The unexpected death of Geary County Commissioner Ben Bennett left a hole in many hearts in the local community and out of it, but it also left a hole in the Geary County Commission.

The commission held a moment of silence in his honor which several county employees attended Monday at the county’s regular meeting.

Bennett’s space on the commission must, by state law, be filled within 21 days of his death, according to County Commission Chair Charles Stimatze.

The Geary County Republican Party must have a name submitted to Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly for Bennett’s replacement within that timeframe.

Bennett served Geary County’s 1st district during his multiple terms on the commission.

Whoever steps in to fill the gap on the commission will need to be a registered Republican living Geary County’s first district and will need a nomination and a second from a committee man or woman within the party, according to Stimatze.

The person who is tasked with filling Bennett’s shoes will be required to run for the seat in the 2020 election.

“The reason why that has to happen is because (Bennett) just got elected to his fourth term and he did not make it, by state statute, to May of his first term,” Stimazte said.

In 2022, the new commissioner will be required to run again, he said.

According to Stimatze, the nominating commission will meet from 5 until 9 p.m. at the Geary County 4-H/Senior Citizens Center Jan. 2 to select someone to take over where Bennett left off. The person's name will be submitted to Gov. Laura Kelly for approval.

During the meeting of the Geary County Commission Monday, a group gathered to honor Bennett with a moment of silence.

Bennett’s cowboy hat — which he was rarely seen without — sits in his place in the county commission room, courtesy of his wife, Peggy. The flags will be at half-mast in his honor until sunset Friday.

Most county offices will be closed during the funeral Friday to allow county employees to attend the service, which takes place at 11 a.m. at the First United Methodist Church.

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