Jackson Co. Executive Mike Sanders resigns, Frank White weighs b - KCTV5

Jackson Co. Executive Mike Sanders resigns, Frank White weighs bid for seat

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Mike Sanders Mike Sanders
Frank White Frank White

In a surprising move, Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders is stepping down.

The announcement came late Monday.

Sanders said he wants to spend more time with his family. He and his wife, Georgia, have two boys who are 12 and 9 years old. Sanders said his father's unexpected death in September crystallized his decision for him and the time was right. 

"For me, it was really a re-focusing of what's important in life," a teary-eyed Sanders said. "We had no indication that he was sick. The conversations we had. It really makes you stop and focus on what's important to you."

The Democrat has held the county's top job since January 2007. He has been head of the Missouri Democratic Party. Before that he was elected county executive, he was Jackson County prosecutor. Sanders said he wants to resume his law career.

In the past, he has declined to run for statewide office, saying his family didn't want to relocate to Jefferson City and he didn't want to spend significant time away from them.

Sanders' resignation is effective Dec. 31. He intends to appoint Dennis Waits as interim successor until county legislators pick someone to finish out the year.

Sanders' decision touched off a battle to be his permanent successor. There are two more years left in his term of office. A primary election will be held in August and a general election in November.

Democrats traditionally win the seat.

County Legislator Frank White, who is a member of the Royals Hall of Fame, is considering running. His name recognition would make him a tough opponent and he would likely get a clear path to the job.

Long-time County Legislator Dan Tarwater and County Legislator Tony Miller were among the names mentioned on Tuesday.

Former Kansas City Councilwomen Cindy Circo and Cathy Jolly as well as former County Legislator Theresa Garza and former State Sen. Victor Callahan could consider bids.

Sanders' accomplishments include lowering taxes, streamlining spending and strengthening the county's bond ratings. He has championed commuter rail and a bike path system.

Much of his tenure has been free of the controversy that has dogged previous county executives. Jackson County is known for rough and tumble politics that aren't for the faint of heart.

It was revealed this summer that the FBI was investigating a contract with a political consultant and whether the work was awarded improperly. Jolly, who was then a senior adviser to Sanders, made comments to the Pitch weekly that some thought left Sanders open for criticism. Jolly abruptly left the county in the fall.

Sanders declined comment Tuesday on the FBI investigation of the contract and a separate investigation into whether there was systematic abuse of inmates at the county jail. He has said those investigations had nothing to do with his decision to resign.

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