You might have seen him walking around the city carrying a bright yellow-and-black umbrella. Or he might have visited your home as he went door-to-door in the Fourth Ward.
Who is he? He is Jerry Wade, and he’s running for the Fourth Ward seat on the Columbia City Council in the April 3 election.
Early on in the campaign, Wade said the umbrella proved useful to keep the cold rain and snow off him. As time went on, it became a symbol of his campaign, an easy way for people to identify him. The umbrella logo is featured on all his campaign paraphernalia.
“The umbrella creates a unique identification,” Wade said. “You see a person on the street; you don’t think much of it. You see a guy with an umbrella, and it’s someone you’ve seen before. You instantly connect.”
Besides knocking on doors across the Fourth Ward, Wade’s campaign strategy includes meeting with as many small groups of people as possible and posting and updating his Web site. He said he also hopes the people who want him as their representative will spread the word by talking to friends and neighbors.
Wade’s wife, Edge Wade, said her husband has enjoyed going door-to-door and meeting people.
“I would come home deadbeat with what he’s done,” she said. “He comes home elated. I’m amazed at how much fun he’s had and how much he’s enjoyed meeting and listening to people.”
At the beginning of his campaign, Wade predicted it would be a challenge for him because he has never run for public office and because it would be difficult to clearly articulate who he is and what he believes. The election season, however, has taught him a lot.
“I feel more comfortable now,” Wade said. “I think it’s been (campaigning) and all the supportive and helpful people that I’ve had help me and that I’ve been able to associate with.”
Wade, 66, has lived in the Fourth Ward for 24 of the 42 years he and Edge Wade have been married. Their daughter, Kimberly Wade, and her family also live in the Fourth Ward.
Wade said he first came to Columbia as a student in 1963 and fell in love with it. He left in 1972 to take a job in Illinois but returned in 1979. He said he “could not wait to get back.”
What he says about the issues
“I like the Fourth Ward because we have fairly good access to wherever we want to go,” Wade said. “The city has quality services, but the key is Columbia is full of really, really nice people, but a lot of nice people who are very diverse, and it makes for a really nice tapestry of communication.”
Wade worked for 21 years as a state specialist for MU Extension, helping communities foster economic growth and create jobs. He was also an instructor and director for the Heartland Economic Development
Course for 14 years. He is now an associate professor emeritus for MU.
He has been a member of the Columbia Planning and Zoning
Commission since 1992 and commission chairman since 1999. Wade said that experience and his professional background are “solid preparation” for representing the Fourth Ward.
“My skills, experience and pride in Columbia will help guide our city in this time of growth,” Wade said.
At a Feb. 11 open house and bake sale to help kickoff Wade’s campaign, Kimberly Wade introduced her father and called him her “hero.”
“He is both a visionary and very practical,” she said. “That’s an extraordinary mix to have.”
Kimberly Wade said throughout her father’s career, he has helped small communities here and around the world, including South Africa, develop visions for the future and then come up with practical steps to make them reality.
“His whole life has been devoted to service ... ,” she said. “He’s been a model. He cares about serving the community rather than personal financial gain. That’s very admirable.”
Neighbors, friends, family and other Fourth Ward residents showed up at the bake sale and another open house earlier that day to show their support, find out more information and volunteer to help with the campaign. Wade used the time to mix and mingle, easily moving from person to person and group to group answering questions about himself and his campaign. Several in attendance said Wade’s experience would help on the council.
Fourth Ward resident Jack Clark heard good things about Wade and wanted to volunteer to help.
“Jerry has had considerable experience as chairman of the Planning and Zoning commission,” Clark said. “I think that experience will help him.”
Another resident, Jeff Chinn, said it’s important to elect council members who will take responsibility for the city’s growth. “Jerry, with his experience on planning and zoning and his knowledge of development,
is an ideal candidate.”
When Wade is not campaigning, he enjoys reading, traveling and spending time with his grandchildren, 8-year-old Elliot and 5-year-old Sophia. He and his wife enjoy birding, traveling to places they’ve never seen and trying new foods. Among their favorite places are southern
Texas and the Rio Grande Valley, which they visit the first two weeks of every year. Bird watching there and in southern California, which they usually visit in February, allow them to see species they can’t in Missouri or the Midwest.
Another favorite pasttime for Wade is taking Elliot to the Cherry Street Artisan on Saturday mornings to read. They have read “Robin Hood,” “Black Beauty” and “Kidnapped.”
He said they go to the Artisan because it’s his grandson’s favorite place. Elliot said he likes the Artisan’s baked goods and scones, and he likes reading with his grandfather. Kimberly Wade said her father likes to read the classics he read as a child.
“It has been so much fun going back and reading them now than when I did at Elliot’s age,” