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Death of Gary Caplinger leaves Pawnee County reeling
Plans in works to replace late county commissioner
new deh pawnee county commissioner dies gary caplinger mug
Gary Caplinger

 LARNED – While mourning the Monday passing of 71-year-old Pawnee County Commissioner Gary Caplinger, county officials here must now also plan on how to fill his vacant seat in the commission chamber.

“It is very, very sad,” said County Clerk Ruth Searight Tuesday afternoon. “We will miss him.”

But, with the funeral set for Friday morning, there is little time to grieve. 

According to Searight, Caplinger was a Democrat. So, the job to replace him falls to the Pawnee County Democratic Central Committee which will call a convention to nominate a successor to fill out this unexpired term.

This must happen within 21 days, said Steven Lewis, committee chairman. They have a procedural meeting set for Saturday to make these arrangements.

“There are rules we’ve got rules to follow,” Lewis said. “The trick is to do it fast and do it right.”

The convention amounts to a nominating meeting, he said. Those interested in the post will make presentations.

Caplinger represented District 1, covering Larned Township, and wards 2 and 3 in Larned. Any registered voter in that district is eligible to apply.

The committee will vote on a candidate and submit the winner’s name to Governor Jeff Colyer who has the final say.

“Gary was a very nice man and was very thoughtful,” Lewis said. “We need to find someone who will bring this same attitude to the commission.”

But, there are a lot of big issues on the horizon, he said. “It’s not going to be an easy job.”

A replacement will be in place in time for the June 1 filing deadline should this person wish to file for election for the next full term starting in January 2019. A primary would be Aug. 7 with the general election Nov. 6.

Taking office in January 2015, this was start of Caplinger’s fourth year on the commission, Searight said. He would have been up for reelection this year. 

Caplinger was joined on the commission by Philip Hammeke representing the District 2 and Bob Rein Jr. from District 3.

A lifetime area resident, Caplinger was also a former band teacher in the Riley County School system and Larned High School, was owner and operator of Palace Clothier, was a Farm Bureau agent in Pawnee County, and was a staff educator and quality management coordinator at Larned State Hospital.

He was a member of the Larned United Methodist Church, Ducks Unlimited, Pawnee Valley Community Hospital Board, Jordaan Library Board, Kansas National Education Association, Pawnee County Democratic Committee, Larned Country Club, Memorial Golf Association, and 7 a.m. Coffee Club, and was a past president for the Larned Chamber of Commerce and the Fish and Game Commission.

He is survived by his wife Macel Dunn.

Funeral will be 10:30 a.m. Friday at the Larned United Methodist Church.