Q&A with County Commissioner Sarah Lopez

Q&A with Sarah Lopez

County Commissioner | Sedgwick County, Kansas

MSarah LopezTell us about your background. What are the experiences, including education, that make up the person you currently are?

My professional background was spent in healthcare technology at Ascension Technologies. I started nursing school while I worked clinical for 5 years. I realized nursing was not my calling, so I went to WTI for their Information Technology and Network Administration course. Upon graduating, I transitioned to IT still within Ascension. Ascension is a non-profit company and is where my love for public service started and grew. Quality healthcare for all is something that is a top priority for me.

What was your trigger moment and why this specific office?

My daughter had problems in her school and that started the ripple effect for me to run for this office. I was coaching her soccer team during that time. My daughter, Avery, and I worked with the BOE to have the school district’s NDO updated. I brought many girls from the soccer team with us while we spoke to the board and after I told the girls, you do not have to be a certain type of person or have a certain background to make a difference. That they all made a difference just by showing up.

I decided on running for the county because our county also serves as our local board of health. Prior to me being in this seat, we had no one with a medical background on the BOH and we saw how that did not work well during a global pandemic.

What made you feel qualified to run for office?

My background in healthcare and technology positioned me uniquely for this position, especially at this time.

Do you work full-time or part-time?


Most people don’t know what their elected official does on a daily basis. What’s a typical day looking like for you?

The county has three main pillars we focus on: Public Health, Public Safety and Public Works. On a typical day, I spend part of my time responding to citizens, working on initiatives I would like to start, growing relationships with departments and in the private sector as well as the day-to-day work it takes to run an organization. I also serve on numerous boards, which takes multiple hours a week to ensure I help with their missions.

Additionally, they might not know what their elected official is responsible for. What is your role in comparison to other elected offices on your level?

At the local county level, our largest responsibility is managing the county budget. During the budget process, we decide our priorities for the next year and work to ensure we can fund those priorities. Our budget comes from our taxpayers and we must do everything we can to be frugal with those funds but still provide quality services. Sedgwick County has over 40 departments we are responsible for as well. These departments are vital to our community to function and it is extremely important we are able to fund those appropriately. Those departments include 911, EMS, Sheriff’s Office, Health Department, Courts, District Attorney, COMCARE and many more.

What do you think people would be surprised to know someone in your position does?

The County Commissioners and other county staff sit on various boards in our community. We get the opportunity to help direct and grow other organizations and community assets like the Sedgwick County Zoo, Exploration Place, TKAAM, Visit Wichita, The Greater Wichita Partnership, etc.

What are 3-5 skills needed to be successful in the elected office you served in/are currently serving in?

The ability to empathize with individuals that have lived a different life experience. The ability to have uncomfortable conversations and to listen to opinions that are very different from your own. Being responsible and transparent in your decision-making process. Also the ability to see others’ strengths and empower those. Lastly, to be curious and innovative.

What’s the best part about serving in elected office?

I have only been in this role for 6 months so I have not been able to finish any large projects yet. The largest project I have in the works is with HealthCore, an FQHC, to expand to a second location. That location will expand the behavioral health services our community has as well as bring a needed healthcare clinic to the south part of town. This will be an innovative campus and will look like healthcare in 20 years from now and now 20 years ago. We will also utilize technology to better reach the needs of our rural communities.

What has been the accomplishment you’re most proud of while in office?

I came into office in the middle of a global public health crisis. Central Falls was the hardest hit community statewide and at one point globally. My biggest accomplishment has been getting vaccines into the arms of residents even before being sworn in, because I worked hard to build the trust of this community. Too many residents were being impacted – from their health to their jobs and housing – and it was really important for me to do whatever I had to do to get my community stronger.

In terms of finances, how much money did you have to raise for your campaign?

My campaign was run in 2020. All of the events we had planned and fundraisers had to be canceled. My team had to solely utilize social media to reach out to voters and fundraise.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone who’s thinking about running for the position you serve/have served in their community?

My advice is to get as involved as you can before you run for the seat. Find out what you can bring to the table that we need. Come up with a plan and stick to that plan. While you are campaigning, it is easy to be pulled in different directions but stick to your plan and highlight the strengths you would bring to the seat.