COLUMBIA — After more than 37 years as a city sewer superintendent, Bill Weitkemper announced on Friday he will run for the Fourth Ward City Council seat.
The former city worker said he can offer a different perspective to city government.
"I've spent 37 years talking to people about issues, and a lot of them repeat," Weitkemper said. "It's good to have institutional knowledge in those circumstances."
The 40-year Columbia resident said he wants a residency requirement for all future city employees, especially top management. Weitkemper said that if officials aren't living in the areas they work, they are less connected to the issues facing those areas.
Weitkemper said he's not satisfied with the current direction of the city.
"The city is focusing on ventures like Enhanced Enterprise Zones when it should be concentrating on maintaining jobs and improving infrastructure," he said.
Weitkemper said he never before considered running for a City Council seat, but he said he found his city job, which he regarded as a public service, to be rewarding.
"Serving as City Councilman is just another opportunity to offer community service," he said.
He works for the Show-Me Cosmopolitan club, a charitable service club.
Weitkemper started working in sewer management in 1976.
"We brought sewer maintenance from the dark ages to modern times," said longtime co-worker Terry Hennkens, now retired, who lives in the Fourth Ward and signed Weitkemper's petition for candidacy. The two have worked together on many projects during 35 years.
Weitkemper's has been critical of the city's sewer management.
"We had a different outlook on the way things should be done," Weitkemper said. "Before we came in, the city had been just stopping and unstopping the sewers when there were problems. We actually would unstop the sewers, investigate and fix the problem."
David Sorrell has only worked with Weitkemper for 2 and 1/2 years, but has known him for much longer.
"Bill is passionate in what he believes in," Sorrell said. "If he believes something is right, that's what he's going to do."
Sorrell also said Weitkemper has a good memory.
"You can ask him something about the history of the area," he said. "And he can tell you off the top of his head."
Weitkemper said he could remember when there were only 200 miles of sewer pipelines in 1975, and that there are now about 670 miles of pipelines.
Weitkemper's son, Aaron, said his father's retirement has been a long time coming, and that he is excited for his candidacy.
"He's well-respected and a straight-shooter," he said. "I think he would give 'em a little kick in the pants. He knows what needs to be done."
Those who want to file for ward seats must collect signatures of at least 50 and no more than 75 registered voters who live in their ward and submit them to the city clerk on a nominating petition. Those who want to run for mayor need signatures from at least 100 and no more than 150 registered voters in the city.
The deadline for submitting nominating petitions for the April election is Jan. 8.