Criminal justice activist, Spirit financial analyst join Sedgwick County Commission race

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Two more candidates joined the Sedgwick County Commission District 3 race Monday ahead of the noon filing deadline.

AlmaAnn Jones, a trauma advocate and criminal justice activist who serves on two county advisory boards, will compete against Save Century II founder Celeste Racette in the Democratic primary on Aug. 6.

Alan Reichert, a senior financial analyst at Spirit AeroSystems, joins former Wichita City Council member Greg Ferris and commercial real estate broker Stephanie Wise in the Republican primary.

Candidates are vying to replace Republican Commissioner David Dennis, who has served since 2017 and plans to retire from politics at the end of his second term.

Jones, 51, said after being out of town last week, she woke up to dozens of messages from Democrats encouraging her to run for the seat after Racette’s campaign announcement.

“I received many messages just saying, ‘These candidates don’t have what you have. Please come run.’ And I agreed,” Jones said.

“[Racette] seems to be real concerned about the budget, which is her wheelhouse, and nothing else. I’m always concerned about my community. I’m concerned about the fentanyl epidemic. We need someone who’s going to care about people who are dying of drug overdoses, can’t afford affordable housing.”

In a text response, Racette pushed back on the notion that she’s a one-issue candidate.

“I’m very concerned about our community,” Racette said. “Ms. Jones evidentially [sic] hasn’t followed my career or she would know the numerous times I have spoken out regarding contaminated water, homelessness, special interests and taxpayer giveaways to developers.”

Reichert declined an interview, saying he wants to focus on getting his campaign website launched first.

As the governing body for Sedgwick County, commissioners are responsible for setting policy direction and approving a budget for vital services such as EMS, 911, Comcare, corrections and the sheriff’s office. They also oversee Fire District 1 and serve as the board of health, the board of canvassers of elections, and the hearing panel on tax appeals. Commissioners’ base salary is $101,527 a year.

District 3, the largest County Commission district by size, includes much of west Wichita, as well as Goddard, Colwich, Bentley, Mount Hope, Andale, Garden Plain, Cheney and Viola.

Advocacy

Jones has made her mark as a Wichita activist and advocate working with the families of people who were killed at the hands of local law enforcement.

She got her start as a trauma advocate helping parents navigate state bureaucracy and the courts system to regain custody of their children. In December 2017, she heard about Andrew Finch, the victim of a fatal swatting incident, who was killed by a Wichita police officer seconds after opening his door and stepping onto the front porch of his home.

“I was called by a friend that said ‘There’s a family that’s going through immense trauma, and they need your help.’ So that’s what I did. I stuck with them for five years and I walked through their nightmare and their fire with them and we made it out on the other side,” Jones said.

The city of Wichita ultimately reached a $5 million settlement with Finch’s family in 2023.

Jones has also worked closely with Marquan Teetz to celebrate the memory of his 17-year-old brother, Cedric Lofton, who was fatally restrained by county corrections workers in 2021. They’ve established a Cedric Lofton planning committee and will have a float and a booth in Wichita’s upcoming Juneteenth festivities.

Jones said there is no reasonable explanation for what happened to Lofton that night when he was suffering from an apparent mental health crisis and got into an altercation with police officers before being taken to county lockup.

“He was held down and suffocated by five grown adults in our juvenile facility. They pressed all the breath out of him for thirty-nine uninterrupted minutes until he was dead,” Jones said.

Teetz’s federal civil rights lawsuit against city and county employees is pending.

Jones, who serves on the county’s civil service and corrections advisory boards, said two of her major priorities if elected will be advocating for criminal justice reform and enhancing services for people struggling with mental health and addiction.

“We have our adult residential facility, and we keep everybody in a real structured environment when they’re going through our facility,” Jones said. “When they graduate from our facility, they may go into sober living or they may just be released, and if they don’t have family, drug-free people that can take them in and get them started in their new life, they have no choice but to go back to where they came from, and then we wonder why they keep coming back into our system.”

Jones said she doesn’t know exactly what the county should do to fix that problem, but she’s not confident the conversation will reach the commission unless she’s elected.

She said a seat on the County Commission would serve to amplify her work as an advocate for those who have been left behind by the system.

“I just felt like this is something I do anyways,” Jones said. “I do all of this on my own as a volunteer and have for many years . . . Now, I feel like I can help more people on a greater scale as a commissioner.”

Founder of Save Century II enters race for Sedgwick County Commission as a Democrat

Former City Council member, real estate broker seek seat on Sedgwick County Commission

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