By Allen Edmonds
HARRISONVILLE – After years of predictability and businesslike efficiency from a Cass County Commission that placed partisanship on a back burner unless it was an election year, the new guy served notice quickly that those days are over.
Ryan Johnson, who had never held or even competed for political office before challenging North District Commissioner Jimmy Odom in 2020, pouring in $53,000 in campaign funding raised from across the state and beyond – and winning – wasted no time in executing his first big idea last week.
In the midst of a pandemic, Cass County would offer to host a Super Bowl victory parade for a team that hadn’t even won the conference championship yet.
The idea, according to Presiding Commissioner Bob Huston, was sparked by Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas’ announcement last week that, due to the pandemic, there would be no victory parade in the city this year should the Chiefs repeat as Super Bowl champs.
So, according to Huston, Johnson, encouraged by Recorder of Deeds Mike Medsker, proposed sending a letter, an “invitation,” he called it, to the Chiefs to hold the parade somewhere in Cass County.
Huston said there had been no attempt to coordinate the idea with any of the county’s cities, but that he and South District Commissioner Monty Kisner thought “it was kind of funny,” but, he said, “it wasn’t meant to be a slap in the face to any of our health workers, and I’m afraid some people took it that way.”
He said in retrospect, he and Kisner had agreed that “we’d probably encourage (Johnson) not to do this,” if they had it do over again.
Huston and Kisner both signed on to the letter, but it was written by Johnson, Huston said.
“With that being said, it’s already out there, the Chiefs have said they’re not doing it, which is good,” Huston said. “And to be honest, I wasn’t even sure we were going to beat Buffalo,” he said.
Johnson, meanwhile, made the rounds of metropolitan area media this week, soaking up the attention brought by the invite.
Right-wing talker Chris Stigall hosted Johnson on his radio show this week, where the rookie commissioner admitted, “I can’t imagine what I’m saying is particularly popular with the liberal elite circle, or the ‘cocktails and cufflinks crowd,’ as I think you call them,” Johnson said, eliciting a chuckle and a correction from the host.
“Oh, yeah, ‘cologne and cufflinks,’ sorry for the misquote,” Johnson said.
Johnson did tell Stigall that he and his “fellow commissioners” have the “utmost respect for our healthcare professionals and especially our ICU nurses that have been, you know, inundated with this thing for the past 10 or 11 months.”
The social media response ran the gamut. While the majority panned the idea as “ridiculous” and “stupid,” there were a fair number of supporters on various local pages.
Meanwhile, for Huston, it’s an episode he’d like to move on from, as quickly as possible. “Most of what we do, really, is mandated by state law. It’s just not a political job,” Huston said.
And one change is now promised as a result – advance public notice of work sessions will now be published online as well as in the courthouse, Huston said. For years, work sessions had only been noticed in the courthouse.