BY CORIE LYNN
Recent elections in Ellis County saw voters determining who would lead their communities. This brought new faces to positions within school districts as well as determined the new city councils for Victoria and the city of Ellis.
One of the biggest races of the day, however, was for the three Hays City Commissioner seats. Leading up to the election, the candidates participated in a debate that saw discussion of issues such as roundabouts, population retention and local business.
This year’s election proved different from previous years’. Rather than continue the trend of reelecting incumbents, two new faces, Michael K. Berges and Mason R. Ruder, won two seats with only one incumbent, Ron Mellick, returning.
According to Dr. Larry Gould, Chair of Fort Hays State University’s Political Science Department, November’s election reflects a city population’s own views on the candidates in regard to the issues facing Hays.
“With regard to economic development and growth, it has become more regional than community alone,” Gould said. “So are these guys, basically, providing a perspective that’s more regional in nature? These are things that made a difference in this last election.”
With the belief that Hays voters were not unappreciative of the previous city commissioners, Gould explained that voters choose candidates after considering multiple variables. One such variable included the solutions proposed for any number of city concerns, be it water conservation or roundabouts.
“To some degree, I think the citizens have looked at the solutions over the years and have not been happy with what some of the city commissioners have come up with, and the roundabout solution is not one of those easily-implemented solutions either,” Gould said.
According to Gould, a second variable that came into account this election was the changing political makeup of Ellis County. What was once a Democrat majority, is now a Republican majority. Though political party doesn’t influence local elections as much as it does state or national elections, want for Republican representation might have held sway in this case.
Political party compounded with the want of solutions to regional needs caused voters to look for a change in city leadership. The candidates they elected reflected these needs in their campaigns which appealed to local voters.
As new faces outnumber old on the City Commission, citizens may wonder if they can expect a significant change in the workings of the city government. According to Gould, that is unlikely. These new faces, on the other hand, reflect within voters.
“It was a complex of different kinds of variables that came together and cause a more difficult time for incumbents to return. So, yeah, they’re looking for some change,” Gould said, “but it’s not dramatic change. It’s change that says, ‘We like where we’re going but we need to have that intensified to an extent.’”