COLUMBIA — Because of his strong ties to Columbia, Mike Atkinson decided in January to run for the Second Ward Columbia City Council seat.
At a fundraising event Wednesday evening, several friends and family members gathered to support Atkinson. Quinton’s Bar and Deli was a cacophony of music and conversation, the overarching topic of conversation being Atkinson's candidacy for the council.
"Mike would be good for City Council because he actually cares," one friend, Mike Pratt, said. "A lot of people just look for a title but not necessarily to lead."
Friend and fellow downtown small business owner, Elly Bethune, owner of Elly’'s Couture, said she supports Atkinson because he is really passionate about Columbia.
Atkinson was born and raised in Columbia and graduated from Rock Bridge High School in 1999. After double majoring in marketing and entrepreneurship at Baylor University, Atkinson found his way back to Columbia in 2005.
Atkinson is the co-owner of The Candy Factory and serves as a member of the Central Columbia Association's board. He is also a resident of the Second Ward.
There are two issues Atkinson said he feels need the most focus to ensure the betterment of the community. The first is budgeting city spending, according to Atkinson's campaign website. He wants to see money spent on projects that will provide a beneficial return to the economy.
"The functionality of the city begins and ends with the budgeting system," Atkinson said. "If we want high quality products and services, we need funds to do that."
Atkinson also said he would like to find a solution for the crime in the Second Ward. He plans to work with the Columbia Police Department to solve this problem.
"I want to work as hard as I can to make Columbia as good as it can be, not just for the future of Columbia, but for myself, too," Atkinson said. "I'm a business-owner and father of three kids. We need to take care of crime."
Having lived in Columbia for most his life, Atkinson said he would like to see Columbia stay "one of the best cities in the U.S." He said he wants to preserve its reputation and work to see non-residents praise Columbia.
"I want to keep Columbia unique and use its history as a baseboard to help make decisions for growth," Atkinson said.
Atkinson is one of three candidates in the Second Ward. Bill Pauls and Michael Trapp are also running for the seat. Incumbent Jason Thornhill decided not to run for re-election. Municipal elections will be held April 3.