Saline County expands county commissioners from three to five

SALINA, Kansas – Voters in Saline County passed a resolution that would increase their number of county commissioners from three to five.

Supporters said this would make the panel more diverse and less controversial on issues like birth control.

But now, residents are finding out that they don’t get to choose who’ll be added.

At the start of the new year, Salina County Commission will have two more faces joining the panel of three. The hope by some here in Salina has been to get a little more diversity, and the question being asked is why the public will not have input on who the two new additional commissioners will be.

KSN called all three commissioners, but only one answered, and he said he was too busy today to talk.

So KSN tracked down Commissioner Jim Gile, in Wichita attending the county association annual meeting. Again, Gile said he did not have time and would not be available.

Next, we asked City Commissioner Randall Hardy about why the governor will appoint the new commissioners.

Saline County voting district map
Saline County voting district map

“The commission will be able to have a more robust and thorough discussion about topics. When there are five people up there you get more ideas, you get more conversation than when you have three,” said Commissioner Hardy.

Commissioner Hardy said he would like to see some more input on who gets appointed to the commission.

And he says a governor appointment is Kansas statute, plain and simple. But, will a governor appointment mean more diversity or just more commissioners?

“The governor may not even know the people he’s appointing, frankly. He’s going to be given some names,” said Commissioner Hardy.

Hardy said there is also the redistricting. The maps will change from three county districts to five.

The current county commissioners will have the task of drawing those new maps, and again, without public input.

Kansas statues only say new district lines should be as compact and equal in population as possible.

“There are a lot of topics that are important both to the city commission and the county commission. And a lot of those topics have not been talked about or approached in the last year or year and a half because I don’t think we’ve had a very strong relationship. I’m hopeful that will change because of the changes on the commission.”

There is one new face on the commission already, because one of the current commissioners did not get elected again, so that means by mid January, there will be three new faces.

The governor could make those appointments as soon as early December. They would be sworn in after a couple of weeks into 2015.

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