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Topic: Rebels

Rochelle Chronister

Interview of Rochelle Chronister, January 22, 2015

Interviewed by Burdett Loomis
Rochelle Chronister quickly rose to a leadership position after her election in 1978. She was responsible for recruiting many Republican women to the legislature. She talks in the interview about her job as Assistant Majority Leader and recruitment. Her description of how the Appropriation committee works shows how she became interested in SRS from handling their budget, and that led to becoming Secretary of SRS under Governor Graves. There is one example of her research skills in developing a new program on mediation. She downsized SRS as Secretary and worked on changing the culture of Show Morea highly bureaucratic organization. She worked to ensure that her female colleagues were included and worked across the aisle on numerous measures. She concludes the interview by talking about her family and how they responded to her being away so much. She once chartered a plane to get home in time to attend her daughter's tea. That Chronister was an effective legislator and politician is clear from reading this interesting interview. Show Less

Interview of Tim Shallenburger, September 25, 2020

Interviewed by Alan Conroy
This interview with Tim Shallenburger, former Speaker and twelve-year House member is packed full of interesting anecdotes covering his philosophy of leadership, antics in the House, battles fought and won. Shallenburger was the first "conservative" Speaker following a wave of conservatives being elected beginning in the early 1990's. He candidly discusses why he ran for office in a largely Democratic district, how he moved up in the leadership and developed relationships with other legislative leaders in both House and Senate. Early in his time in the House, Shallenburger was part of a group known as the "rebels". Show More He watched other people's leadership styles and learned how to be a leader himself, first getting elected Speaker Pro Tem and then Speaker, beating Speaker Bob Miller in a "not-so-close" race. Shallenburger learned how to count votes. He doesn't see himself as having an "agenda", other than being fair as a leader. Shallenburger describes the rules changes the rebels made in the House when Jim Braden was Speaker to allow more bills to be heard or pulled out of committee. Bill Graves was Governor throughout all four years of Shallenburger' s term as Speaker. Shallenburger left the legislature to become State Treasurer. After 2010 he served as legislative liaison for Governor Brownback. Shallenburger talks openly about his relationships with numerous governors and senate leaders. The interview closes with a discussion of redistricting. Show Less
Susan Wagle, Kansas

Interview of Susan Wagle, December 18, 2020

Interviewed by Alan Conroy
Former Kansas legislator Susan Wagle describes her interest in politics as "evolving over time." In this interview she candidly talks about her journey to become the first woman to break the glass ceiling and be elected to the top leadership position in the Kansas Senate. And she held onto the Senate Presidency for two terms. Wagle cites several events as having shaped her decision to run: getting a free pregnancy test and learning it was from an abortion clinic; seeing the huge property tax bills resulting from classification and reappraisal and how they angered people; enactment Show Moreof bingo legislation that affected he business negatively--all of which led to awareness that government could have an impact on families and businesses. Once in the Legislature, Wagle developed legislation to control property taxes. When an incumbent left a Senate seat, Wagle moved to the other chamber. She formed alliances in both the House and Senate with a group of conservative legislators enabling her to attain leadership positions. Wagle authored the Woman's Right to Know Act and solicited support from a prochoice Senator to get it passed--the first pro-life legislation. As a committee chair Wagle felt she had greater ability to pass bills that were needed. The issues she addressed ranged from protecting ground water from corporate hog farming, to tax-limiting measures, to ethics. Wagle credits her many years of service to listening to her constituents on issues such as taxation, quality of life, and education. In the closing of this interview, Wagle talks about her last year with COVID which she describes as "horrific" and disruptive. She reflects on her accomplishments changing the Board of Healing Arts and dealing with the Bioscience Authority. Show Less
Joan Wagnon, Kansas

Interview of Joan Wagnon, May 11, 2018

Interviewed by H. Edward (Ed) Flentje
Ed Flentje's interview of former Representative Joan Wagnon is lengthy and complete, covering her 12 years in the state legislature, 4 years as Mayor of Topeka, and 8 years as Secretary of Revenue. She talks about the work of the House Taxation Committee in implementing legislation after passage of a constitutional amendment classifying property for tax purposes. Wagnon discusses the 1992 school finance lawsuit which produced massive change in the school funding formula, including how the concepts were developed and what strategies were used to get them passed. The interview covers in detail how the House Democrats interacted with Show MoreGovernor Finney in the 1991 session, when Finney vetoed the major tax bill and the Supreme Court found the school finance formula to be unconstitutional. Wagnon served as facilitator for the Children's Initiatives Committee which Speaker Marvin Barkis chaired. That committee produced fourteen bills that affected children and families. Economic development issues are discussed in the last part of the interview which links Wagnon's legislative interests to her work as Mayor of Topeka: neighborhood revitalization, spreading the tax base from city to county for Washburn University and the library, and developing economic development infrastructure to attract growth and new business for Topeka. She also discusses some of her eight years as Secretary of Revenue, particularly her involvement with the Streamlined Sales Tax. A version of this interview is also posted on KansasMemory.org, the website of the Kansas Historical Society. Show Less
Donna Whiteman, Kansas

Interview of Donna Whiteman, January 19, 2018

Interviewed by H. Edward (Ed) Flentje
Former Representative Donna Whiteman's 2018 oral history interview provides detail about how the legislature functioned from 1983-1991. She describes the culture as less demonizing, more collegial and civil than is generally assumed by the public. Whiteman rose to a leadership position fairly quickly and became Majority Leader when the Democrats gained the majority in the House in 1991. One of Whiteman's assigned roles was to work with a group of Republicans called "The Rebels" - seven to nine members who would vote with the Democrats on certain bills. Whiteman also describes in some detail her Show Moreexperiences as a member of Governor Joan Finney's cabinet, particularly on issues such as foster care, long term care, and children and families. She observes that "after all the struggling in the 1991 session, the 1992 session is the shining star of progressive activity" and that the Children's Initiative produced visible, tangible, and beneficial legislation. A version of this interview is also posted on KansasMemory.org, the website of the Kansas Historical Society. Show Less

Interview of Mike O'Neal, April 16, 2021

Interviewed by Alan Conroy
Former Speaker Mike O'Neal's interview covers his 28 years in the Kansas House and his impact as Chair of the House Judiciary Committee on the Kansas legal system, both criminal and civil. In fact, O'Neal chaired the House Judiciary Committee three different times totaling 13 years and also served as Chairman of the House Education Committee and a redistricting committee in 2002. He has been involved with workers compensation issues and medical malpractice. O'Neal explains his own evolution in thinking as he, and his constituents, became more conservative. He candidly discusses his race for Speaker of the Show MoreHouse and compares the leadership styles of other speakers with whom he served. O'Neal left the House in 2012 after finishing his second term as Speaker to take a position with the Kansas Chamber of Commerce as its chief executive officer. After four years with the Kansas Chamber he retired to open his own legal consulting and governmental relations firm, O'Neal Consulting, LLC. Show Less
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