COLUMBIA — The first candidate for the Columbia City Council is in.
Attorney Glen Ehrhardt, 50, filed his petition for the soon-to-be open Fifth Ward city seat on Tuesday.
Those interested in running for either the First Ward or Fifth Ward seat on the Columbia City Council first must collect the signatures of at least 50 registered voters who live in their ward and submit them to the city clerk for verification. Petition forms are available at the clerk's office at city hall. The filing period will close in late January. The election is April 5, 2011.
Although he has been asked to run for the council before, Ehrhardt chose to run this time around because he believes he finally has enough time to devote to the position, given that his two children are older.
“Columbia is at a crossroads when it comes to the future of the city,” Ehrhardt said. “I have lived here for over 30 years, and I believe it’s important to be proactive and give back to the community.”
Ehrhardt said that he was encouraged to run by many people and that his family and co-workers at his law firm — Rogers, Ehrhardt and Weber — also have been very supportive.
In the spring, he supported the campaign of now-Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl and said he admired Kespohl's years of public service before running for the council.
Much of Kespohl's campaign was built around criticism of then-incumbent Karl Skala's travel expenses. It was Ehrhardt who filed the Sunshine Law request for the travel expenses of all council members.
"I was approached by someone who is interested in having a watchdog role over government, and I filed the requests for the council members' travel expenses because of my experience as an attorney," Ehrhardt said.
However, Ehrhardt said his decision to run for the council was completely unrelated to that episode.
He also supported the campaigns of Mayor Bob McDavid, current Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser and former Fifth Ward Councilman John John.
Ehrhardt said he hopes to continue the job Nauser is doing on the council, adding that she is very open with constituents and takes a common-sense approach to the job.
His three top priorities are economic development, public safety and maintaining the characters of neighborhoods.
Ehrhardt said he hopes to increase job opportunities for people living in Columbia as well as outlying areas in Boone County. He also wants to maintain resources for the police and fire departments while also making sure that the Public Works Department has the necessary money to ensure roads are safe for Columbia residents.
Ehrhardt also mentioned the debate over where to run high-voltage transmission lines in the Fifth Ward when the city builds its new electric substation. Neighborhoods that could be affected include the Cascades, Woodrail, Bedford Walk, Thornbrook and Spring Creek.
He summed up his opinion in three words: “Bury the lines.” He already has contacted the presidents of several neighborhood associations and spoken with them about the feasibility of keeping the lines underground.
Kee Groshong, who was treasurer for McDavid’s mayoral campaign, will fill the same role for Ehrhardt’s. He has known Ehrhardt for several years since both are members of the Columbia South Rotary Club.
“He is a smart individual and will do a very good job in public service because he is interested in helping the community,” Groshong said.
Although Ehrhardt is a former member of the Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors, he said he reached the decision to run for council independent of the chamber and had not spoken with the chamber’s recruitment committee as a whole.
Ehrhardt also is vice president and on the board of directors for Alternative Community Training Inc. and Mid-Missouri Legal Services. He attends Woodcrest Chapel.