Meet the mayor

Father of three focusing on economy, ethics reform, public safety

Written by Amy Palser

After being sworn is as mayor of Wichita on Jan. 13, Brandon Whipple went home at the end of the workday to his 6-year-old son who had one sincere question: “How was your day as mayor?” Whipple chuckled. Before Jan. 13, the young boy’s question was always, “Did you get to be mayor yet?”

Making a successful bid for mayor while in the throes of family life has been interesting, Whipple said, and he hopes it’s a grounding force during his tenure. Whipple, 37, and wife, Chelsea, both work and are raising three young boys, ages 2, 4 and 6. “I’m in the same situation as a lot of people — you know, school’s canceled and both parents work and the kids have to come to work. I want to normalize that,” Whipple said.

The boys campaigned right alongside their parents, walking in parades and handing out candy. “I think, there’s no way for us — who I am and my wife and kids — there’s no way to separate us from our family. It was the same in the capital, where I had to bring all of them to the floor sometimes.” Whipple served District 96 in the Kansas House of Representatives for seven years. He also was an adjunct professor of American politics at Wichita State University.

Although Jan. 13 was Whipple’s first official day as mayor, he jumped into action a week early after the announcement of 2,800 layoffs at Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita. “My experience at the state level and the relationships I have allowed me to hit the ground running with the economic crisis the week before I was sworn in.” Whipple said the first step is giving Spirit workers what they need, while the second step is helping find jobs or educational opportunities for displaced workers. The long-term goal will be establishing economic health in Wichita following such a difficult blow.

Whipple says he will make good on his campaign promise of restoring trust in city government and plans to make ethics reform a priority. “The first issue is a technical fix with correcting policy, and then making sure we communicate more with the public and have more engagement and promote trust.” He also wants to get to work on increasing diversification and community safety.

Raised in Dover, New Hampshire, Whipple graduated from Dover High School and earned his associate’s degree in liberal studies from Hesser College in New Hampshire. He moved to Wichita in 2003 at age 21 in a year-long education-service mission with AmeriCorps. In that program he worked with at-risk youth at Wichita South High School, and ultimately made a decision to call Wichita home, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees at WSU, as well as a doctoral degree from Franklin Pierce University.

“When I came here and figured out all the opportunities I had in Wichita, I felt like I hit the jackpot,” he said, adding that as a first-generation college student, he was able to make his AmeriCorps college funding go further in Wichita than it would have in another city.

“The American dream is limited only by your abilities and your drive, and Wichita allows people to get a bigger piece of it. I want that to remain for me and the next generation. If we do it right, there’s a lot of room to grow with this. That’s why I ran for mayor, because I think I could be part of breaking that code to create more opportunity in Wichita, not just for people here but for people who live elsewhere to see Wichita as a destination for them.”

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