COLUMBIA — Fifth Ward candidate Glen Ehrhardt believes he has the most historical perspective of all the City Council candidates.
“I don’t have to go out and learn things about Columbia because I’ve been here,” Ehrhardt said. “I know about things that happened in Columbia over a decade ago.”
Ehrhardt moved to Columbia 32 years ago to attend MU, and he stuck around after obtaining a law degree to open a law firm and start a family.
He is a partner with Rogers, Ehrhardt & Weber LLC and has practiced law in Columbia for 25 years. Ehrhardt specializes in insurance defense and litigation.
Ehrhardt is on the board of his neighborhood homeowners association, Lake Woodrail, and is a member of Columbia South Rotary. In the past, he served on a number of community boards such as the Boys & Girls Club and the Columbia Chamber of Commerce.
The Fifth Ward race marks Ehrhardt’s first bid for an elected position. He is running against Helen Anthony for the Fifth Ward council seat being vacated by Laura Nauser. The election is April 5.
“I’ve been approached in the past to run, but the timing was just never right because of work and family obligations,” he said.
Now that his children, Justin, 19, and Beth, 16, are older, Ehrhardt said he felt ready to seek an elected office.
Ehrhardt's experience in Columbia has allowed him to meet and work with people who are involved in many facets of the community such as Stephens College, MU, the Chamber of Commerce and Regional Economic Development Inc.
“The individuals I have come to know in Columbia would be a tremendous resource to me as a council person,” Ehrhardt said. “The kind of knowledge I have gained from knowing these numerous individuals is an asset.”
A look at Ehrhardt’s petition to run in the Fifth Ward reveals some notable names. Among them are former Boone County Sheriff Ted Boehm, former Fifth Ward councilman John John and Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Chris Belcher.
Kee Groshong, a former vice chancellor at MU and former treasurer of Bob McDavid’s successful mayoral campaign, is serving as Ehrhardt’s treasurer. Dick Walls, a former Fifth Ward councilman and owner of Boone Tavern, is Ehrhardt’s deputy treasurer.
“I’m more than just a planner,” Ehrhardt said. “Planning is important, but it is by no means all. There are so many more factors.”
Ehrhardt said a willingness to ask questions up front is key to being an effective member of the council.
In 2007, Ehrhardt was selected to serve on the Columbia Public Schools' High School Site Selection Committee. He opposed the first suggested site for Columbia’s third high school, a farm formerly owned by Turner Vemer at Range Line and New Haven roads. Ehrhardt cited infrastructure costs and poor location as reasons to dismiss the Vemer site.
“I was one of the first people to raise questions after that site was announced,” Ehrhardt said. “We needed an open and transparent process that would tell us how much money equipping that site would cost us.”
He requested these costs from former superintendent Phyllis Chase in a string of e-mails that the Missourian published in September 2007.
“We can save so much time and effort if we ask for specifics and examples,” Ehrhardt said.
As a councilman, it would be important to raise questions “right off the bat” before any development or decision made it very far along, he said.
Creating jobs and ensuring that Columbia is a “business-friendly environment” are two of the main components of Ehrhardt’s platform.
“It is City Council’s responsibility to provide jobs to the community,” he said. “We need to build bridges with businesses, not create barriers.”
An increase in jobs would lead to an increase in consumer spending and, in turn, greater sales tax revenue for the city, Ehrhardt said. This increase in revenue could be used to pay for necessary city services such as firefighters and police.
Ehrhardt supports the installation of the downtown security cameras approved by voters in April 2010 and was involved with Keep Columbia Safe, the citizen group that promoted Proposition 1 that called for the cameras.
Ehrhardt said he voted for the downtown security cameras and would stand by that vote.
"We all use downtown, and I personally believe that the cameras have a deterrent effect on crime," Ehrhradt said.
The cameras would also help those falsely accused of crimes, he said.
"The security cameras could protect your rights," Ehrhardt said. "For instance, if you know you weren't there, you know you didn't commit the crime, the camera could provide solid evidence that could clear you at a prompt and early stage. That aspect of the cameras is equally important."
The Columbia Chamber of Commerce, Columbia Professional Firefighters and the Columbia Police Officers Association endorsed Ehrhardt earlier this month.