Lawrence City Commission election results: Dever wins big; Finkeldei, Sellers reelected

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Post last updated at 11:27 p.m. Tuesday:

Lawrence voters returned Mike Dever to the Lawrence City Commission after an eight-year absence Tuesday, voting for him overwhelmingly and pushing incumbent Courtney Shipley off the commission. Incumbents Brad Finkeldei and Amber Sellers were reelected.

With almost all of the votes counted, Dever had 8,277 votes, followed by Finkeldei with 7,171 and Sellers with 6,386 votes. 

Shipley was in fourth place — with only three seats available — with 5,924 votes. 

Voters were asked to choose three commission members from a nonpartisan field of six candidates for four-year terms on Lawrence’s top government body. The two other candidates, Dustin Stumblingbear and Justine Burton, drew 4,336 and 2,802 votes, respectively.

Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said he expected turnout to total about 25% of registered voters, calling it “really good turnout for a local election.”

Dever, 60, an environmental consultant, served on the commission from 2007 to 2015, including two terms as mayor, before choosing not to run for reelection in 2015. 

He and Shipley could not be reached for comment on the results Tuesday night.

However, Dever posted to social media: “Thank you all for your votes, support and efforts during this campaign. I’m grateful for the opportunity to keep serving Lawrence. Thank you to my campaign team and, especially, to my wife who has worked hard to help me get back to work for the city I love. I can’t wait to get started. For now, we celebrate this win.”

Dever had strong backing from the city’s business and development community and raised more money than the other candidates. He was the easy winner of the August primary election, followed in that balloting by the three incumbents. 

Lawrence City Commission election 2023 winners: Mike Dever (left), Brad Finkeldei and Amber Sellers

Dever’s platform stressed finding ways to deal with the city’s housing and homelessness situation, and he argued that his past experience on the commission gave him better insight into governing the city.

Finkeldei, 50, and Shipley have served as commissioners since 2019, and both have served a year as mayor; Sellers, 42, has served since 2021. 

The three newly elected members of the commission will join Lisa Larsen, who has been on the commission since 2015 and currently serves as mayor, and Bart Littlejohn, who was elected in 2021. Larsen and Littlejohn will be up for reelection in 2025. 

The new commission takes office on Dec. 5.

“I appreciate the confidence of the voters in giving me another four years to finish the work we started,” Finkeldei said in an interview, adding that he was looking forward to working with Dever. “I’ve known Mike for a long time,” he said. “I’m certainly looking forward to working with him for the next few years.”

He emphasized completing the work the commission has been working on to address the need for local affordable housing.

Sellers said in a statement: “Tonight’s results are a reminder that the voters believe in my ability to be a catalyst for policy development and social change our community needs, ensuring community voices are heard on the Commission.”

Sellers also identified three key priorities she hopes to address during her next term: “progressing current projects and strategies addressing fair and affordable housing that meets the price point of low to moderate-income residents; supporting policies and strategies to strengthen the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Lawrence with a focus on BIPOC business resource accessibility and success; and ensuring elements of the Federal Outdoors for All Act are implemented within the City’s Parks, Recreation, Arts and Culture Comprehensive Plan. The bill seeks to improve and enhance accessibility to outdoor spaces and activities for all regardless of age, ability, or background.”

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Cuyler Dunn (he/him), a contributor to The Lawrence Times, is a student at the University of Kansas School of Journalism. He is a graduate of Lawrence High School where he was the editor-in-chief of the school’s newspaper, The Budget, and was named the 2022 Kansas High School Journalist of the Year. Read more of his work for the Times here.

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