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Making history: Amber Sellers is first African American woman elected to Lawrence City Commission

Incumbent Lisa Larsen, newcomer Bart Littlejohn take 1st and 2nd places in race

As final ballots were counted Tuesday night, it became clear that Amber Sellers was securely in third place to win a seat on the Lawrence City Commission.

With her election, Sellers is the first African American woman to serve as a city commissioner, according to her campaign.

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“This is an emotional moment for me – transformational change requires transformational leadership, and I look forward to moving initiatives forward through which (we) all have the opportunity to live, work, and thrive together,” Sellers said in a statement.

Sellers, who also serves as chair of the city’s Human Relations Commission, said her grassroots campaign made thousands of phone calls and knocked on thousands of doors.

“Watching the momentum build has been amazing,” she said. “Citizens of Lawrence know that I’m committed to putting people first in policy — connecting their concerns and making sure their voices are heard on the City Commission.”

Sellers said priorities she’d like to address immediately when she takes office include “addressing fair and affordable housing strategies in our community as well as assessing our progress towards staff turnover in our finance department and its impact on our financial system. When knocking on doors, I heard repeatedly that our neighbors are worried about potential budget shortfalls and how the city plans to support access to quality housing stock that meets the price point of low to moderate income residents.”

In first place, incumbent Lisa Larsen won 6,958 votes, or about 22.4%; newcomer Bart Littlejohn won 6,200, or 20%, and Sellers won 5,610, or 18%.

Larsen said she was “honored and humbled” to be given another opportunity to serve this community.

Tricia Masenthin/The Lawrence Times Mayor Brad Finkeldei, left, chats with Commissioner Lisa Larsen, who won her bid for reelection, at Douglas County election offices on Nov. 2, 2021.
Bart Littlejohn

“I look forward to working with my fellow commissioners in continuing to make Lawrence a great place to live and work,” she said in a statement. “I want to thank all of my campaign staff, friends, and family that have supported me. Most importantly, I want to thank the voters who believe in me. Please know that I take your support seriously and will work to represent our community in a principled way.”

Littlejohn, too, said he was extremely grateful and humbled by this honor.

“I want to thank everyone for this opportunity to work for you as well as my incredible family, team, supporters and fellow candidates,” he said in a statement. “This has been an unbelievable experience and I appreciate all of the guidance that all of you have provided. I’m looking forward to continuing to know my fellow commissioners/staff, reaching out in the community, and doing great work for the city of Lawrence. Thank you Lawrence.”

Commissioner Jennifer Ananda did not file for reelection, and her term will come to an end soon. The term of incumbent Stuart Boley, who came in fourth with 5,113 votes, will also come to an end.

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“I appreciate the opportunities the voters gave me to serve as a commissioner,” Boley said. “I wish the ones who win this election the best. The voters are always right.”

The fifth- and sixth-place contenders for Lawrence City Commission, Ma’Ko’Quah Jones and Milton Scott, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The election results are not official until after a canvass on Monday, Nov. 15.

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