After 32 years as a Jackson County legislator, Dennis Waits is hanging it up.
Waits, 70, said it’s time.
“My law practice is busy, and my grandkids are getting older,” he said Thursday.
Waits, a Democrat, had filed seven weeks ago to run for a ninth term in a district that includes most of Independence. But he withdrew Thursday. For the moment at least, that leaves one person – Democrat Paul J. Wrabec of Sugar Creek – running for that seat. Democrat Jessica J. Berry of Independence withdrew earlier this month.
Waits said he’s had a good run and will miss the people he’s worked with. He said the decision of fellow Legislator Greg Grounds of Blue Springs not to run again nudged him toward retiring too.
Over the years, he has pushed hard for such things as getting the county’s Regional Animal Shelter built in Independence. At his insistence, officials stuck with their original goal of having a no-kill shelter. Waits, who is passionate about the welfare of animals, said that’s important.
“We’ve moved our community into a no-kill situation where animals have another chance,” he said.
He also championed turning Adair Park in Independence into a complex that attracts many softball games and tournaments.
“The girls had never really had a first-class facility,” he said.
Waits also alluded to sharp disagreements with County Executive Frank White Jr.
He said he was proud to see improvements in the county’s professional management under White’s predecessor, Mike Sanders.
“We’ve seen that change back the last couple years,” he said.
Also, he said, the county should have moved ahead by now on plans for a new jail. That facility has been harshly criticized – by consultants last year and a grand jury last week – as filthy, overcrowded, understaffed and dangerous for both inmates and staff
“Really, those (plans to move ahead) have been thwarted along the way,” he said. “It’s too bad.”
He supports proposed charter changes to put the jail under the control of the sheriff, rather than the county executive. He also supports having the Combat anti-drug/anti-violence tax in the county prosecutor’s office rather than the executive’s. The sheriff and prosecutor are elected on their own and do not answer to the executive.
Those charter changes, and others being proposed, would need voter approval. Legislators approved them last week, but Waits said ballot language issues have come up this week and now those changes are likely to be redrafted and now go to the voters in November rather than August.
With Waits stepping aside, just five of the nine incumbents in the County Legislature are running for new terms – Republican Theresa Galvin of Lee’s Summit, Democrat Tony Miller of Lee’s Summit, and Democrats Scott Burnett, Crystal Williams and Dan Tarwater, all of Kansas City. Primaries are Aug. 7, and the general election is Nov. 6. New terms for legislators – four years – start next January.