COLUMBIA — Laura Nauser is the only incumbent who has filed to run in the spring 2014 City Council elections, but there are about two months left before the filing deadline.
The First and Fifth ward seats will be up for re-election. Only about four people have picked up the necessary paperwork to enter the race, City Clerk Sheela Amin said. To officially file for the election, candidates must provide a petition with no less than 50 signatures from registered voters from the ward they seek to represent. If elected, City Council members serve terms of three years.
First Ward City Councilman Fred Schmidt's term ends in April, as does Fifth Ward City Councilwoman Nauser's term. Ginny Chadwick, who served as Schmidt's treasurer during his campaign, confirmed that Schmidt told her that he had decided not to run next year.
Now, the 36-year-old graduate student pursuing dual master's degrees in journalism and public health is gathering signatures for a petition should she decide to run.
"I was not going to run in opposition to Fred, but now I'm considering it," she said.
Chadwick, who also worked on former First Ward City Councilman Paul Sturtz's campaign when he was elected in 2008, declined to comment on the issue any further.
"I will make a formal statement after this weekend," she said.
KOPN 89.5 FM radio talk-show host Tyree Byndom is also considering running for the First Ward. A friend of the late Almeta Crayton, Byndom was presented with the "Columbia Values Diversity Award" in January for his work promoting social justice and diversity. In past years, Byndom reinvigorated the Douglass Park Neighborhood Association. He now serves as a member of the Mayor's Task Force on Community Violence and works as a partner in the consulting firm Byndom, Stanton and Associates.
Byndom said he has to consider his background before deciding to run. He is trying to figure out how he might run as an official candidate while respecting the political system and values of his religion as a member of the Bahá'í faith, he said. Bahá'ís are prohibited from holding membership in a political party, but may serve their government in administrative posts, according to the Bahá'í International Community website.
"I'm kind of different," he said. "I'm not the cookie-cutter type of individual."
Though it's still early, whether or not Byndom runs is a decision to be made by the rest of the community, he said. It's not necessarily about what he wants as an individual.
"The only reason running is in consideration is because I've had individuals from the community express that I inspire them and that it's making them more receptive to the process of making our community better," Byndom said. "If that's the prevailing sentiment, if people believe their voice matters and counts, if it's something that inspires people, then that's why I'll consider it. The only reason anyone is elected to office is because they have the support of the people."
Sabrina Garcia-Rubio, owner of the Maude Vintage clothing store in downtown Columbia, originally considered running for First Ward but decided not to due to time commitments. Garcia-Rubio wants to focus on her business, and her husband, Max, plans to open a restaurant in the downtown area.
"Since I like to have a good work effort and want to be the best I can, I would potentially be devoting 40 hours to City Council on top of the 40 hours I work at my shop," she said.
Running for a city council position could be in Garcia-Rubio's future though, she said.
"It would feel better to me if I took a few years and grew into it organically by getting involved with city government from a ground level first," she said. "It's something I will do in the future."
Nauser said the link between her position with the council and as a co-chairwoman of the Mayor's Task Force on Community Violence is a key reason she decided to run.
"I want to see the task force through to completion," said Nauser, who also volunteers to advocate for foster care children. "My priority is crime in our community, public safety and family issues, and they're all connected. The city can help address the needs and issues concerning crime and the issues impacting families."
Nauser said that her voting record shows her voice adds a different perspective to City Council.
"I look at things differently, and it's important to have that on the council," she said. "There are many issues facing the city of Columbia that I have valuable perspective on to help address people's needs."
The deadline to officially file for candidacy is 5 p.m. Jan. 14, 2014.