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Columbia Missourian

Ian Thomas wins Fourth Ward Columbia City Council seat

By Chris Jasper, Elle Hoffman, Nuria Mathog
April 2, 2013 | 11:24 p.m. CDT
Ian Thomas, the Fourth Ward City Council winner, talks to a supporter during his watch party Tuesday evening at Broadway Brewery.

The Fourth Ward: Includes the southwest portion of the city, bounded by  Broadway to the north, Scott Boulevard to the west, the MKT Trail to the south and Providence Road to the East. It includes the Fairview, College Park, Old Southwest, Historic West Broadway and Village of Cherry Hill neighborhoods.

Winner's priorities: Thomas, a transportation consultant and former director of the PedNet Coalition, wants to address some of the city's street needs by using a "traffic demand management tool kit" that promotes carpooling, a better bus system and staggered commute times. He also believes widening West Broadway east of West Boulevard is unnecessary.

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Airport: Thomas says airport terminal upgrades are important but would guard against spending exorbitant amounts of money on the project. He's reluctant to offer airlines incentives such as revenue guarantees.

Downtown: Zoning changes might be necessary to control the number of student apartments downtown, he says, and he wants to encourage more downtown housing for professionals, seniors and families.

Police and crime: Thomas says the Police Department needs more officers. He supports community policing strategies and wants to empower neighborhoods to combat crime, particularly in the First Ward.

The Scene

Thomas' watch party

A casual, warm gathering filled at least half of Broadway Brewery at Thomas' watch party. People enjoyed crackers, dips, spreads and beer. A small group of people circled around the television waiting for numbers, but most attendees engaged in conversations while standing in small groups or gathering around tables. Thomas remained toward the back of the room, greeting all who wanted to talk to him with a firm handshake and a smile.

Some attendees were residents of other wards who wanted to show support by attending the party.

“I don’t drive, so his work on the bus system is interesting to me," said Beth Hastings, a Columbia resident and PedNet supporter. "I don’t live in his ward, but I would have voted for him; he’s a good guy who can get a lot done.” 

The constant flow of conversation at the party was only halted by the sounds of an improvised drum roll made by hands on a table to announce that final numbers were released. The room erupted in joyful cheering and hardy whistles when Thomas’ victory was declared.

Upon hearing the news, Thomas hastily put on his glasses, leaving them crookedly perched on his nose just above an unmoving smile. He then began to read his victory speech, occasionally referencing notes written in a composition book.

In his speech, Thomas thanked his family, fellow candidates, and supporters. 

“I’m looking forward to the upcoming work session," Thomas said. "I am very pleased to be serving the community.”

Dudley's watch party

The small crowd surrounding Daryl Dudley barely reacted as he set his phone down after checking the final results. He had lost his seat on the City Council. Sitting at the end of a table at Rio Grande, he forced a smile and said, “Oh, well.”

Flamenco music filled in the strained silence as his supporters stood up from their chairs and prepared to leave. Dudley stood up and accepted their embraces as they walked out.

“Well, this will free up my Mondays,” Dudley said.

“The citizens decided they like Ian at the helm,” he said. “I accept their judgment.”

For the election, he picked a special tie from his collection of over 500 ties: the American flag. As ever, Dudley adorned his tie with a pin reading, “Cancer sucks.” Absent from the watch party was Dudley’s wife, Rita, who is receiving cancer treatments.

“This will give me a chance to stay at home with my wife as she goes through her next round of chemo,” he said.

Though his eyes were red, he smiled, shrugged his shoulders and said, “That’s just the way the people voted.” He also said that although he wasn’t sure if he would try to reclaim his seat in three years, he would stay involved in local politics.

Weitkemper's watch party

At Booches, Bill Weitkemper sat quietly on a wooden chair, hands folded serenely across his chest. Beneath the harsh glow of an overhead lamp, his friends and family chatted at wooden tables dotted with empty glasses and Coke cups. Weitkemper stared intently at the numbers flashing across the bottom of the television screen, pausing every so often to exchange words with his supporters.

"I don't think I'm doing so good," he said.

About 9 p.m., Weitkemper briefly left the establishment to congratulate Thomas on his victory. He said he told the newly elected Fourth Ward councilman that he would be great at his job.

Still, he said, his defeat won't stop him from being active in the community. On Wednesday morning, he'll be up bright and early to attend an 8 a.m. Water and Light Advisory Board meeting. On Thursday, he'll be present at a meeting on disability issues.

He also has something to look forward to on April 15: a Boy Scout campout with his grandson Jacob. It'll be his first campout since November, the month before he announced his candidacy for the Fourth Ward seat.

Ken Leija, who helped with the advertising component of Weitkemper's campaign, said he was impressed with the former sewer superintendent's understanding of city issues. He expressed hope that Weitkemper's "good thinking" had made an impact on the City Council.

His wife, Judy, said she was proud of her husband and his ideas to make Columbia a better place.

"He's really the best candidate," she said. "The community just doesn't know it."

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.