COLUMBIA – Incumbent Columbia City Council members Daryl Dudley and Gary Kespohl, as well as former councilman Karl Skala, filed petitions with City Clerk Sheela Amin on Tuesday morning to run for council seats in April.
Kespohl and Dudley will be seeking their second terms in the Third and Fourth wards, respectively. Skala is trying to win back the council seat he lost to Kespohl in 2010.
Those who want to file for ward seats on the Columbia City Council must collect signatures from between 50 and 75 registered voters from their wards and present the petitions to the City Clerk at the Daniel Boone City Building. Candidates for mayor must collect signatures from between 100 and 150 registered voters who live anywhere in the city.
There was a bit of a kerfuffle, however, as to who was first in line to file Tuesday morning at the Daniel Boone City Building. The matter is arguably important because the name of the person who files first will appear first on the ballot.
Kespohl and Skala have run against each other twice before. In 2007, Skala won re-election by the slim margin of 63 votes. In 2010, Kespohl emerged the victor by 54 votes. So having one's name first on the ballot could be a significant factor.
Kespohl, however, noted that the candidate whose name appeared second on the previous two ballots won the Third Ward seat.
City Clerk Sheela Amin dated both filings at 8 a.m., and the ballot position will be decided by a coin flip.
Looking ahead to the campaign, Kespohl said he has unfinished business to take care of if re-elected, starting with improvements at Columbia Regional Airport.
"I want it up and running with a new terminal so it can be available for new businesses," Kespohl said.
Kespohl said he believes good air service is crucial to making Columbia more attractive to new businesses, and he wants to see the airport continue to grow. He's happy with the service Delta Airlines provides to Memphis, Tenn., and Atlanta. The city also has announced agreements with Frontier Airlines to begin flights to Orlando, Fla., next month and with American Airlines to fly to Dallas and Chicago beginning early next year.
Kespohl said another goal if re-elected is to continuing recalling and reissuing city bonds.
"Three of these bonds have already been recalled and reissued, leaving five more," he said. "Recalling and reissuing these will save the city between $25 and $30 million."
Kespohl also wants to tackle concerns expressed by residents with disabilities. He wants more parking spots for them downtown and he wants to make both the Columbia airport and the Columbia Dinner Train wheelchair-accessible.
Kespohl is interested in establishing enhanced enterprise zones, which create tax incentives for businesses that expand or locate in designated areas. He said he shares public concern about the potential impact on neighborhoods, but cited the success Sedalia has had with EEZs as evidence that they work.
"The entire city is an EEZ," he said. "This has helped the growth of the entire area."
Regarding the election and his campaign, Kespohl said he has a record to run on now against Skala. "We see things differently," he said.
Skala said that if he's elected he wants to address policies and issues that weren't resolved before he lost in 2010.
"I want the growth management perspective to continue in council," he said.
Skala said he wants to organize his campaign's focus around neighborhood integrity and issues he learned about while collecting signatures on his nomination petition. These issues vary from public safety to infrastructure to representation in government.
"By walking door to door, I learned about these concerns," Skala said. "One of them is police protection and community policing. Next was how each neighborhood area is treated in terms of road infrastructure."
Skala also is interested in the expansion of the transportation system. He thinks it is heading in good direction but said it needs help.
"It needs to be fixed in some fashion," he said.
Skala thinks Columbia is on the cusp of a growth surge and believes economic incentives around the manufacturing sector, coupled with an emphasis on technical education, will boost development. He also is a strong proponent of managed growth, saying it will save the city money.
"I am not a fan of EEZ and the 'blight' attachment," Skala said.
Finally, Skala said he learned lessons from the 2010 campaign.
"If there is a position your opponent misrepresents and they can get it to voters before you can correct it, you will lose," he said. Kespohl in 2010 made an issue of Skala's spending on travel and meals as a councilman.
Skala said he and his campaign will deal with any misinformation more effectively this time around.
"Folks need to understand there are two sides, and they need to make their decision knowing that," he said.
Skala also said he wants to run on the important concept of openness and transparency within government.
"I want to stay in touch and be accessible to my constituents," he said.
Along with the Third and Fourth Ward seats, the mayor's seat on the council also is up for re-election this year. Residents also will vote in either February or April on a replacement for Fifth Ward Councilwoman Helen Anthony, who announced that she will resign effective Nov. 30.
Missourian reporter Matt Schacht contributed to this report.
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.