Padilla, Cochran set priorities during first joint news conference

Published: Jan. 25, 2022 at 6:50 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Topeka Mayor Mike Padilla and Interim City Manager Bill Cochran called 2022 “an exciting time for the City of Topeka” in their first joint news conference Tuesday.

Padilla said his past experience as Deputy Mayor and Cochran’s time as Chief of Staff for the City Manager’s office has helped make a smooth transition.

“We’re pretty much in step with those things that need to be done and we’re looking forward to things I hope will help us better serve the community as a whole,” Padilla said.

One priority for the pair is finding a permanent City Manager.

Cochran said the city council wants to use a local recruitment firm to find his replacement.

“Our thoughts behind that is that we’ll have someone from Topeka who knows Topeka, who’s invested in Topeka and they’ll know the type of candidate we need for Topeka,” he said.

A search is also underway for Topeka’s next fire chief.

Cochran said the current posting will be up for 14 days. Applicants then will be interviewed by a panel comprised of a citizen member, a fire professional, a human resources director, a legal advisor and Cochran himself before they name any finalists.

The pair of former Topeka police officers remain encouraged about the city’s latest crime stats.

“Oftentimes, we hear that crime is a real issue in the city of Topeka but our Topeka police along with officers at the Shawnee Co. Sheriff’s Office have really been doing a good job to address the issues we’ve seen in our community,” Padilla said.

He hopes it’s just one positive on which to build momentum.

“We have to really be focused on the overall picture, not anyone segment in our business community, our school our culture, all those things that make a city attractive to people who want to move here,” the mayor said.

It happens against the backdrop of a rise in COVID-19 cases in the area.

Padilla said he meets weekly with Emergency Management officials and Shawnee Co. Health Officer Dr. Erin Locke for updates on the latest trends in the pandemic.

“Everyone talks about it’s their right to choose but it’s our right to choose to protect ourselves as well,” he said.

“I encourage everyone to get the vaccinations, get the booster if necessary, wear those masks wherever you can because I think it’s important for us to mitigate that at our level.”

He added, “Quit, in my opinion, asking the government or somebody else to help stop this without some effort on our part, our part is to just do those minimal things that’ll help us protect ourselves against the virus and the spread of the virus.”

He said small steps make a difference when fighting the virus.

“I don’t like to say that we’re fearful or living in fear that’s not it, we’re not living in fear, we’re living in reality,” he said.

“We know that we can do things to protect ourselves and the reality is we should do those things.”

Padilla and Cochran said they had an initial meeting to discuss the spending of the city’s $45 million in American Rescue Plan funding.

They said infrasturcture remains a priority for spending but they are also polling to see what other services Topekans need.

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