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Columbia Missourian

Columbia's Third Ward council race features familiar names

By Doug Davis
January 12, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST

Kespohl to take another run at defeating Skala

COLUMBIA — Gary Kespohl, who got 48 percent of the vote when he ran against Karl Skala for the Third Ward seat on the Columbia City Council in 2007, will compete with Skala for the position again this year.

Kespohl, owner of Central Missouri Computer Center Inc., said he disagreed with a number of Skala's votes but decided to run after Skala at the Jan. 4 council meeting pushed a proposed amendment to the city charter that would require the city manager to seek the advice of the council when hiring or firing department heads. Kespohl said that’s a bad idea that would cause confusion among department heads about whether they’re working to please the city manager or to please the council.

How to file for council

The deadline for filing to run for City Council is Jan. 21. Candidates running for ward positions must collect a minimum of 50 signatures from registered voters in their ward. Those running for mayor must collect at least 100 and not more than 150 signatures from registered voters citywide. The petitions are then submitted to City Clerk Sheela Amin for validation.

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Skala said Monday that the proposal would make the hiring or removal of a department head more a matter of their competence than of their loyalty to the city manager, who would continue to choose and interview independent of the council.

The City Council is scheduled to decide whether to put five amendments to the city charter on the April ballot for voter approval on Tuesday. If Skala’s amendment wins the council’s approval, it would become the sixth such ballot measure.

A lifelong resident of Columbia, Kespohl, 62, serves as the Third Ward’s commissioner on the Parks and Recreation Commission and as treasurer of the Columbia Special Business District Board of Directors. He also serves on several other local boards and has long been active in the Daniel Boone Little League.

Kespohl trained as a computer programmer and worked as a manager in that capacity for the Columbia Insurance Group before he was promoted to vice president in charge of its computer operations. He opened his own company in 1982. He is married and has two grown sons, who also live in Columbia.

Skala, 63, said on Monday that he’s “not surprised that I have opposition. I would have been surprised if there were none.” Having two candidates in the race, he said, “raises the level of the discourse.”

Although the election is three months away, Skala said his campaign staff is ready.

Given the close results of the 2007 election, Kespohl, too, is ready for another round. Three years ago, Skala got 908 votes on election day; Kespohl got 845.

“We only lost by 63 votes,” Kespohl said. “This time, I’m gonna take a good hard look at (Skala's) voting record.”

Aside from the charter amendment, Kespohl said he also was disappointed with Skala’s stance on the construction of a bridge across Grindstone Creek north of LeMone Industrial Park, his vote against rezoning to accommodate Landmark Hospital in the Third Ward and his opposition to downtown security cameras.

As for his opposition to installing cameras downtown, Skala said research presented to the council found that enhanced police presence was a more effective crime deterrent. He said he was representing the wishes of Third Ward constituents when he voted against the Landmark rezoning. And he opposed the Maguire Boulevard extension and bridge because he felt that it would disturb a sensitive environmental feature and that it was too close to Highway 63 to serve as an effective traffic outlet.

Skala is a former director of the Swine Hormone Research Core at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine. He has served on the city Planning and Zoning Commission and the Columbia/Boone County Energy and Environment Commission. He founded the Hominy Branch Neighborhood Alliance and is a member of the Boone County Smart Growth Coalition.

The positions of mayor and Fourth Ward council representative also will be filled in the April 6 election. Thus far, Jerry Wade, Sal Nuccio, Sid Sullivan and Paul Love have declared their candidacies for mayor. Tracy Greever-Rice, Sarah Read and Rick Buford are running for the Fourth Ward seat that Wade is leaving open as he runs for mayor.