TOPEKA — David Toland held his left hand on a family Bible brought to the Kansas territory seven generations ago as he officially ascended Monday to the post of lieutenant governor and completed a personnel shuffle that moved his predecessor to the job of state treasurer.
Toland, who has served the past two years as secretary of the Kansas Department of Commerce and will continue in that position, added the title of lieutenant governor to his duties in the administration of Gov. Laura Kelly. Toland replaced Lynn Rogers, who was appointed state treasurer by Kelly following resignation of Jake LaTurner, a Republican who held that statewide office until elected to the U.S. House.
“I’ve been deeply honored to serve in Governor Kelly’s cabinet and am truly humbled to serve as her lieutenant governor,” Toland said. “True leaders embrace lofty challenges with grit and resolute conviction. That is precisely what Governor Kelly has done. I am sincerely grateful for the governor’s strong and steady quest to keep people safe and healthy and help businesses and our communities prosper, recover and move forward.”
“I’m all the more devoted to charting a course for the future that is about more than just the here-and-now. The public health crisis last year and today brought the need for sustainable economic growth into stark relief,” he said.
Toland, who grew up in Iola, said his roots stretched back to 1857 when Samuel and Permelia Hubbard moved to what would become the 34th state in 1861. They planted seeds that led to his parents, Clyde and Nancy, to raise him in Allen County.
“We must continue to nurture these seeds by investing in what we know makes states and communities grow — education, health care, transportation, housing and a great quality of life,” he said.
Kelly, a Topeka Democrat, said during the COVID-19 restricted, socially distanced swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol that she was enthusiastic about Toland’s expanded role in her administration. It is presumed Toland will be on the ticket with Kelly during her 2022 re-election campaign.
She described Toland as “one of Kansas’ best and brightest.” She said he spearheaded efforts to assist small businesses and rebuild programs within an agency. He came to her attention by leading Thrive Allen County, a nonprofit health and economic development organization. Before that work in Kansas, he was on the staff of a Washington, D.C., mayor and assisted city managers in Reno, Nevada and in Bonner Springs.
“He is a smart, dynamic leader and an incredibly hard worker,” Kelly said. “He’s a strategic thinker and collaborator. Without a doubt, he’s qualified to serve the people of Kansas as the next lieutenant governor. I look forward to having David by my side as we leave 2020 behind and forge ahead into the new year and the new legislative session.”
In March 2019, conservative Republicans in the Kansas Senate objected to his nomination as commerce secretary. There was local political controversy about Thrive Allen County’s work to bring a grocery store to Iola and questions about Toland’s lack of experience in state government and in running a business.
Oddly, abortion politics reared its head when Kansans for Life objected to Thrive Allen County’s acceptance of $19,000 in grants in 2015 for an anti-smoking initiative and in 2018 for long-term contraception services. The grants were from a foundation tied to the late abortion doctor George Tiller, who was murdered in a church by an anti-abortion zealot.
Toland’s nomination for commerce secretary was endorsed by nearly four dozen chambers of commerce and economic development organizations in Kansas. The list included organizations from Dodge City, Lawrence, Wichita, Topeka, Council Grove, Fort Scott, Overland Park, Lenexa, Leavenworth, Manhattan, Atchison, Greeley, Ottawa, Pittsburg, Coffeyville and a bundle of counties.
A Kansas Senate committee rejected his nomination, but he was confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate on a vote of 23-14. He prevailed despite an effort by the Kansas Republican Party, Kansans for Life, Americans for Prosperity and others to derail his nomination.
The lieutenant governor in Kansas works with state commissions and on issues important to the governor. In the event the governor cannot perform his or her duties, the lieutenant governor takes on the role. Toland’s appointment isn’t subject to Senate confirmation.
Rogers, who served as Kelly’s lieutenant governor the past two years, said he didn’t anticipate the volume of rural residents of the state who said they’d never been visited by a lieutenant governor.
“I was shocked when I traveled to rural Kansas and how many people have never met the lieutenant governor or had never seen them in their town and whatnot. So, I think that’s really important that state officials are out talking with people, visiting with them and everything,” Rogers said.