COLUMBIA — Sal Nuccio, a downtown bar owner and one-time Columbia City Council candidate, said Tuesday he is running for mayor.
Nuccio, who owns Eastside Tavern on Broadway, mounted a campaign for the First Ward council seat in 2007, but dropped out of the race two days before the filing deadline. Afterward, he told the Missourian he had started the bid as a publicity stunt that grew into a full-blown campaign, but new business opportunities had taken his focus away from the race.
Nuccio now says he dropped out of the race because he didn't want to split votes with fellow downtown business owner and First Ward candidate Paul Sturtz. In his announcement, Nuccio endorsed Sturtz, the eventual winner.
"I had to put my own ambitions aside," he said.
This time, Nuccio said, he's better prepared and in a better position to win.
Nuccio, 42, said he is at a point in his life when he would bring enough experience to do the job well but still relate to young people. As the public face of Columbia, Nuccio said he would best represent the city's attitude.
"A progressive town needs a progressive mayor," Nuccio said. "For a guy like me, this is a more realistic position."
Nuccio said he's poised to win because he's well-known in the community, especially among downtown business owners. He also said he thinks the city's young people will rally around him and that his lack of political background will be an asset.
Unlike career politicians, "I'm not corrupted yet," he said.
To get on the ballot, Nuccio will need to collect 100 signatures from registered Columbia voters. He said collecting the signatures wouldn't be hard because of his notoriety around town. He said he has collected 50 already.
Nuccio hasn't developed an official platform yet, but the issues he is most concerned about were shown in his earlier run for office. As a candidate for the First Ward council seat in 2007, Nuccio called for more police presence downtown to discourage vandalism and fights. He also supported more focus on development downtown.
Nuccio said he supports the work of the Downtown Police Team, a unit that works exclusively in the downtown area. Some other downtown business owners have expressed dissatisfaction with the team's "walk-through" liquor law compliance checks.
There's still a need for increased police presence downtown to stop violence and prevent vandalism, Nuccio said, but the plan needs some minor adjustments.
"I would definitely work very closely with the chief of police to adjust and tweak the way they're policing," he said.
He also said he still supports development in the heart of Columbia, rather than at the city's borders. He said the approach is better for the environment because it limits sprawl, and it would improve the economy by increasing the number of people within city limits.
Nuccio also said he wants to put the city's ban on smoking in public areas to a public referendum.
Mayor Darwin Hindman announced in August he wouldn't seek re-election after 15 years in office. The last time a mayor decided not to seek the office again, Hindman came out on top of a six-candidate field.
Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade is the only other candidate to announce officially his intent to run for mayor.
The filing period for council candidates will begin Oct. 23 and end in late January. The city charter dictates that those interested in running for mayor must collect between 100 and 150 signatures from registered Columbia voters.
The election will be in April 2010.