Toland: State is ‘back on track’

Lt. Gov. David Toland and Attorney General Derek Schmidt addressed a group of elected officials and department heads from 17 Southeast Kansas counties at a regional meeting Thursday. The featured speakers talked about some of the challenges, litigation and success stories in the state.



September 24, 2021 - 4:32 PM

Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Rep. Kent Thompson share a laugh as Lt. Gov. David Toland tells a “dad joke.” Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

As leaders from 17 Southeast Kansas counties descended on Iola Thursday for a regional meeting of public officials, they faced road construction from three of the four directions heading into town.

That might have been a bit frustrating, Iola native Lt. Gov. David Toland told them, but those projects are a sign of all the good things happening in Kansas right now.

“This train is back on the right track and it’s gaining momentum,” he said, speaking as part of his dual role as Kansas Secretary of Commerce. 

Toland and Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt were the featured speakers at the event, which brought elected officials and county department heads together to share experiences and learn from each other.

Each department split into sessions, and then all gathered for a luncheon where Schmidt and Toland spoke. Kansas Rep. Kent Thompson of LaHarpe introduced them. Sen. Caryn Tyson also was on hand. 

The Southeast Kansas district meets twice a year, and each county takes a turn hosting the event. 

Attorney General Derek Schmidt addresses elected county officials and department heads. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

BOTH SCHMIDT and Toland engaged the audience by telling personal stories about their children and their history with Allen County.

Toland and his family now live in Topeka after living more than a decade in Iola, Toland’s birthplace.

When Toland told his son he was “going home” to give a speech, William, age 12, said, “Will you pick up my Chiefs sweatshirt?”

William also gave his dad a joke to tell the audience: “What’s a pirate’s favorite letter?” The audience shouted “R,” but Toland said, “No, it’s C.” (As in, the sea.)

Schmidt, who was a state senator representing Allen County before he was elected attorney general, recalled bringing his then-toddler daughter to a hospital auxiliary event about 15 years earlier at the North Community Building, the same facility where the luncheon was located. She bumped her head on a table while “doing a little dance routine,” and cried.

“She had a whole lot of mothers and grandmothers who were willing to help out,” he said. “We all have those ghost memories that come back to you, and I’ve been sitting here through this meal thinking about that.”

THEIR speeches weren’t just a trip down memory lane, though.

They both talked about issues facing Kansas, particularly through the pandemic, and how their respective offices were addressing those matters.

Schmidt briefly touched on three key areas of litigation through his office that he thought would be of interest to local governments: emergency management during the pandemic, the spike in natural gas prices during a winter emergency, and a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies about opioids. 

Elected officials and department heads of 17 counties gather at the Southeast Kansas Regional Meeting in Iola on Thursday.Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

• Emergency management: Laws regarding how to manage a pandemic are few and far between, Schmidt said. Early in the pandemic, his staff began to research various public health laws, and found very little guidance. That has made it difficult for lawmakers and Gov. Laura Kelly to use those laws as they navigate through a health crisis that hasn’t been seen in the U.S. in 100 years, he said.

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