COLUMBIA — Stephens Lake Park will now feature the Darwin Hindman Discovery Garden.
At a special Columbia City Council meeting Monday, Mayor Hindman received his $60,000 going-away present, an educational garden located east of the Riechmann Pavilion and connected to the trail that circles the park. The New Century Fund is currently raising funds for the project.
"I'm going to look forward to discovering the discovery garden," Hindman said. "I am very honored and flattered and humbled by that."
At the meeting that filled council chambers to the brim, former Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala, former Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade and Hindman said their farewells and their newly-elected counterparts were sworn in.
All three outgoing council members received a resolution acknowledging their service, a plaque—which Wade said will remind him of his "new-found freedom"—and a tree to be planted in their park of choice.
"Can you select the tree too?" Skala said jokingly. Hindman said he assumes they can.
Skala spoke first and wished luck to the newly-elected council members. He said he is not retiring from public service.
"I will continue to provide a voice for all the voters who have supported me," Skala said. "I will help when I can, and when I must, I will criticize."
Skala will hold office hours from 9 to 11 a.m. at Sven's Kafe and Gallery Saturdays before council meetings — an unprecedented move for an outgoing council member.
"I don't think it's unusual," Skala said in a phone interview. "I think it's unique, and that's not a bad thing."
Wade said there are three areas he takes pride in from his time in office: working with citizens at the neighborhood level, economic development and changing the private sewer ordinance to lessen resident costs. In this area, he said he "pass(es) the baton to the new Fourth Ward councilman."
"Fourth Ward has more miles of old, deteriorating private sewers than anyone understands," Wade said.
Wade said he is also not leaving civic life.
"I did not come to council as a one-time contribution," Wade said. "You will continue to see me around in different roles. I look forward to working with all of you in positive ways."
Hindman said serving as mayor has been an honor and a privilege.
"I hope and I feel that Columbia has become a better place these last 15 years," Hindman said.
He said it has been a privilege to serve with the council members in office during his time as mayor.
"You've got a terrific new mayor coming on," Hindman said. "Congratulations, Bob. I look forward to you serving as mayor."
After his speech, Hindman received a standing ovation.
"That makes a person feel good," he said in response.
Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl, Fourth Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley and Mayor Bob McDavid were sworn in. A gavel was presented to McDavid by Hindman and the three new council members took their seats behind the dais.
Kespohl said there are serious issues Columbia must face, including the economy, public safety and the future direction of the city.
"Let me address the sense of unease by saying I love Columbia," Kespohl said. "Tonight, I pledge to do only the best for Columbia."
He thanked Skala for his service and asked everyone to applaud the former council member.
Dudley thanked Wade for handing him the baton.
"I look forward to asking you questions and getting advice from you in the future," Dudley said. "I'm sure we'll become better friends than we are now." The audience laughed and he added, "We'll spend more time together."
Dudley said he looks forward to hearing from constituents when he doesn't do as well as he should.
"I look forward to being the best person in the Fourth Ward that you've ever had," he said.
McDavid said it is tough to follow a "legend" like Hindman.
"He has left a legacy that will be in place for generations," McDavid said.
He also thanked Skala and Wade for their service, and he said he respects their experience, their expertise and their intellect.
"I certainly hope you'll be around to challenge us in the years ahead because we need that and we want that," McDavid said.
He said Columbia is one of the best places to live in the country and "we're going to make it even better."
Near the end of the meeting, Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser was re-elected as mayor pro-tem.
Missourian reporter Anne Christnovich contributed to this report.