City commission selects Wynn Butler as new mayor; discusses 17th St. name change

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New Manhattan mayor
City commissioner Wynn Butler has officially been named Manhattan’s mayor for 2021.
The change was made Tuesday as part of an annual reorganization which involves a rotation among the city commission’s five members.
Butler says he wants the commission to focus on taxes, infrastructure and responsible growth during his term.
“I don’t want to see property taxes go up,” Butler said. “I don’t want to see sales taxes go up either. We’ve got to continue with infrastructure. Of course the airport – we’ve got a runway issue. We’ve got a maintenance shop we need to finish. We’ve got a levee we need to fix. We need to do that staying within our budget.”
Former mayor and now commissioner Usha Reddi closed out her term by highlighting accomplishments from 2020, such as beginning construction on the Aggieville parking garage and the Douglass Rec Center, and reflecting on the pandemic.
“This impacted every governing agency, staff member, business, public education and family,” Reddi said. “We had to make tough decisions regarding our budget and even tougher decisions regarding public health. I am proud of our community. These are challenging times and the Manhattan family stayed strong and continued to work together.”
In addition to Butler becoming mayor, commissioner Linda Morse was named mayor pro tem.
Potential name change for 17th St.

The name of 17th St. may officially change to Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. in the near future.

With the submission of a request by MLK Memorial Committee, the city commission will soon consider an ordinance to officially enact the change.

Kevin Bryant, MLK Memorial Committee co-chair, explained to the commission during their meeting Tuesday why 17th St. was chosen.
“17th Street symbolism is the bridge,” Bryant said. “In the past, Yuma Street east and west acted as a chasm to people of various backgrounds. Renaming a north-and-south street in honor of Dr. King would act as a bridge to the local community instead of emphasizing historic divisions.”
He says the street also symbolically connects many important parts of the area.
“The connection of 17th Street symbolically connects our military, our historical local business sector on Poyntz (Avenue) and the commitment to education at Kansas State University,” Bryant said.
Butler says that while he was concerned area residents would not want to change their addresses, he is relieved to hear that a survey carried out by the MLK Memorial Committee shows a majority of residents living on 17th St. support the change.
“That would have been my only concern – if we had a large amount of residents or property owners that do not wish to go through the logistics of changing that, then I would begin not to support it,” Butler said. “But otherwise, I don’t have a problem.”
While other commissioners, such as Mark Hatesohl, shared the same concern, support for the change was largely unanimous. Through a letter of support, K-State also endorsed the change.
Commissioner Aaron Estabrook says the project presents an opportunity to do the right thing.
“When I left to come to this meeting, my 10-year-old daughter stopped me and said, ‘hey, don’t forget – the time is always right to do what is right,'” Estabrook said. “That’s a Dr. King quote. I think it’s important to have that sign, that naming, so we can think about these things in our community.”
The commission previously discussed the name change in 2006, but decided instead to memorialize the street in MLK’s honor.
This was done so that residents would not have to officially change their addresses.
17th St. runs from Fort Riley Blvd., through parts of Manhattan and the K-State campus and ends at Claflin Rd.
City officials say the process of getting the ordinance ready, informing residents of the upcoming change, obtaining materials and putting together an installation plan could take 60 to 90 days.
In other city-commission news:
  • The city commission unanimously voted in support of finalizing a deal with Planning NEXT of Columbus, Ohio, to help put together a strategic plan for Manhattan. The agreement is worth up to $125,000.
  • The city commission approved in a 3-2 vote the creation of a temporary Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force. Butler and Hatesohl voted in opposition.
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