Bill Clifford to fill the remainder of Russ Jennings' term, sworn in Monday

Meghan Flynn
Garden City Telegram

Bill Clifford is the new Kansas District 122 Representative. 

He was sworn in on Monday in Topeka after being nominated by the appointed by Gov. Laura Kelly on Friday, Nov. 19 to serve the remainder of Russ Jennings term which expires at the end of 2022. Jennings died on Oct. 27. 

Clifford is a resident of Garden City, where he is an ophthalmologist and president of Fry Eye Surgery Center.

He is a former Finney County Commissioner, having resigned from his position on Friday. He was elected as the District 4 Commissioner in 2014 and served as the Chairman of the Finney County GOP beginning in 2016 and has served on the State GOP Committee since 2017. 

He ran for election to the U.S. House to represent Kansas' 1st Congressional District in 2020, but lost to Rep. Tracey Mann in the Aug. 4 Republican primary. 

Clifford said it's very humbling to serve the remainder of Jennings' term. 

"Russ and I were great friends and I'm still getting over his loss, but I'm sitting in his old office as we speak and it's just, I feel his presence here," he said. 

It was exciting to be sworn in on Monday, and a bit of a whirlwind, Clifford said. 

"My wife was here and I was here for a historic special session called by the legislature," he said. "It's been kind of a whirlwind experience, considering I was only nominated on Wednesday night (Nov. 17) and appointed by the governor on Friday and here I am sworn in on Monday ... It's exciting, I'm glad to be part of it."

During his time in the legislature, Clifford hopes to address the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. He said they have handicapped western Kansas in trying to develop daycare, but they also govern food producers and he want to make sure that food can be produced efficiently without undue government interference.

He also wants KDHE to start listening to medical professionals as they also have oversight of those in the medical field, including him as an ophthalmologist.

"I'm glad they help to ensure the safety of our patients, but I think they need to listen more to the expertise in the field. I'll hopefully get on the Health Committee so I can make that known in hearings and things," he said. 

Clifford said he wishes he wasn't leaving things undone with the Finney County Commission, but will keep "a county commissioner hat on" in Topeka, looking out for his district. 

"I'll bring local emphasis with me and not take any votes without thinking about what this will do to Finney County or Kearny County of Hamilton County or Greely County," he said. 

He advises the next District 4 commissioner to learn from their fellow commissioners and to try and build cooperation with the city of Garden City, USD 457, USD 363 and Garden City Community College. 

"One of the joys of working locally has been the cooperation between public entities and I think it's enhanced the quality of life in Finney County," he said. "I would like to see a commissioner who succeeds me come with that attitude."

In a Friday new release, congratulations on his appointment were given to Clifford by Finney County Commissioners and staff. 

Robert Reece, Finney County Administrator said Clifford's "leadership here will be missed."

Finney County Chairman Dave Jones concurred. 

"Bill will be missed for the unique perspective he brought to the Board," he said. 

In addition to being sworn in on Monday, Clifford also filed for reelection as the representative of District 122, as the primary for the the Nov. 8 gubernatorial election is on Aug. 2.

The Finney County GOP Committee will call and convene a convention to select a replacement for a District 4 Finney County Commissioner on a date yet to be determined. 

Questions about the replacement process can contact Clifford, as the Finney County GOP Chair, at cliff@fryeye.com.

Clifford