerns about the incoming City Council.

Cindy Claycomb, District 6

After four years on Wichita’s City Council, what are you most proud of accomplishing? 

My efforts to assist hundreds of individuals with zoning, neighborhood inspections, general questions about City services, street/road concerns, and numerous other issues.

I am also proud of two tangible projects that I was instrumental in accomplishing.

(1)  The creation of the new Evergreen Community Center and Library. This $1.7 million community center brings together a neighborhood resource center, branch library, and non-profit partners to provide city services and programming focused on education, workforce readiness, and small business development to serve the neighborhood.

(2) The acquisition of the 316 Hotel to create The Studios at HumanKind which provides 54 permanent supportive housing units, along with wrap-around case-management services, for people experiencing homelessness.

Is there any policy objective or initiative that you did not accomplish throughout your time on City Council that you wish you had? Will you pursue this in a different role after you leave City Council?

There are no policy objectives or initiatives that remain on my wish list. My vision for a second term was to think big and to create a momentum-building vision. I would have concentrated on planning for the future and making smart, focused investments to expand our local economy and make Wichita the greatest place to live, work, and play.I plan to continue to work on this vision through my board of director roles on Empower, HumanKind Ministries, Downtown Wichita, and Hispanics in Real Estate.

Do you have any concerns or advice for the incoming City Council? What is it? 

Be quiet and listen in your first year. If you must speak, ask questions that help you build the experience, expertise, and knowledge you need to be an effective City Council member.

Establish collaborative and collegial relationships with your fellow Council Members, rather than being adversarial.

Rely on the expertise and experience of City staff to help you make effective decisions. They are the experts in their respective fields.

Throughout your time as a council member, the city went through a number of conversations about how to set Wichita up for success — what to do about Century II, how to allocate economic development incentives, how much the police budget should be funded. As you leave City Council, what is the biggest challenge Wichita faces in becoming the city you’d like to see? What about District 6?

Overcoming the mentality of “citizens against virtually everything” and overcoming the desire to maintain the status quo. Defeating this mindset will be uncomfortable and difficult for some elected leaders and residents. We need leaders who are focused on creating a momentum-building vision rather than passing more legislation.

Jared Cerullo, District 3

You’ve been on Wichita’s City Council for about nine months now, after being appointed to fill a vacant seat last March. What are you most proud of accomplishing in that time?

  • I believe I was the only council member who was truly non-partisan through the entire non-discrimination ordinance process. The process to pass a NDO was started by Mayor Brandon Whipple. However, if there is anyone who believes that the mayor’s intent was to protect anyone’s civil rights, they are sorely mistaken. The mayor wanted to pass the NDO so he could check off a box on his campaign website. The mayor’s own PAC website boasts “Engagement first. Policy second.” The mayor engaged no one. He asked for no one’s advice. Not even the critical group that could have helped him the most: Equality Kansas. As the only gay man on the council, I was taken by complete surprise when the first iteration of the NDO was brought to me by the city manager on a Thursday, with the expectation to vote on in the following Tuesday. 
  • Passage of the first vote to begin the process to build a new Patrol East police substation.
  • Passage of the final version of the Clapp Park Master Plan.

Editor’s note: 

The Wichita’s Future PAC is run by Chelsea Whipple, Brandon Whipple’s wife. Brandon Whipple is not listed on the political action committee’s origination document. 

Equality Kansas, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy group, opposed the first iteration of the nondiscrimination ordinance the Wichita City Council considered in the week prior to the June 15 council meeting. After Equality Kansas voiced concerns, the City Council amended the ordinance during the June 15 City Council meeting to gain Equality Kansas’ support. This version of the nondiscrimination ordinance passed the council 4 to 3, with Whipple in support. The nondiscrimination ordinance was brought back for a second reading at the July 13 council meeting. The City Council voted 5 to 2 to delay a vote on the ordinance for three months to seek additional public input. Whipple voted against this motion, citing his desire to pass the ordinance more quickly.

Is there any policy objective or initiative that you did not accomplish throughout your time on City Council that you wish you had? Will you pursue this in a different role after you leave City Council?

I had hoped to continue the process of being on the Biological Nutrient Removal project Steering Committee. This is the committee that will continue to guide the future of Wichita’s wastewater treatment plants. The two largest sewer plants are both in District 3, which often causes extreme odor problems that no council member has made an important issue in more than 20 years.

I also was looking forward to going after federal infrastructure dollars in order to fund the building of train overpasses throughout Southeast Wichita. Anyone who lives in District 3 knows about the traffic trouble that the trains cause along Southeast Boulevard each and every day.

Do you have any concerns or advice for the incoming City Council? What is it?  

My concern moving forward for this new council is that the two new members will be nothing more than yes-people for Mayor Brandon Whipple. Whipple funded their campaigns. He used thousands of dollars from the Wichita’s Future PAC, of which his wife is the president, despite being on record as saying he did not form the PAC for the purpose of getting anyone elected.  …  (Ballard and Hoheisel) largely had the backing of the Sedgwick County Democratic Party. I believe City Council is non-partisan for a very good reason. Party politics often gets in the way of doing what’s best for our city. Hence, my vote for the final version of the NDO.

Editor’s note: 

According to campaign expenditure documents, Brandon Whipple donated $500 to Mike Hoheisel’s general campaign. Whipple is not listed as a donor on any of the expenditure reports Ballard filed during her 2021 primary or general campaign. 

Previous reporting by The Wichita Beacon asked Chelsea Whipple, chairperson of Wichita’s Future PAC, about the relationship between the PAC and the campaigns of Ballard and Hoheisel: 

“Wichita’s Future PAC did not use any resources to express advocacy on any engagement activities with candidates,” Chelsea Whipple wrote in an email to The Beacon.

If the PAC did spend more than $300 advocating for or against a specific candidate, it would need to identify which candidate it spent money on, according to guidelines from the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission. Wichita’s Future PAC’s latest report does not list any candidates for whom the PAC is campaigning.

Though your time as a council member has been shorter than the typical four-year term, the city still went through a number of important conversations in the last nine months about how to set Wichita up for success — implementing a nondiscrimination ordinance, creating a land bank, approving a Clapp Park redevelopment plan. As you leave City Council, what is the biggest challenge Wichita faces in becoming the city you’d like to see? What about District 3?

Downtown development. Wichita missed the boat around 15 years ago by rejecting casino gambling. Casino gambling should have gone right smack along the downtown riverbank.  Instead, it went three feet past the county line and the city of Wichita gets no benefit whatsoever from the hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue generated by hundreds of thousands of its own residents who travel back and forth between here and Mulvane each and every year.

Further, I truly believe that Century II should be preserved. I am fully supportive of building a new performing arts center, so long as it is largely funded by the private sector.

As for District 3, I believe our biggest challenge is fighting blight, housing inequities and crime.  District 3 needs some serious help. South Wichita has been forgotten at City Hall for the past 20 years. That’s evident in the amount of residential streets that, to this day, remain unpaved in District 3.

Recent Posts

Hack covers local government for The Wichita Beacon. She is a Report for America corps member.