Dist. 9 Topeka city council candidates prepare for Dec. 6 interview

Five people will be interviewed for Topeka’s District 9 open city council seat, vacated by Mike Lesser.
Published: Dec. 1, 2022 at 1:32 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Five people will be interviewed for Topeka’s District 9 open city council seat, vacated by Mike Lesser.

Michaela Saunders, Joe Cheray, Nicholas Trammell, Michelle Hoferer, and Janel Johnson are all vying to join Topeka’s governing body.

Saunders moved to the capital city in 2011 and currently serves on Topeka’s Sustainability Advisory Board.

“I know that the current councilmembers are working really hard on a lot of really important issues that are going to shape the future of Topeka, generations beyond now,” she continued saying, “In particular, the work that is going on with property maintenance and making sure that the people who live in Topeka, whether they own their property or not, have a safe, affordable, comfortable, and liveable space.”

Trammell, a Topeka native, took a similar approach when asked what issue he would like to address if chosen to serve.

“I really honed in on code enforcement. It seems like a very boring issue, I understand that, but it gets to the core of a lot of quality of life issues that impact people in a very serious way,” he added. “You have got a city where a large percentage of the population rents and it does not look like some of these landowners are being held responsible for the conditions they are allowing these properties to be put in and people need a voice.”

Infrastructure was another major priority among the applicants.

Hoferer said, “In my neighborhood, there is one house that is kind of behind me. They have had to have their front yard dug up either 4 or 5 times because of a water main break. Finally after all of these years they are going to replace the pipes and I wish they would have done it years ago because it is happening all over town a lot.”

Johnson agreed adding, “What I am hearing from constituents is the need for us to fund the things that affect our lives daily like roads, taking care of potholes, repairing bridges and things like that.”

Both women are lifelong Topekans that have served in different aspects in the community. Johnson was a member of Topeka Public Schools Board of Education for 13 years and Hoferer was recently on the city’s Redistricting Commission. They said public service is a calling.

“It is hard to find people that are willing to spend the time to do the job,” said Hoferer. “It is a nonpartisan group, after the previous election that was very partisan, it is nice to go into a group that wants to work together and get things done.”

“There are a lot of people of integrity that understand the power of leadership and understand that we all have something to offer and those perspectives make us stronger as a Topeka community,” said Johnson.

That sense of community is what Cheray, a member of Topeka’s ADA Advisory Council, hopes to bring to District 9.

“We do not really have anything in district 9 that speaks to community because we are known as a retail and restaurant destination,” she continued saying, “I have really been thinking about doing a community garden for district 9. There are so many more opportunities for the community as a whole to get together and we do not have a place to do that.”

The applicants are eager to work with the governing body to generate real change and said that starts with asking questions.

“The first thing I want to do is sort of get to know them better and what sort of motivates the work that they are wanting to do, so we can know what that common ground is and really build from those places,” said Saunders.

Cheray said, “I would have a sit down with all of the city councilmembers and say okay let’s find some commonalities of problems across Topeka and let’s figure out what we can agree on to tackle together.”

Trammell said he would start by asking this, “What’s going on in your district? Who knows what’s going on in your district? Then, how do we work together?”

He also said, “On the city level, especially a city like Topeka, the needs overlap very clearly, so I think it is essential we are all on the same page and I think that is just a matter of good communication.”

The applicants will be interviewed at the council meeting on Tuesday, December 6. Each member of the governing body will vote for the person they would like to fill the vacancy and that person will be sworn in at the next meeting. The term ends December 2025.