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Columbia Missourian

Reisch defeats Austene in Hallsville race for mayor

By Antony Lee
April 4, 2012 | 7:30 p.m. CDT
Cheri Reisch, the newly elected mayor of Hallsville, stands outside of her office at Village Manor Property Management on Wednesday. Reisch was fired as Hallsville City Clerk in late December and decided to run for mayor shortly thereafter.

COLUMBIA —The Hallsville Board of Alderman voted to fire city clerk Cheri Reisch last December. But that wasn't the end of her career in public office. Her termination eventually became the starting point for another job in the city — a higher ranking one.

After her firing, Reisch decided to run for mayor of Hallsville, and filed her candidacy papers in January. On Tuesday, she defeated incumbent Ben Austene with 53 percent of the vote.

Reisch said she was aware people were concerned that her motivation in running for the office was to get revenge on the board, with whom she will be working closely as its head.

"People are wondering — am I going to be spiteful or hateful?" Reisch said. "Not at all. I love my community. I love the people of Hallsville. It's my home. It's my passion, my career."

For Patti Soukup, who has been a Hallsville resident for almost 12 years, Reisch's victory was a breath of fresh air.

"I just know the city has been in a funk for a while," Soukup said. "She's going to be the best mayor we've had."

Issues that came up in this election include a dispute between a local farmer, Frank Martin, and the city, which is in the process of acquiring his land because of sewage-related violations. The city disagrees with Martin about how much money he should receive for his land.

Sewer bills would increase for residents if the city acquires the land because they would have to pay for the land aquisition and the operation of the sewage system, Reisch said.

Aldermen Mickey Nichols, who represents the First Ward and also owns a local auto parts shop, said he thought Reisch ran to get revenge. Nichols was on the board when Reisch was fired in a 3-1 vote.

"I think it's a sad day in Hallsville," Nichols said. "The reason she ran for mayor is she has an axe to grind."

Nichols said there are "numerous reasons she's not fit for the job."

"I'll try working with her," Nichols said. "I think we have a totally different philosophy on how the city should be run. It will be awkward."

Nassa Anderson, who was raised in Hallsville and went to school with Reisch, said she is confident her former classmate will find the best ways to address issues.

"I think she'll do as much for the community as anyone could," Anderson said.

Mark Abbott, the owner of Bad Citizen Coffee & Pub, where Reisch held her watch party Tuesday evening, said there was a definite divide in the city.

"No matter whose side you're on, it's nice to see people excited about the process," Abbott said. "It was a close election. Change in government is always good."

Abbott said he does not think the division will keep the city down for long. Jokingly, he said that in a small town, "we all hate each other, but just a little bit."

"Things will get better," Abbott said. "People in this town have a lot more in common than in opposition."

"It was in the hands of the people," Reisch said. "My main objective is to have open, honest government. I'm just excited to work with the citizens. It's going to be a unique situation."