Soon-to-be-vacant City Council seats attract early attention

With Sturtz and Nauser stepping aside, others begin pondering ballot
Tuesday, November 2, 2010 | 4:23 p.m. CDT; updated 10:09 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, November 2, 2010

COLUMBIA — The Columbia Chamber of Commerce is forming a candidate recruitment committee to determine whom it would like to run for the First and Fifth Ward City Council seats.

First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz and Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser have decided not to run for re-election in April.

The chamber committee hasn't met yet and doesn't have a chairman, chamber President Don Laird said. "When we get together, we'll clarify it more."

The committee plans to meet "hopefully in the next couple weeks," Laird said, at which point it will "talk about everything that's out there."

The meeting will not be open to the public, and Laird said that "at this point we haven't determined whether it will be open to all chamber members."

"We'll have our first meeting. Then we'll develop protocol," Laird said.

Laird said he did not know the number of people who will be on the committee but confirmed it would comprise only chamber members.

"We’re getting together to talk about what the situation is and whether or not there are some good people interested in running," Laird said. "Then we'll decide whether we want to try to recruit."

During the last municipal election, the Chamber of Commerce endorsed council candidates for the first time in its history, and it also helped raise money for them. The candidates it supported — Bob McDavid, Gary Kespohl and Daryl Dudley — were elected mayor and Third and Fourth Ward representatives, respectively.

Don Stamper of the Central Missouri Development Council said that group is working with the chamber.

"We like to see progressive and business-minded individuals interested in job creation, retention, quality of life (and who) understand the impact of over-regulation. Well-balanced people like Gary Kespohl, (Jason) Thornhill and Daryl Dudley."

John Clark, a two-time candidate for mayor who also ran for the First Ward seat in 2008, said the strongest candidates often are those who are approached by others.

"That basically creates an organization," Clark said. "Increasingly, even for an unpaid position, having that kind of organization makes all the difference. The factors that go into whether you're elected are totally different from whether you'd make a good councilperson or whether you're qualified."

Sturtz, who is in his first term, said his decision not to see another stint on the council had "to do with having a 20-month-old son" and wanting to spend more time with him.

"Three years is a fairly large commitment," he said. "There are lots of other things demanding my attention. This is definitely not part of a career I'm building in politics."

Sturtz said he had been contacted by "a couple" of people interested in running for his seat, but he declined to name them.

"No one has announced," Sturtz said, "and I don't want to out them."

Sturtz said he hopes his successor will promote "the kind of clever ideas that can be used to preserve what’s special about Columbia" and "take care of infrastructure that has been allowed to deteriorate in the last many decades in the central city."

Sewer and stormwater infrastructure is "a huge problem," Sturtz said and something that his successor will have to deal with.

"It’s something that needs to be sorted out over the next few years, and it’s gonna cost a lot of money," Sturtz said of Columbia's sewage infrastructure.

Nauser, who is finishing her second term, said she wants a successor who "could look at issues objectively and not bring politics or ideology into it."

"This pro- and anti-development sentiment has got to stop," Nauser said, adding that she has not worked with anyone on City Council during her term who was against new development.

"I think environmental concerns are good, but we need to come up with a balance so it doesn’t tip the cost scale," Nauser said.

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