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Columbia Missourian

Karl Skala reclaims Third Ward Columbia City Council seat

By Madeline O'Leary, Tony Puricelli
April 2, 2013 | 11:15 p.m. CDT
Karl Skala embraces supporter Peter Byger after the election results revealed Skala as the winner of the third ward council member position. Skala's election watch party was held on Tuesday at the Bleu Restaurant and Wine Bar.

THIRD WARD: Includes the northeastern portion of Columbia.

WINNER'S PRIORITIES: Karl Skala wants to create new jobs by supporting local businesses and making more vocational and technical training opportunities available. He wants to restructure costs for infrastructure and growth by establishing user-based fees based on impact rather than relying on tax increases. He also wants to emphasize proactive regional planning to avoid duplication of infrastructure and maintain property values in existing neighborhoods.


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Roads and infrastructure: Skala says road and sidewalk improvements are imperative in the Ballenger Lane and Clark Lane corridors. He wants to see Third Ward infrastructure projects receive more attention and funding from the city.

Police and crime: He believes the Police Department must work hard to build public trust. He supports increased use of community policing.

Transit system: Skala believes the city should have a fleet of buses of varying sizes that can be deployed on routes based on differing levels of demand.


Skala's watch party

Skala's gathering in the back room of the lower level of Bleu had started to thin out with 75 percent of precincts reporting. When news broke of his victory at 9:47 p.m., however, people began coming out of the woodwork to congratulate the candidate.

Upon hearing the news, Skala started pacing the room excitedly. The first words out of his mouth were, "I wish I had a Hawaiian shirt on." Instead, he was wearing his trademark black turtleneck and photo vest.

Mahree Skala, his wife, began hugging everyone around her, a wide but exhausted smile stretched across her face.

"I knew I'd get to call him councilman again," said Alyce Turner, who serves on the Energy and Environment Commission with Skala. 

Turner went on to share her enthusiasm for the future of the City Council.

"I think now we have an opportunity with Karl and Ian (Thomas) on the council to really make Columbia what it can be," Turner said. "I'm so pleased. This is going to make such a difference."

Chants of "Hooray for Karl" and a long line of supporters waiting to shake his hand set the tone after the results were announced.

In a speech to the room, Skala expressed his excitement for a more progressive City Council. Supporters echoed sentiments of a transition away from a Chamber of Commerce-endorsed council.

"We have flipped the council," Skala said. "This will make a difference."

"I think this means the world to him," said Ashley Skala, his daughter. "I mean, this city is where he raised his family. I think he's very proud to live here, and I think that he shows time and again that he really loves where he lives and wants to help the city grow."

Skala said this campaign taught him not to sweat the small stuff.

"It's fun when you win. It's awful when you lose," Skala said, laughing. "It was really depressing when I lost in 2010. I mean, what could you say, except that you were going to continue? That's what you do, when you're serious about it. You can't quit."

As Skala spoke, his wife stood silently in the background, visibly struck with emotion. She spoke of how hard he has worked and how hard he will work as a council member. He's basically coming out of retirement, she said.

Skala's transition into the council will open up his seat on the Planning and Zoning Commission and, consequently, his Thursday nights, the time when MU Choral Union rehearses. The Skalas used to sing together there before he joined the commission.

"Now he can go back to singing in the choir," Mahree Skala said.

Kespohl's watch party

The tone was different at the watch party of Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl, who lost to Skala by 150 votes.

Less than an hour before the results were announced, Kespohl never saw it coming.

"If they count the precincts the same way they did last election, I'll win," he said.

Kespohl held his watch party at Jack's Gourmet off Business Loop 70 in the same dimly lit dining area where his campaign kick-off took place.

About 40 people gathered around the tables. Soft conversation and intermittent laughter hummed among them. Their postures painted portraits of fatigue — shoulders hunched, forearms pressed to the table, fingers drumming the surface. Seventy-five percent of the precincts had been counted. Skala maintained a lead of about 9 percentage points about 9:19 p.m.

"This time in 2010, Kespohl was losing by well over 100 votes," said Larry Grossman, a Columbia businessman. "The Democratic precincts are always counted first."

At 9:47 p.m., the final results trickled in.

With repose, Kespohl told the modest audience he had lost. Supporters groaned with disappointment. He coughed lightly.

"I'm afraid for Columbia now because of what Skala wants to do," Kespohl said. "He may drive development completely out of Columbia."

Despite the loss, Kespohl said he won't drop out of sight.

"I'm still going to get involved. I just want to see Columbia grow and prosper."

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.