COLUMBIA — On Friday, Susan "Tootie" Burns announced she will seek the Fifth Ward City Council seat, which will become available Nov. 30 but won't be filled until 2013.
Burns, 46, is a self-employed artist and community volunteer. She has been an active member of several local boards and organizations for more than 10 years, including the Grasslands Neighborhood Association, the University of Missouri University Club and the Regional AIDS interfaith Network.
"I want to be the voice of my community," Burns said.
Burns is looking to replace current Councilwoman Helen Anthony, who is resigning effective Nov. 30. Neither Burns nor city officials, however, know when the election to replace Anthony will take place.
Anthony announced her resignation from the seat during Monday's Columbia City Council meeting. The councilwoman cited stress of traveling back and forth between Columbia and Providence, R.I., to visit her husband, who accepted a job in the area.
According to city ordinance, because Anthony resigned with more than a year left in her term, the council must call a special election to fill her seat. For resignations that come within a year, the council can move to make an appointment without a special election.
City Manager Mike Matthes said the special election to replace Anthony could be held in February or April. He said state law governs specific dates when elections may take place, and the council will pick the date for the election during a November meeting.
The Fifth Ward seat will remain empty until the special election, Matthes said.
He said he's not worried about the vacant seat.
"The council works so well together that I don't anticipate any serious consequences," Matthes said. "I don't think that the business of the city will stall or pause with a six-member board."
Burns, however, said she doesn't think this scenario is ideal.
"I don't want the seat to remain empty for those several months," she said. "I don't want the Fifth Ward to be underrepresented."
Burns said if she were elected to the council, the issues she would focus on include friendly neighborhood development, trash, storm water, traffic and trails.
She specifically cited the Electric Transmission Project as an area of special interest.
"The city has grown a lot over the past few years and so have the electric needs of residents in southwest Columbia," Burns said.
She also said her extensive knowledge of neighborhood issues and involvement within a plethora of diverse community organizations helped build her knowledge of city issues.
“There’s always a learning curve, but I feel confident that I can do what’s best for my community and Columbia’s neighborhood," Burns said.
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