The Independence City Council will have two new members after Tuesday’s elections.
Scott Roberson handily defeated Roxann Thorley, who the council last fall appointed to the seat in the 3rd District after the resignation of Myron Paris. Roberson got 2,795 votes (65.6 percent) to 1,458 (34.2 percent) for Thorley.
“I’m hoping I can make a difference for Independence in a positive way,” Roberson said.
“I was honored to serve the people of Independence,” Thorley said, “and wish the City Council the best of luck.”
Two at-large council candidates ran unopposed. Incumbent Chris Whiting got 7,432 votes, and former Planning Commission Member Karen DeLuccie got 7,257 votes. Council Member Jim Schultz ran for mayor rather than his at-large seat; he lost to Council Member Eileen Weir.
The seven-member council will have a new look. Two members elected by district – Marcie Gragg in the 1st, Curt Dougherty in the 2nd – have two years remaining in their current terms. Roberson replaces Thorley, filling out the final two years of the term to which Paris was originally elected in 2012. Weir’s election as mayor Tuesday creates a vacancy in the 4th District. Whiting stays on in an at-large seat, and DeLuccie takes the other. The mayor also has a vote on the council.
Roberson said among the first issues facing the new council will be the future of Independence Power & Light, the city-owned utility. IPL buys most of its power from outside sources, but it plans to close one old coal-fired plant within two years and convert the other to natural gas. Roberson said energy issues need a good deal of study.
“All that is going to be looked at very carefully,” he said. “And the budget’s going to have to be looked at carefully, too.”
He said it’s important to support the police and said the city should have more programs such as neighborhood watches.
Roberson said this was his first experience in politics, and he said some nasty things – untrue things, he said – were said about himself and his twin brother, Blake, who was elected to go back onto the Independence Board of Education on Tuesday.
“I’m sorry that my election got negative and some of that spilled over into his race,” he said.
Whiting said he thinks the top issue facing the council in the months ahead will be public safety.
“I think that’s No. 1,” he said.
The city’s public safety sales tax, helping to pay for police services, expires in 2016 unless the voters extend it, and officials will continue to look at what to put on the ballot, he said.
DeLuccie added, “If we have a forthright conversation and the need is there, I’ll support it.”
A second pressing concern, Whiting said, is economic development, and he said that encompasses issues such as public safety, the appearance of the city’s various gateways and general neighborhood improvement.
Asked about the top issues facing the city, DeLuccie said, “It’s finances all the way, and it’s going to take someone who’s willing to sit down and go through it.”
She questioned the enterprise fund figure of $45 million for Independence Power and Light “because that’s a big number,” she said.
She said, among other things, she questions IPL funds being spent for the Independence Events Center, tourism funds being spent for the Events Center, and IPL money being spent for an economic development position.
“So I just question it all,” she said.