Council members-elect Mike Hoheisel and Maggie Ballard will join Wichita City Council in January after winning their District 3 and District 6 elections, respectively. (Photos courtesy of Hoheisel and Ballard)
Council members-elect Mike Hoheisel and Maggie Ballard will join Wichita City Council in January after winning their District 3 and District 6 elections, respectively. (Photos courtesy of Hoheisel and Ballard)

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This November, a shake-up to the Wichita City Council was clinched by the election of two political newcomers. 

Wichita’s City Council District 6 elected Maggie Ballard, defeating one-term incumbent Cindy Claycomb with 55% of the vote

Wichita’s City Council District 3 elected Mike Hoheisel, defeating nine-month incumbent Jared Cerullo with 50% of the vote

The incoming council members, who will be sworn into office on Jan. 10, took the time to share how they have been preparing to join council, their first priorities and what their election means for the council’s political future. 

Cerullo and Claycomb reflected on their terms, discussed challenges facing Wichita and gave advice to the incoming council members in earlier interviews with The Wichita Beacon.

Maggie Ballard, District 6

How have you been preparing to join the City Council since you were elected in November?

I’ve spent my time since being elected meeting with residents in my district, community leaders and city staff to learn what is most important to them. Over the last few weeks, the council has voted on several major issues that I’ve received feedback on and I’ve tried to get that feedback to the manager. The city has also scheduled orientations with every department to introduce us to staff and get us updated on current projects. 

What’s one thing all Wichitans should know about you that they might not know now?

I’m very blunt and not afraid to ask questions. I think that has been slightly overwhelming for our manager so far, but it’s very important to me to make clear that I’m ready to get to work for the people. I want everyone to know, no matter where you live, if you have felt ignored by City Hall before, please reach out now and we’ll work to help you out. I will take the time to make sure you feel heard and your issue is addressed. 

What is your first priority when you’re sworn in this January?

The last month, it’s become very clear to me that as a city we need to slow down and really review what the manager puts in front of the council. For many years, the attitude at City Hall has been to do things the manager’s way and that has led to rushed decisions and unintended consequences. Just this month, I’ve had to identify issues to management that had been overlooked in our district due to lack of engagement or understanding of the area. My first priority will be to really examine everything that comes before me as a council member and make sure my questions get answered before approving any plans. 

The budget process begins this spring with City Council budget retreats. What are your goals for next year’s budget?

I’m going to spend my time during the budget retreats asking a lot of questions about services and how we can improve those services. I plan to share my personal experiences with city programs, like the HOT team, that aren’t operating often enough to be effective. I’d also like to take the budget out to the public to get more input for a longer period of time so we are sure to include the priorities of our residents in this budget. 

You and council member-elect Hoheisel were endorsed by the Sedgwick County Democratic party, which is also affiliated with Vice Mayor Brandon Johnson and Mayor Brandon Whipple. How does your election to City Council change its overall political leaning, and what does that mean for the policy initiatives you all will be putting forward?

The changes to the council have less to do with partisanship and more to do with proven community advocates being elected. In conversations we’ve had since I won, we’ve discussed getting back to basics and focusing on the services that people expect from our city government. I anticipate we will focus more on the people of this city and what we can do to improve their lives and the lives of their families. For too long, the city has only focused on the opinion of a few major businesses and developers and this council will be looking to receive feedback from as many residents as possible before making decisions. 

Mike Hoheisel, District 3

How have you been preparing to join the City Council since you were elected in November?

Since Election Day I’ve been out talking with constituents about their concerns and familiarizing myself with the various departments within our city government. Maggie and I have been going through the city council’s orientation to learn the finer details of the city’s operations. And, of course, I’m spending as much time with the family as possible until we hit the ground running in January.

What’s one thing all Wichitans should know about you that they might not know now?

I doubt there’s anything too surprising about me. I think the most important thing to remember is this district isn’t just where I live. It’s also where my family and friends live. It’s where I grew up. I’m going to take these issues seriously because it impacts people I love on a day to day basis.

What is your first priority when you’re sworn in this January?

My first priority when I take office is to help continue the momentum we have in addressing mental health, addiction and homelessness. We have some good things in the pipeline to address these vital issues, and the trickle down effects of addressing them will be felt in relation to a falling crime rate and freeing up our public safety officials to better do their job.

The budget process begins this spring with City Council budget retreats. What are your goals for next year’s budget?

I want to make sure we’re prioritizing public safety in our budget process. We’ve seen firsthand with the county’s EMS issues that the services we’ve come to rely on and take for granted can fall into crisis mode if not properly funded and administrated. We need to make sure our departments are properly staffed and funded in order to assure the safety of all of Wichita’s residents.

You and council member-elect Ballard were endorsed by the Sedgwick County Democratic party, which is also affiliated with Vice Mayor Brandon Johnson and Mayor Brandon Whipple. How does your election to City Council change its overall political leaning, and what does that mean for the policy initiatives you all will be putting forward?

My political leanings are irrelevant. What I’m interested in, what I was elected to do, is address the issues that impact the lives of District 3’s residents. I’ll work with and support whoever wants to work on these issues in a meaningful way.

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