In keeping with tradition, Lawrence city commissioners on Tuesday voted the last election’s top two vote recipients as mayor and vice mayor.
Lisa Larsen, the longest-serving current city commissioner, is mayor again. Bart Littlejohn was selected as vice mayor.
Courtney Shipley, stepping down from the mayor post to resume her term as a city commissioner, said she was honored and humbled to have served as mayor of Lawrence this year.
“I’m eternally grateful for the support and engagement from the community,” she said. “I would like to thank city staff who labor every day under unseen pressures, both personal and professional, to provide an astonishing array of services to Lawrence.”
She said the city’s work to align its budget priorities with its strategic plan was the “most exciting and intensive work” they did this year. She reflected on the excitement of the KU men’s basketball team’s national championship victory and subsequent parade in April, and how the city staff made those experiences safe and memorable for all.
Larsen, taking the helm Tuesday, said it was an honor to serve this community. She previously served as vice mayor in 2018 and mayor in 2019.
“I do want to start out by thanking our city manager as well as our city employees for your dedication to public service,” she said. “I believe that public service is a noble cause, and I’ve said this many times before.”
Larsen said it’s crucial for the community to balance equitable and sustainable growth and ensure that community members have the greatest opportunity to thrive. This year, she said, the land development code rewrite is likely going to have the greatest impact on the growth of the city.
“It’s also an opportunity to meet the housing and commercial development needs that we face today and in this environment, which brings with it the lack of affordable housing, the need for business growth, as well as the need to address climate change,” Larsen said.
She encouraged public engagement in the land development code update process. (The committee’s next meeting is set for 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8 — find details and the agenda at this link.)
Larsen highlighted economic development and said she believes there’s a need to explore more public-private partnerships to ensure the city is in the best position to capture the changes and economic impact that the new Panasonic plant coming to De Soto will bring.
She also said she believes that with the development of the Housing Initiatives Division and commitment to the “built for zero” housing model, the city is in the best possible position to address emergency and long-term needs of affordable housing.
“We are working to build a pipeline that will help us reach functional zero in homelessness,” she said. “This is going to take time, but we need to continue this path and work with our partners to ensure we take advantage of the strengths throughout our community.”
Littlejohn was selected as vice mayor on a 4-1 vote, as Commissioner Amber Sellers said she had planned to nominate herself as vice mayor. Commissioners historically have nominated and selected the person who received the second-most votes in the most recent election as vice mayor.
Littlejohn spoke very briefly, saying he’ll “try not to break anything — or maybe break the right stuff.”
Larsen was reelected, and Littlejohn and Sellers were each elected to their first terms, in November 2021. The next general city commission election will be in November 2023, when Shipley’s and Commissioner Brad Finkeldei’s seats are up for election.
The Lawrence City Commission will next meet on Tuesday, Dec. 13.
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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.