Mayor Darwin Hindman’s decision to seek a record fifth term as Columbia’s top elected official brought enthusiastic responses from fellow council members.
Hindman, in a news conference at his law offices Friday morning, called his decision to run for re-election “a tough choice” because he’s already been in office a record 12 years. He said he made his decision on the way to the office that morning.
“It is a very exciting time in Columbia, and I am firmly convinced that my experience will be valuable at this time of transition in the city,” said Hindman, 73, adding that he had to choose between continuing life in the public eye or retiring from city government.
Third Ward Councilman Bob Hutton, who has worked with Hindman on the council for the past six years, called the mayor’s decision “extremely good news.” Hutton and Fourth Ward Councilman Jim Loveless, whose terms expire in April along with Hindman’s, have already said they will not run for re-election.
Hutton said it would be “a really difficult situation” if all three council seats were to be filled by newcomers. Hindman’s continued service, he said, would be good for the city, “just for continuity and consistency and institutional memory. I think it is good that all three seats are not going to be occupied by new people.”
Loveless said he also is delighted by Hindman’s decision, saying that the mayor “has exhibited exceptional leadership” and that he agrees with Hindman’s vision for the city. Having worked with Hindman for several years, he described him as “a very agreeable person” and “a fine consensus builder.”
Karl Skala, who will run for Hutton’s seat on the council, said he is also pleased that Hindman will run again.
“He has been a long-standing mayor, and I think he represents the community very well,” he said. As a former vice chairman of the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission, Skala said he thinks the mayor and the rest of the council deserve credit for passing a comprehensive lighting ordinance last year and a stream-buffer ordinance this past week.
Hindman’s wife, Axie Hindman, said she fully supports her husband’s decision because she thinks “he is making a big contribution to our community by serving as a mayor.” She said it is important for him to “continue to carry out the projects he has been working on.”
In spite of Hindman’s commitment to city service, Axie Hindman said the mayor has always been able to balance the roles of mayor, husband, father and grandfather.
“I must say that he always makes sure that his family comes first,” she said, adding that there are benefits to being married to the mayor. Among those, she said, is meeting so many Columbia residents.
“Columbia has a very interesting and diverse group of citizens, and it has been a real privilege and pleasure for us to get to know so many of them,” she said. “And if he is re-elected, we look forward to continuing that experience.”
The mayor outlined an ambitious set of goals at his news conference, including completing street and parks projects approved by voters and using the PedNet Project, which is largely funded by a $21.5 million federal grant, to make the city more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly. He said he is also excited about pending projects downtown, including an expansion of city hall, and about the ongoing visioning process.
Hindman said he is eager to promote economic development in conjunction with emerging research at MU, a planned life sciences incubator and the development of the Discovery Ridge research park at MU’s South Farm. Another priority, he said, is to improve procedures and strategies for handling development and rezoning requests.
The mayor said the city needs to continue working to reduce crime in some neighborhoods, to develop more affordable housing and to improve storm-water, tree preservation and landscaping ordinances.
Hindman also said it’s time for the city to review its charter and decide whether it should be updated and whether City Council members should be paid.
Hindman said there is no real top priority among his goals “except to make Columbia the best place to live.” He said he approves whole-heartedly the effort to attract retirees and thinks the best way to do so is to help Columbia become a desirable place to live.
Hindman has yet to collect the required 75 signatures from registered voters to make his candidacy official.