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Jack Alexander, Kansas

Interview of Jack Alexander, October 26, 2020

Interviewed by Michael (Mike) Lennen
In this 2020 oral history interview, Jack Alexander reflects on his early life growing up in Topeka, Kansas in the 1930s and 1940s, and his extensive public service career beginning with enlistment in the Navy. Alexander served in various roles both in local government, particularly as Water Commissioner for the City of Topeka, and in state government, including appointment to the Kansas Corporation Commission. He also made significant contributions to local volunteer organizations. Alexander’s recollections create a portrait of an individual committed to public service based on a solid foundation in family and community and a sincere appreciation of and Show Moreconcern for others. Show Less
women then and now project interviews

Steel Magnolias – Conversation with former Representatives Martha Jenkins, Ginger Barr, Nancy Brown, October 18, 2019

Interviewed by Joan Wagnon
This conversation among four female legislators describes their experiences as friends and colleagues in the Kansas Legislature in the 1980's and early 1990's. The climate of the Legislature at that time encouraged women to make friendships across the aisle without worrying about political party. Republican women had formed a group called the Steel Magnolias, saying "we're all different but we come together when we need to get something done." The particular incident described in this short conversation was an attempt to defeat a budget proposal in retaliation for an abortion amendment. News coverage of the incident stated, Show More"GOP Women's gang of Eleven shows men their chauvinism can be costly." The conversation concludes with memories of their legislative service and favorite issues. Show Less

Interview of Bill Bunten, February 18, 2015

Interviewed by Burdett Loomis
Bill Bunten's 28 years in the House, 20 of them on the Ways and Means or Appropriations committee, gave him tremendous knowledge about the state budget. He chaired Appropriations from 1983 until 1990 when he left the legislature. He returned to the state senate in 2003 to fill an unexpired term. Bunten later became Mayor of Topeka from 2005 until 2013, serving for 2 terms.
Interview of Lon Frahm

Interview of Lon Frahm, June 18, 2020

Interviewed by Rex Buchanan
In this 2020 oral history interview, Lon Frahm describes his involvement in groundwater policy development as a member of Northwest Groundwater Management District No. 4. During the 1990s, he challenged the zero-depletion policy (to take only the amount of water that will be naturally replenished). Frahm supported local control of water management. He observed that over the years control over water planning has shifted to state-level water agencies, particularly the Kansas Water Office, that are not “invested personally” in managing water in northwest Kansas. In his view, state Water Plan funding has resulted in spending that Show Moredoes not help farmers and other local interests. Frahm cites the importance of local culture in setting water policy using as an example the Local Enhanced Management District (LEMA) in Sheridan County. He notes that the success of that endeavor grew out of the shared values of the farmers and a local market for grain. Frahm argues that changes in water use will be very slow over time, and water use should not be held back because we cannot predict the future. Show Less
Speaker Doug Mays

Interview of Doug Mays, September 25, 2020

Interviewed by Alan Conroy
This interview with former Speaker Doug Mays contains good insight into how the Kansas House of Representatives functioned at the end of the Twentieth Century and the first decade of the Twenty-First. The institution was changing as its membership became more conservative. Mays describes in great detail how its leadership dealt with controversial issues such as school finance and taxation. Mays cites two issues as his proudest accomplishments: passing a sales tax to lower property taxes for Washburn University and neighborhood revitalization legislation. Speaker Mays notes that every time a bill came through, he read Show Moreit. His discussion of the power of the speaker is illustrated with numerous examples. “ I believed in the process. I believed that the speaker was the keeper, the protector of the process.” He promoted civility in the body and developed a good relationship with the Minority Leader Dennis McKinney which allowed him to end the 2005 Special Session without adjourning sine die. Mays promoted greater use of technology for the legislature and tightening of deadlines to ensure smooth operations. There are several examples of his relationship with governors. Anyone interested in being a speaker should read this interview. Show Less
Nancy Parrish, Kansas

Interview of Nancy Parrish, October 23, 2020

Interviewed by Patty Clark
This 2020 oral history interview of former State Senator Nancy Parrish is packed full of information about people and policy between 1980 and 1992 in the Kansas Senate. She was one of the first, if not the first Democrat women elected to the state senate. Parrish talks about establishing her own identity after filling the unexpired part of her husband's term and winning the seat three more times while fostering a child, adopting a child, and attending law school at Washburn University. Her relationships with Republican senators allowed her to be effective in passing or shaping legislation. Show MoreParrish served on the conference committee to negotiate the 1992 school finance bill. Parrish also discussed her two years as Secretary of Revenue and working with Senator Gus Bogina to pass legislation to provide for purchase of a large-scale computer system for collecting taxes at the Department of Revenue. Parrish offers opinions on the importance of the separation of powers in the constitution, from her perspective as a former legislator, an executive branch administrator and a judge. For Parrish, each of these experiences has been a learning experience. She concludes the interview by expressing concern about the loss of "camaraderie" among legislators. Show Less
Marge Petty, Kansas

