WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — KSN News sent a questionnaire to each candidate facing a challenger in the November general election. We have not made any edits to the candidate’s answers.


Biographical Information:

Jim Howell

Incumbent Sedgwick County Commissioner; 24-Years Flight Test Instrumentation among 3 local aviation companies; Graduated Wichita Southeast High School (1982), BS Degree from Southern Illinois University, BS Degree from Friends University, AS Degree from CCAF; Previously elected to Kansas State Representative 2011 through 2014 (Chair of South Central Legislative Delegation, Vice Chair of Pensions & Benefits, Vice Chair General Government Budget, Committee membership included Federal & State Affairs, Judiciary, Education (policy), Government Efficiency, Interim Joint Elections; 5 years USAF (Desert Shield/Storm), Married to Leah 32 years, 5 grown children, 5 grandchildren.

Campaign website/Facebook/Social Media:

VoteJimHowell.com

What do you think should be done to help residents dealing with high costs?

The Government at all levels needs to tighten its belt as the families in our community have had to tighten their belts already. When inflation is nearly 10%, the people we serve are truly suffering, Ironically, some people in government believe we should expand the size and scope of government that depends on more tax revenue that actually adds more burden to the people we serve. I think we need to use efficiencies and clearly define the core mission of Sedgwick County.

What can be done to improve the local economy?

Economics 101. It is difficult to counteract the irresponsible and late infusion of cash into society from the Bidan administration. Well intentioned to help communities recover from the detrimental effects of COVID which then has caused a supply chain shortage along with a recession, a labor shortage, a wage war, and also triggered the highest inflation since Jimmy Carter was the president. We need to be careful to not grow the government but to let the economy stabilize. Government intervention actually caused this challenged economy and we need to not repeat the mistake.

What are your thoughts on Wichita’s decriminalizing marijuana and its effect on the County? 

Decriminalization of pot is a City of Wichita issue, a state issue, and a federal issue, not really a county issue. Regardless, the County DA and the County Sheriff are saying SgCo will potentially see up to 700 possession cases that will filter through district court. The DA and the Sheriff are not constitutionally authorized to exercise discretion so the change by Wichita may actually be a solution looking for a problem.

What do you want to see done regarding:

  • Mental health issues in the community?

We are already doing many parallel efforts. The pipeline of qualified workers can be bolstered by the implementation of the KU/WSU health sciences campus being planned. There is a legislative effort to review and possibly adjust the requirements necessary to become a provider. We are exploring a private-sector provider model to see if it would be more effective than ICT-1. We are working with state partners to bring a new state mental health hospital to Sedgwick County. We are planning a Human Services campus to help with detox and counselling and other related services. And finally, we are in the process of expanding COMCARE. We have already committed $17M to that project.

  • Fentanyl? Drug addiction?

Accurate and easy to understand education programs and increase focus to stop the flow of drugs into our backyard.

  • Homelessness?

We are working with Wichita on this issue and entrust them to use the county funding to make the biggest difference. We are leading on Mental Health and Wichita is leading on Homelessness.

What are your thoughts on:

  • Sedgwick County law enforcement?

The Sheriff is an elected official and the commissioner’s job is to simply provide the budget appropriation to run the department and the detention facility. The Sheriff does not report or fall under the board of county commissioners.

  • The jail?

Same answer as above.

  • Juvenile detention?

SB367 (2018) needs significant review and likely amendments. Right now, this law is mostly good but many youths are falling through the cracks and an update is necessary. I am working to bring this issue to light.

What are your thoughts on election integrity in Sedgwick County? Across the United States? Would you change the election process, and how?

Kansas has pretty good election laws and Sedgwick County has the best election equipment available which is specifically designed to be audited. The election improvements needed in Kansas are legislative, not local policy.

What do you consider to be the biggest issues facing Sedgwick County, and how would you address them?

Again, Mental will remain the highest priority. But individually, I am working about six initiatives in parallel but I will highlight a few. I will continue to work on Mental Health solutions. I have led the commission to work on Juvenile Justice issues (fixes to SB367) and to reduce the high number of Suspended Driver’s Licenses. Recently, I am working on some traffic safety mitigations at certain intersections. I am also working to help the fire district with some fiscal sustainability solutions.