COLUMBIA — Fred Schmidt said he will file his petition on Monday to run for the First Ward seat on the Columbia City Council after he obtains the required 50 registered voters’ signatures. He plans to gather the signatures at a party on Saturday evening where he has invited 200 people.
Schmidt said he is running to fill a void. At this point no one else has officially declared his or her candidacy for the seat, which is being vacated by Paul Sturtz, who is not running for re-election. Schmidt noted that there is going to be a large turnover in city staff.
“A lot of people are going to retire," he said. "We are losing institutional memory and special skills.” He mentioned Finance Department Director Lori Fleming and City Manager Bill Watkins as specific examples of outgoing officials.
Schmidt hopes to tackle issues such as the city’s budget, financial issues and the pension system. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Vassar College and a master's degree in economics from the University of California, Berkeley. Schmidt has worked for the Federal Reserve as a statistician and on Wall Street as a bond analyst.
Born and raised in Columbia, Schmidt decided to come back five years ago and start his own accounting firm, Accounting Cycle. He works as an accountant and prepares tax returns for small businesses.
Schmidt is the treasurer for the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation, which aims to double the number of people walking, bicycling and taking mass transit, according to the organization's website. He also worked for Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala as a deputy campaign treasurer during the April 2010 election.
Schmidt has been an active member of three neighborhood associations in the past few years and is currently working with the West Ash Neighborhood Association. His commitment to bringing citizens together to solve local problems extends to his involvement in the Neighborhood Response Team, which began its work in the First Ward and has since expanded the effort. The Neighborhood Response Team includes representatives of several city departments and tries to address housing code violations and other problems such as illegal drug activity, trash and abandoned vehicles.
Rebuilding dilapidated houses in the First Ward is not working well, said Schmidt.
“The cost to build a house is more than the value of the house in a lot of those areas,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt thinks fixing rundown homes could be accomplished through government funding, rezoning or low-cost, grass-roots solutions among others.
He also wants to focus on high unemployment in the First Ward. He said the city could take more advantage of state and federally funded job-training programs.