The winds of change were blustery in the Riley County Commission race Tuesday evening. Republicans Ron Wells and Bob Boyd clinched 2nd and 3rd district seats, respectively, beating out their Democratic challengers.
Boyd beat Scott Seel 3,738-2,200, a margin that translated to 63-37 percent. Wells defeated Rod Harms 3,992-3,289, a 55-45 percent victory.
Those outcomes bring up an obvious question: How does the commission change when the winners are seated in January?
The current commission consists of Democrat Karen McCulloh and Republicans Alvan Johnson and Dave Lewis, but neither McCulloh nor Johnson chose to seek re-election. Tuesday’s outcome means that all three commission seats will be held by Republicans.
Both winning candidates have projects at the top of their to-do lists. Wells said Tuesday night he will be focusing on the Wildcat Creek flooding issue, along with the Marlatt Avenue extension and the sales tax. Boyd also was focused on implementation of the sales tax extended by voters Tuesday, saying the outcome “makes going forward much, much easier.” Boyd also expressed interest in looking at entities such as the ATA and the Riley County Health Department.
The arrival of the two new commissioners could bring a change of emphasis or direction to each of of those entities, since both were frequent topics of discussion during the campaign.
Boyd and Wells both wondered about the efficiency of the bus system. Wells’ said the system is too focused on getting patrons within Manhattan city limits to their destinations. He believes that the bus should expand service to get more people, especially those in the rural part of the county, to use the service. He has not, however, committed to funding that expansion. He said during an early October forum at the Riley County Seniors Center that the ATA Bus system didn’t necessary need to be funded by the county. He said he wants to see it become more self-sufficient.
With respect to the Health Department, both candidates have said they want to make sure it’s being run efficiently under the county. They have not hinted at what changes might be proposed if they find the entity isn’t using its funds efficiently.