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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita mayor running for reelection, lays out goals

Mayor of Wichita Brandon Whipple gives a speech to the audience at the Unity March and Family Picnic on June 25, 2022. (Thy Vo)

Since 2020, Wichita State alum and lecturer Brandon Whipple has served as mayor of Wichita, and he wants to maintain that role for another term. 

In November 2019, Whipple defeated former Mayor Jeff Longwell with around 5,000 more votes. Whipple was sworn into office in January 2020. 

Before becoming mayor, Whipple was a part of the Kansas House of Representatives, serving District 96 for seven years. Along with this, he served as vice chair and chair of the Sedgwick County Democratic Party of Kansas.

The New Hampshire native moved to Wichita in 2003 while working for AmeriCorps with students at South High School who were “at risk.”

Tenure as mayor

Throughout his term, Whipple said he focused on three main items: diversifying the economy, making Wichita “for the people,” and keeping Wichita safe. 

Throughout the height of COVID-19, Whipple said he created more job opportunities and brought more businesses into Wichita to help diversify the economy. 

“How do we (Wichita) build upon what we do really well?” Whipple said. “We took a deep dive into that question. We discovered (that) it’s advanced manufacturing, entrepreneurship and it’s also technology in general (that we do well).” 

Whipple said that one of Wichita’s biggest assets is the McConnell Air Force Base due to the amount of cybersecurity professionals they employ.

“We brought in three different cybersecurity firms that relocated to Wichita,” Whipple said. “One of them actually relocated their headquarters from Southern California to Wichita.”

After a peak in unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, Whipple noted Wichita’s unemployment rate, which as of May 2023 is at one of the lowest numbers seen since 1995.

Whipple said bringing people to the city as well as maintaining “talent” in the state by creating more job opportunities is crucial. He said he and Wichita have invested in community organizations, like Empower, that focus on job training, entrepreneurship and business growth. 

Whipple also highlighted a non-discrimination ordinance he brought forward to the Wichita City Council in June 2020. 

The ordinance was passed by Wichita City Council members in October 2021, and it prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations based on protected characteristics, which can be found here.

Whipple says this not only is the morally right thing to do, but it helps the economy.

“It’s also to try to keep people here as well,” Whipple said. “We know that it helps attract and retain businesses … So you got to show that your values match some of those values, which includes not discriminating against people based on who they are.” 

As for public safety and making Wichita for the people, Whipple discussed his part in moving over $30 million back into the Wichita budget. Whipple said the money was originally going to be used to build a public lake in a predominantly wealthy area. Instead, the city used the $31 million to pave streets in low-income areas, something Whipple is “really proud of.”

Under the direction of Whipple, American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money was used to give $10 million in grants to small business growth and development. Most of the money, Whipple said, went to underrepresented areas. 

“It was just a great opportunity for us to … (take) advantage of an entrepreneurial need and then hopefully utilizing that to create more options for people,” Whipple said. 

Running for reelection

If re-elected, Whipple plans to hone in on community policing, improving public transportation, providing more opportunities for young people in the workforce, and getting homelessness in Wichita to a functional zero. When it comes to community policing, Whipple said he thinks law enforcement and the people of Wichita need a basis of trust. 

“A lot of the issues that we see in cities our size is trust with community members and with our officers, and the only way you build trust is through relationships,” Whipple said. “It’s expanding our community policing strategy to the majority of our force that’s.”

According to Whipple, the new chief of police, Joe Sullivan, is seeking a two-year accreditation for the Wichita Police Department, which means being at the highest level of law enforcement training practice. Whipple said it would be the first time Wichita has gotten this type of accreditation. 

Throughout his tenure, people have questioned Whipple’s relationship with the Wichita Police Department (WPD). 

In September 2022, a WPD officer stopped Whipple at a city-sponsored neighborhood cleanup event. Part of the encounter was recorded on an officer’s body camera, a point Whipple critiqued, saying the footage started after the officer yelled at him.

Following the incident, a panel found that Whipple violated the city’s ethics policy, and he subsequently underwent ethics training, according to The Wichita Eagle.

In regard to people’s concerns about his relationship with the WPD, Whipple said he is “proud” of his relationship with all city of Wichita employees. 

Whipple also said those concerns were based on “misinformation,” which he thinks stemmed from an investigation of the WPD, which uncovered racist and homophobic messages from officers. 

Following the incident, Whipple said he personally called for a study.

“You can’t just brush that under the carpet,” Whipple said. “ While I wish that that was well understood by everyone, I also understand that there’s some people who would have rather me just turn the other way, but that’s not my job.” 

With public transportation, Whipple hopes he can help Wichita begin to use it as an everyday integration of life rather than a “safety net.” He says he wants to find a way to make this a regional plan by “leveraging” with outskirt cities. 

“One of the problems (with public transportation) is we don’t have drivers,” Whipple said. “Can we leverage … a regional concept where you might be driving for Derby, but you’re also driving for us (Wichita)? Can we leverage those resources to create a more robust, regional-type strategy when it comes to public transportation?”

Whipple said he plans to invest in young people’s futures by using ARPA funds to target programs at WSU Tech and Wichita Public Schools. Whipple noted the city of Wichita’s contribution to the Airbus Flying Challenge Program at North High School in 2021, where students build and fly in a two-seat airplane before it is sold.

“If you don’t want to go on to higher education, but you have a credential in (a certain) skill set, you can go right into Spirit, right into Textron,” Whipple said. “You can create a really good life for yourself…  I want to learn what can we do to continue those types of programs.”

Whipple touched on “functional zero homelessness,” something he says no one in Kansas has been able to do. He said he plans to start tackling the issue with veterans.

I want to take homelessness in Wichita down to functional zero,” he said. 

The mayor also highlighted some ways he has and hopes to give back to his alma mater Wichita State. He credits WSU for exposing him to public service and as the place where he found his confidence. Among his several degrees, he has two from Wichita State.

Whipple said he offers internships to WSU students, as well as teaches two classes about legislative leadership and urban politics every other semester. He said providing these opportunities is crucial for students who can not easily make it to cities like Topeka or Washington, D.C. 

If reelected, Whipple said he will continue working as a problem-solver rather than a “boss.” 

“My job is to find problems and address those problems head-on and to find a solution to those problems,” Whipple said. 

The Aug. 1 primary will narrow down seven mayoral candidates to two. The Wichita Eagle outlines how to vote in the primary here.

Whipple’s competitors include Bryan Frye, Thomas Kane, Celeste Racette, Jared Cerullo, Julie Rose Stroud, Shelia Davis and Lily Wu.

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About the Contributors
Jennifer Anima, Reporter
Jennifer Anima is a first-year reporter for The Sunflower. Before joining staff, she served as editor-in-chief at the Butler Lantern, the student newspaper for Butler Community College.
Thy Vo, Advertisement/Design Manager
Thy Vo has been the advertisement manager and design director for The Sunflower for two years. Vo is a senior majoring in graphic design and minoring in marketing with hopes to pursue a career in graphic design after graduation. This is her third year on staff. You can alternatively contact them at des[email protected]. Vo uses she/they pronouns.
Nithin Reddy Nagapur, Photographer
Nithin Reddy Nagapur is a third-year photographer for The Sunflower.

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    Michael SawyerJul 23, 2023 at 1:02 am

    Thank you for publishing these articles on the mayoral candidates. I have enjoyed reading all of them and learning more about the people running for mayor. Several of them have WSU connections.