*CORRECTION: Mr. Wade was chairman of the Columbia Planning and Zoning commission for nine years. An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported the number.
COLUMBIA — A bid to become mayor of Columbia is a gambit for Jerry Wade, who will have to give up his seat as Fourth Ward councilman to run for the city’s highest office.
Wade on Tuesday became the first to announce that he would run for mayor in 2010, seeking to replace five-term Mayor Darwin Hindman. Hindman announced in August that he will not seek another term.
Wade said the prospect of losing a seat on the council weighed into his decision of whether to run for mayor.
“I love the Fourth Ward and the Fourth Ward people, and I love being their council representative,” he said.
Wade said his reasons for running are fairly simple. "I believe I have the qualifications and experience to be mayor, and I want to continue my community service."
Beyond that, he declined to comment on what his platform would be as a candidate.
"I'm not prepared to begin talking about the issues,” he said. “I wanted to announce now in order to end any speculation. (And) my candidacy creates an open position. I want to give anyone who’s thinking of running for the Fourth Ward position adequate time to prepare."
Wade's campaign in 2007 focused on the role of the council, development policy and economic expansion. He said then that the council should function as a policymaking body, leaving operations and project details to city staff, with citizen input. He also called for an overhaul of the city’s zoning codes — a process that’s in its early stages — and said the city needs to set and follow development policies that are clear and proactive.
Wade declined to name anyone he thinks might run for the open Fourth Ward seat.
"I think there will be good candidates, and I look forward to working as mayor with whoever wins," he said.
Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala, whose seat on the council also is up for election in April, said he believes Wade would make a good mayor. His strengths, he said, lie in facilitation and mediation. “He’s a consensus-builder," Skala said.
But Skala, too, pointed to the political risk Wade is taking.
"If he doesn't win the mayoral race, he won't have a City Council seat, either," Skala said. "In that respect, I hope he wins."
Wade has represented the Fourth Ward since 2007 when he was elected with 61 percent of the vote. Before that, he served on the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission for 15 years, including nine years as chairman*.
Although he has served on the council for only one term, he said there are two accomplishments of which he is particularly proud. One is the territorial agreement reached earlier this year between the city and the Boone County Fire Protection District to share jurisdiction over areas on the edge of the city. The other was a private sewer ordinance passed in 2008 that relieved homeowners with private sewers of the burden of sharing repair costs with the city.
Hank Ottinger is chairman of the Osage Group of the Sierra Club, which endorsed Wade for the council in 2007. Ottinger predicted smart growth will be a central issue for whomever is elected Columbia's next mayor.
"How it grows is really the issue," Ottinger said. "Do we want it to look like another Springfield? Do we want it to be all Papa John's Pizza, or do we want more Shakespeare's?"
Ottinger also complimented Wade, citing his background in city government.
"I think he's certainly a capable candidate," Ottinger said. "He's been involved in city government pretty much in all levels. I think he's eminently competent. I think he'd be a good mayor."
Skala, who worked with Wade on the Planning Commission, shared Ottinger's view that smart growth would be a challenge. He characterized the issue as the difference between smart growth and subsidized growth.
"The simplest part of this is to avoid duplicating costly infrastructure," Skala said. "Target growth in areas that already have infrastructure. If you encourage growth on the urban fringe, those tend to favor the developer rather than the city."