Interview of Marge Petty, September 11, 2020

Interviewed by Patty Clark
This oral history interview of former Senator Marge Petty covers her 12 sessions in the State Senate representing a Topeka district (Senate 18). Petty talks about why she registered as a Democrat, challenged a sitting Republican woman Senator in the 1988 election, and won. She discusses specific issues such as the investigation of the KPERS venture capital investments with other Senators, healthcare issues, foster care, and education. The interview also chronicles her career after leaving the legislature in 2000. Petty talks candidly about losing that last election, after which she began working for the Kansas Corporation Show MoreCommission. Later, she decided to move back to Dallas and worked to secure an appointment from President Obama as a regional representative of Health and Human Services. Petty describes the process of going after that appointment. This is a wide-ranging interview that shows the energy and skills Petty brought to the public arena. Show Less
kansas state senator sandy praeger

Interview of Sandy Praeger, October 18, 2019

Interviewed by Joan Wagnon
Former Kansas legislator Sandy Praeger describes in this 2019 oral history interview how she never anticipated having a career in politics when she ran for the Lawrence City Council. Praeger looks back on her service in the Kansas House and Senate and her time as the elected Kansas Insurance Commissioner. While in the Legislature, Praeger represented a Lawrence district that she described as being a place where "it was easy to run more on policy issues than any kind of political ideology." Praeger ran for the State Senate after one term in the House. Praeger built her Show Morebackground on health issues, including insurance, in the Legislature serving on the Public Health and Welfare, Children and Families, and Insurance and Financial Institutions committees. She recalls stepping into the role of committee Chair during her first session in the Senate and presiding as Vice President of the Senate many years later. Praeger's background on health policy came to the forefront while the country was implementing the Affordable Care Act which she strongly supported as Kansas Insurance Commissioner. Show Less
Lee Rolfs, Kansas

Interview of Leland (Lee) Rolfs, October 28, 2019

Interviewed by Rex Buchanan
In this oral history interview recorded in 2019, Lee Rolfs explains that few regulations governed water use when he began working at the Division of Water Resources of the State Board of Agriculture in 1978. He describes how the State responded to depletion of the Ogallala aquifer by creating Groundwater Management Districts (GMD) to manage future development, and to create a comprehensive system to address water issues. Rolfs recalls how the policy positions switched over time from the State being reluctant to regulate groundwater use when the GMDs initially sought restrictions to the opposite, with the GMDs opposing regulations Show Morewhen the State sought to impose them. He recalls his work on ground-breaking litigation with Colorado over water in the Arkansas River (Kansas v. Colorado). That case spanned over 25 years of his career with the State. Rolfs expounds on the Water Appropriation Act and its importance in the development of Kansas and its limitations in addressing the issue of long-term declines in the water table. He observes that cooperation, knowledge, and education are essential for properly managing water in Kansas. Show Less
Alicia Salisbury, Kansas

Interview of Alicia Salisbury, October 23, 2020

Interviewed by Patty Clark
Former Senator Alicia Salisbury grew up in a political family--both father and grandfather served in the legislature--so her sixteen years of service as a Kansas Senator continued the family tradition. She also was a serious legislator who believed in community service as witnessed by the numerous boards and committees on which she served, both volunteer and elected. Salisbury's driving interests were improving the economy of Kansas and bringing growth in wealth to her community and state. Salisbury's 2020 oral history interview chronicles her work ethic. With her children no longer at home, she had the Show Moretime and the interest to dive into a wide assortment of issues, from workforce development, to interstate banking, to telecommunication reform, to a blue ribbon panel on workers compensation. Salisbury worked long hours and focused on constituent services. She boldly asked for the committees that interested her and championed changes where necessary. Salisbury succeeded in changing the Labor and Industry Committee into the Commerce Committee to handle everything from economic development strategies to workers compensation. She tackled tough issues with a sense of humor and the skills of collaboration learned as a volunteer leader. This interview describes her determination, her commitment, and her legacy to the state of Kansas as Vice President of the Senate. Show Less
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