Kevin Jones and Rick Howard come from different political parties, but on Election Night the two Franklin County men had much in common. Both challenged longtime, respected incumbents in the 2012 general election, and both appear to have earned narrow victories over their opponents in Tuesday’s electoral matchups.

New to politics, Jones, R-Wellsville, and Howard, D-Williamsburg, are fresh faces to local voters. In some ways, they represent the antithesis of the veteran public servants they challenged — a fresh start, as opposed to an established path. Both men came into their races — Jones seeking the Kansas House District 5 seat, Howard vying for a spot on the Franklin County Board of Commissioners — with honest intentions and a desire to serve.

But because of their little experience and limited understanding of some of the issues associated with the offices they sought, we questioned whether they truly were prepared to take on the complex responsibilities of a House member and a commissioner. Voters, however, apparently had a different opinion.

Jones and Howard tapped into local residents’ desire for change at the local and state level. They spoke to voters’ concerns and frustrations and offered to help. With residents’ faith now in their hands, they have a responsibility to follow through and be the best representatives of the people they can.

And we too have a responsibility — a responsibility to help these new leaders succeed.

Their success is Franklin County’s success.

State Rep. Bill Feuerborn, D-Garnett, and Commissioner Ed Taylor, R-Ottawa, have been excellent public servants through the years. Though defeated by Jones and Howard in Tuesday’s election, they have represented local interests and residents well at the state and county level. We thank them whole-heartedly for the work they have done on behalf of House District 5 and Franklin County.

We soon will start a new era of government with Jones and Howard in leadership positions. An obvious learning curve is expected, but decisions each man makes from Day 1 will have lasting impressions on residents. That’s why it is vitally important all of us work to help them get the answers they need and make the right choices for Ottawa, Franklin County and our region.

Regardless of whom any of us supported in the run-up to the election, the voters have spoken. We respect their decisions, as well as the men whom they chose to lead.

As with other officials working on behalf of local residents, we’ll hold Jones and Howard accountable for their actions at the Stathouse and in the Commission Chambers. They’ll get neither a free pass nor an unfair level of scrutiny. Voters and The Herald alike have high standards and demanding expectations.

The two political newcomers have big shoes to fill.

But with community support, the promise and potential both showed Franklin County voters could blossom and grow into something greater than any of us anticipated.

Republican or Democrat, what do we all have in common with Jones and Howard?

We all need them to succeed.

— Tommy Felts,

managing editor