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Hoppe ready to invest another three years

Thursday, April 2, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 4:38 p.m. CDT, Thursday, April 2, 2009
Barbara Hoppe, who is running as a candidate for the Sixth Ward in the upcoming Columbia City Council election April 7, goes door to door to campaign on March 21.

COLUMBIA — Barbara Hoppe can remember when she enjoyed personal time, but it certainly hasn't been any time recently.

The incumbent Sixth Ward councilwoman, who is seeking re-election to a second term on Tuesday, spends so much of her time serving on the Columbia City Council, working as an attorney for the state public defender system and, now, campaigning that she rarely has time to call her own.

Barbara Hoppe

Personal: Age 58. Married to Mike Sleadd. They have two daughters, Danielle and Mariah, and two sons, Matthew and Isaac.

Occupation: Attorney, Missouri Public Defender System.

Education: Law degree from MU School of Law, bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan.

Background: Member of the PedNet Coalition; committee member of Active Living by Design; member of the Columbia Street Standards Planning Group; founder of the Hinkson Creek Valley Neighborhood Association; co-chair of the Mayor's Committee to Pass the 2000 Parks Ballot; founding member of the Boone County Smart Growth Coalition; former board member of the League of Women Voters; board member of the Green Belt Land Trust; and member of Heart of Missouri Court Appointed Special Advocates. 

Website: Hoppecitycouncil.com

TOP 4 ISSUES

Jobs and Economy: Proponent of creating "green" jobs. Supports downtown revitalization programs.

Public Safety: Will preserve Columbia Police Department's budget. Will encourage larger, more connected role of Neighborhood Watch programs. Supports citizen review board.

Growth Management: Will support development consistent with smart growth principles. Wants to modernize city zoning laws, develop a comprehensive growth management plan and revise the city's land disturbance and land preservation ordinances.

Energy: Will support balance between improved efficiency on the demand side and using cleaner alternatives to coal on the supply side. Skeptical of the need to buy into a second Callaway County nuclear plant. 


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"It is really like three jobs, which is really pretty crazy," Hoppe said. "I wouldn't want to sustain that for more than a month."

Hoppe’s life wasn't always as cumbersome, she said, but that was mainly a result of time-management strategies. A lot of those practices, Hoppe said, stemmed from raising two daughters, Danielle and Mariah, while attending law school at MU.

"When I went to law school, I had a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old," Hoppe said. "I love parenting and am very involved in it, so I didn't want to shortchange my children in their youth."

As a law student, Hoppe still found time to be a Girl Scout leader for her daughters' troop and was involved with her children at Southwest Playschool.

"It was a parent-oriented playschool, so the parents had to spend one or two afternoons a week participating," she said. "So I managed to do that."

Sometimes, she brought her younger daughter, Danielle, to her law school classes where they took advantage of Hoppe's peers and "sold hundreds of Girl Scout cookies. It was a popular thing."

School and child-rearing did weigh on Hoppe at times, sometimes in ways that were entertaining for her children.

"Yeah, I fell asleep reading books to them at night, which I didn't do before," Hoppe said with a laugh. "But they loved it because I would wander off."

As her eyes began to droop, many of the stories that Hoppe read would ultimately begin to stray from their original story lines and bring smiles to her children’s faces.

"They would just sort of wait for that moment and start laughing and waking me up and telling me what I read to them," Hoppe said.

Moments of drowsiness aside, Hoppe said she always has been able to manage her time and balance her priorities. Despite the lack of personal time, she still manages to read her horoscope every day.

"I'm a Libra, middle child. So, I've been balancing all my life," she said. "I'm used to taking people with different views and bringing them together for a common purpose."

She sometimes reads her horoscope at night to see if it was on target for the day. While her horoscopes aren't always right, Hoppe said she usually can find a good piece of advice in them or a "good reminder for the day."

When she gets the chance, Hoppe enjoys doing modern dance at Dancearts of Columbia, something she has done for the past 15 years.

"This is the first semester that I haven't been able to do that once a week," Hoppe said."That is a love of mine that I have had to give up."

On top of putting dancing on hold, Hoppe said she also has been unable to spend much time vacationing. Before she was elected to the council and when her children were young, she loved traveling and enjoying the outdoors.

"I've taken my kids to national parks since they were little,” she said. “We took a whole-month vacation camping my last semester of law school. ... Those are my great loves. Council has sort of curbed my ability to vacation. I've used a lot of vacation days for council-related stuff and going to conferences."

While the crunch on her free time has been "a loss personally," she thinks it is for "a good and greater cause."

"When I think of how much of a difference I have made in people's lives and their neighborhoods, where decisions or a development would have been very different had I not gotten involved, it's very rewarding," she said. "People are very thankful."

Hoppe’s Web site lists an assortment of groups with which she has volunteered, including the Boone County Smart Growth Coalition, the League of Women Voters and Columbia's street standards planning group. She also led the charge for the city to buy the Stephens Lake property from Stephens College when the college put it up for sale.

During her "pre-council" days, Hoppe often took her daughters to swim at Stephens Lake and talked with other parents as the children splashed around in the water. It was at the park years ago that she met Paul Sturtz, who was elected to the First Ward seat on the City Council.

At the time, Sturtz was pushing to increase membership in Stephens Lake in order to prevent the college from selling it. "When it was clear they were going to sell it," Hoppe said she "sort of geared in."

Forming the Coalition to Save Stephens Lake, Hoppe dedicated nearly all her resources to the cause and was ultimately rewarded when the city struck a deal to buy the lake and turn it into a public park.

"I spent a good year and a half to two years on that, before the ballot measure and promoting the ballot measure," Hoppe said. "So that was pretty much nonstop after work and on the weekends."

Once that task was complete, former Sixth Ward councilman John Coffman approached her with the idea of running for the council. At first, Hoppe was apprehensive because she was "worn out."

After "three years of rest," Hoppe finally decided to run when Sixth Ward Councilman Brian Ash decided not to seek a second term.

"I was doing my best to find somebody else to run, actually, but I was unsuccessful," Hoppe said.

Since being elected to the council, Hoppe said she has learned "it's much more than reading the (council) packet," a thick stack of paperwork provided to council members before every regular meeting. She said she often relies on her mediation training to try to bring about "win-win" situations for developers and contesting parties, even before disputes reach the council chambers.

"I get involved with developers and their projects and proposals and try to make sure the neighbors get involved early," she said. "That's been really successful in the last two years. By the time the project comes to council, there is no one in opposition because we worked out all the problems."

It’s that involvement that left a mark on Sixth Ward resident David Leuthold.

“We’re quite impressed by her,” Leuthold said. “I particularly appreciate two things: one, she obviously works very hard; and two, she is very thoughtful about the city as a whole.”

Leuthold said he also liked that Hoppe took a lot of time to discuss issues with her constituents.

“She does a great job of visiting with everyone,” Leuthold said. “I think we’re very well-represented.”


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