Former Columbia councilman, public servant Jerry Wade dies

Monday, July 28, 2014 | 10:21 p.m. CDT; updated 11:19 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Jerry Wade, who died Saturday at 73, served on the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission for 15 years and as Fourth Ward City Councilman for one term. He also ran for mayor in 2010.

COLUMBIA — Sutu Forté, a friend of and partner in community action with Jerry Wade, organized the music and fanfare for his mayoral campaign in 2010. Saturday, Forté did the same as a tribute to Wade's life.

Forté and Bill Clark emceed the event at House of Chow, Wade's favorite restaurant. The original plan was for Columbia Access Television to record the event so Wade could watch the tribute at home, Forté said. Wade died the morning of the tribute, but friends and family still gathered to celebrate and say goodbye.

"I know Jerry, I speak in the present tense because he's not gone, he just had to leave that painful earth suit," Forté said. She said she truly believes in her heart that Wade was there at House of Chow.

Former Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade died Saturday of lung cancer. He was 73.

Forté said Wade understood how community works. "There was a great deal of diplomacy with him," she said. "He was a gentlemen."

When Wade ran for mayor in 2010, Forté supported him as much as she could by providing music and entertainment for his campaign events. Still, Forté said her primary connection to Wade was through nature.

Forté said her first recollection of Wade came the morning of the 2008 Columbia City Council vote on a new bike trail through Hinkson Valley, a part of the GetAbout Columbia project improvements, according to previous Missourian reporting.

Wade arrived at Bluff Dale Drive and walked around the natural area. Forté said he told the council later that night that the area must be preserved as it is.

Later, Forté and neighbor Barbara Wren started an organization called "It's Our Wild Nature" to further the fight to keep the Hinkson Valley wild. Wade became executive director of the organization, Forté said, and helped teach the group how to get organized and communicate with the council.

Wade's involvement in city politics began when he joined the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission, serving on the committee for 15 years total and nine years as chairman. It was there that he formally met Karl Skala, current Third Ward city councilman.

"I'm a friend of his, and I worked with him for a long time," Skala said. "But Jerry, he was a role model. His legacy is more important than the fact that he's no longer here. I think a lot of people learned from him."

Skala said Wade was an exemplar in the art of compromise.

"He was a consensus builder. I wish I had the kind of talents he had," he said.

Years ago, Wade revised the voting method used by the Planning and Zoning Commission, Skala said. The commission employed the traditional "thumbs down means no" and "thumbs up means yes," but Wade added a third option — a sideways thumb, meaning, "Well, I can live with it."

"He was always kind of a mentor of mine," he said. "He was someone to emulate because he had lots of skills in regard to consensus building."

In 2007, Wade became Fourth Ward city councilman, leaving the position in 2010 after an unsuccessful bid for mayor.

During his time as councilman, Wade helped the city and Boone County Fire Protection District reach a territorial agreement to share jurisdiction of areas at the city's edge. He also helped pass a private sewer ordinance that allowed homeowners with private sewers to no longer share repair costs with the city.

According to previous Missourian reporting, Wade said he took pride in his work in the areas of working with citizens at the neighborhood level and economic development.

Wade also had strong ties to MU. All of his degrees — a bachelor's degree in sociology, a master's degree in community development and a doctorate in rural sociology — came from MU. He worked as a community development specialist with MU Extension until 2000.

Wade served as president and membership chair of The Audubon Society of Missouri. He was a founder and treasurer of the Missouri Bird Conservation Initiative Foundation.

Wade died at his home. He is survived by his wife, Edge Wade; a daughter, Kimberly Wade, and her husband, David Bones, of Columbia; two grandchildren, Sophia and Elliot Bones of Columbia; and a brother, James M. Wade of Las Vegas.

Supervising editor is Mary Ryan.

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