Archive for Thursday, November 4, 2004

Former commissioner regains seat

Narrow margin just enough for Tonganoxie’s Dean Oroke

November 4, 2004

The margin separating the vote totals of a local Republican and Democrat running for the third district Leavenworth County Commission was slim Tuesday night -- maybe not Ohio slim, but the difference between winning and losing was close nonetheless.

It was nearly 1 a.m. Wednesday morning before the totals of all 10 third district voting precincts were reported. And once the dust settled, Dean Oroke, R-Tonganoxie, was declared winner by fewer than 200 votes.

According to final-but-unofficial results from the Leavenworth County Clerk's Office, Oroke earned 5,043 votes, 50 percent, against Democratic challenger Jerry Willburn's 4,845 votes, or 48 percent. The votes will not be finalized until Nov. 8 when the votes will be canvassed.

The totals secured a return bid to the county commission for Oroke.

"I told my wife it was either going to be really close or a blowout," said Oroke, a county commissioner from 1985 to 1989. "I thought close would have been 300 to 400. But a win's a win."

Oroke replaces fellow Republican Joe Daniels as Third District commissioner; Daniels did not seek a second term. Tuesday night, two-thirds of the three-member county commission was overhauled; first district representative Don Navinsky is the lone holdover.

Oroke said he was surprised at the strong voter turnout in the Third District race and that his Tuesday night vote total was the highest he'd ever received."Some places had a one-and-a-half hour wait, which is unheard of in Leavenworth County," he said. "Typically, (in past elections) 3,000 votes would win the election. (The turnout) was astonishing."

Oroke said he'll spend time before the Jan. 10 swearing-in studying county issues. Monday night he attended an annexation public hearing in Basehor, and he's also planned to attend a Nov. 4 annexation hearing in Lansing.

The commissioner-elect said it's important to be educated on issues such as the annexation hearings because it effects the entire county and that decisions on the land grabs could possibly end up in the new county commission's lap.

"You gather all the information you can so that ultimately, if you have to make a decision, you can make one that's best for everybody," Oroke said.

Oroke, a self-employed home builder, said he's pleased January will officially mark his return to county government.

"It's a lot of work and it's a challenge, but it's something I enjoy doing -- working for the people," he said.

Experience propels

Second District win

Just because the office newly elected Clyde Graeber won Tuesday night doesn't seem as lofty as some of his previous positions, that doesn't mean it's small potatoes. Graeber, voters' candidate of choice for the Second District Leavenworth County Commission seat, certainly isn't looking at the job as anything but a major responsibility.

"It's a very important four years," Graeber said. "Right now, the next four years could be what I believe is the greatest opportunity for growth and development (Leavenworth County) might have ever seen.

"It will be a very challenging time, but I'm looking forward to it."

According to final-but-unofficial voting results submitted by the Leavenworth County Clerk's Office, the GOP's Graeber received 5,443 votes, or 62 percent, from constituents in the second district. Democratic challenger Mike "Whiz" Scanlon earned 3,272 votes, or 37 percent.

Graeber said the most effective tool he utilized during the campaign was informing voters of his 25 years-plus experience in government. His resume includes 12 years spent in the House as representative of the 41st district; six years on the Leavenworth City Commission, including two years as mayor; four years as the secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and a year as Kansas state treasurer.

"It was very surprising," Graeber said of Tuesday's margin of victory. "I'm glad it's over. I'm glad I won.

"It's always surprising when (Election Day) turns out that good."

The second district encompasses parts of Leavenworth, Lansing and Linwood. Graeber, who's lived in Leavenworth County since 1968, said he'll focus the next four years as commissioner on doing what's right for his district as well as the county as a whole.

"If the county commission can help Linwood, we're helping the county," he said. "If we can help Tonganoxie, we're helping the whole county. Whatever's good for communities in our county, that's good for everyone in the county."

Ultimately, a top priority for the new commissioner will be economic development. One way to facilitate making Leavenworth County a top destination for new residences and businesses alike is employing a proactive approach to planning and working toward providing sound infrastructure, i.e., roads and sewers.

Graeber pledged to "work with all groups that strive for economic development."

Graeber will succeed current second district commissioner Bob Adams, whom Graeber said he respects and "has been a very good commissioner."

He, like all new elected officials, will be sworn in Jan. 10.

Until officially taking office, Graeber said he'll be studying county procedures and information and attending as many county commission meetings as possible.

"While I won a seat on the Leavenworth County Commission, there's a commissioner in that seat and I wouldn't want to interfere with that at all," he said.

"I think until (Jan. 10) I'll be very quiet, but very observant."

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