Dever, Finkeldei and Sellers sworn in as Lawrence city commissioners

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Amber Sellers said as she was sworn in for her second term as a Lawrence city commissioner Tuesday evening that she stood on the shoulders of her ancestors, others who came before her, and Shirley Chisholm.

Chisholm in 1968 became the first Black woman elected to the U.S. Congress, and Sellers noted Chisholm’s campaign motto: “Unbought and unbossed.”

Sellers said she wants to make sure she gives that motto justice. She said she wasn’t trying to appropriate it in any way, but she will continue to stand for her community, unbossed and unbought, and to be a catalyst for social change in the community.

Sellers was first elected to a two-year term in 2021 and reelected last month. With 7,343 votes, Sellers came in third place behind Mike Dever and Brad Finkeldei.

Dever, who served on the commission from 2007 to 2015, chose not to run for reelection in 2015. He threw his hat in the ring again this year and received 9,277 votes in the Nov. 7 general election.

Commissioners, following tradition, selected Dever as vice mayor on Tuesday.

Dever spoke briefly, thanking his wife, Lee Beth Dever, for helping him get back into local politics. He thanked those who put up and fixed his campaign signs, and the people who voted for him.

“I’m really looking forward to working with the city commissioners that are up here today. I don’t have any preconceived notions about any of you or the government in general, and I’m really looking forward to this reintroduction to this job,” Dever said. “I feel like I’m gonna bring the energy and effort that’s needed, and I want to just thank the citizens of Lawrence for having the trust in me.”

Finkeldei, first elected in 2019, secured his second term with 8,006 votes in the Nov. 7 election. He was given an opportunity to speak during the meeting but declined, in order to give his fellow commissioners their time. He did share some thoughts via email after the meeting, however.

“I appreciate the voters giving me a chance to continue to serve and complete the work we have undertaken over the last few years, including, among others, the development code, homeless initiatives, and further implementing the strategic plan,” he wrote.


Sellers told those listening in person and online during the meeting that if the community wants to see change, “we’ve got to start being more progressive than we are right now.”

“Sometimes when we lean on tradition, what we’re saying is that we believe in stagnation. We lack innovation. We believe in the status quo,” Sellers said. “We cannot call ourselves a progressive community if we’re not willing to address the traditions that continue to perpetuate the same outcomes that we continue to have.”

She closed with an Ethiopian proverb: “When the spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion. Collectively, we must unite to bind up and remove the barriers that prevent anyone in our community from thriving,” she said.

Courtney Shipley was not reelected, and during the final meeting of her term Tuesday, she warned fellow commissioners against acting as individuals to direct staff — actions that she said were “regarded as anti-democratic at best and corruption at worst.” (Read more at this link.)

More coverage from the meeting:

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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.

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