PITTSBURG — Ethan Spurling was born in Pittsburg and grew up in Frontenac. While he still thinks of Crawford County as his home, however, things have been moving quickly for Spurling since he relocated to begin working in Topeka as part of Gov. Laura Kelly’s administration earlier this year. In just a few months, he has begun climbing further up the ladder of state government positions, recently taking a job with the Kansas Department of Revenue.
Spurling is now serving in the position of legislative liaison for the department, having moved from his previous job as operations and scheduling coordinator for the office of Gov. Laura Kelly.
“I started with her administration day one,” Spurling said, which will prepare him for his new job at the Department of Revenue, in which he will frequently be working with Kelly’s office to advocate for legislation that is important to the department.
Even before joining Kelly’s administration, however, Spurling —who is now 26— had some experience working in government. While still in his early twenties, Spurling was elected to Frontenac City Council, where he served for nearly four years.
“It really gave me a sense of public service and civic engagement,” Spurling said of his time serving on Frontenac’s governing body. “I think I did a pretty decent job at that for four years, and then was head-hunted by the governor before she started her administration, and they gave me a call and asked me to move up here and take a position within her administration.”
Spurling discussed some of the highlights of his time on Frontenac City Council.
“Frontenac’s always been a pretty close-knit community that’s really proud of its traditions, and I’d like to think that during my time on the council I helped pushed for the community to start making some progress,” he said. “I’m really happy that we elected the first female mayor when I was on the city council. I think we really pushed a progressive agenda on the council that I’m pretty proud to have been a part of.”
Frontenac Mayor Linda Grilz has been “a personal political mentor of mine for a long time now,” Spurling added. “She’s helped me get to where I’m at also, she’s played a big role.”
Even before joining Frontenac City Council, Spurling said, the community he came from helped prepare him for a successful start to a career in public service at a relatively young age. Besides growing up in Frontenac and serving on the city council, Spurling is also a 2018 graduate of Pittsburg State University, with a degree in political science and international studies.
“The biggest things that prepared me and helped me get to where I’m at right now were definitely Frontenac schools, Pittsburg State University, and the Frontenac community,” he said. “The relationships that I was able to build within the community, the skills that I was able to develop on the Frontenac City Council, the education that I received, which is important to the community, I have no doubt that I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the community.”
Spurling’s experience networking within his community and working in local government, in turn, were among the aspects of his background that made him an obvious choice for the Department of Revenue in looking for someone to serve as its legislative liaison.
“Ethan will bring a unique perspective to this position with his previous experience and relationship building at the municipal level,” Kansas Department of Revenue Secretary Mark Burghart said in a recent media release. “We look forward to taking that experience and expanding that within his role.”
Spurling also discussed the high quality education he received while attending Pittsburg State.
“The political science program at Pitt State really prepared me and taught me skills that I’m using on the ground up here,” he said, adding that political science professor Dr. Mark Peterson in particular “played a very supportive role in my time at Pittsburg State.”
Because the next legislative session won’t start until January 2020, Spurling has some time to learn the ropes of his new job — luckily, considering the complexity of the position.
“The Department of Revenue is a big department with a lot of moving pieces, so it’s definitely going to take some time to learn those pieces, learn the ins and outs of the department, so that’s sort of where I’m at right now,” Spurling said.
“I’m going to be involved in the governor’s new tax commission, which is going to sort of pave the road and sort of prepare me for the upcoming legislative session,” he added.
Spurling has begun his new job already, but at this point, he said, it is too early to know exactly what the Kansas Department of Revenue’s priorities will be for the upcoming 2020 legislative session. The governor’s tax commission is still in the process of forming, and Spurling is not sure exactly what role he will be playing there. Considering how quickly Spurling has been moving up in the world of Kansas public service, though, he is bound to be near the center of the action.
“I’ve been here for a few weeks now,” Spurling said, “but it’s definitely a learning process still.”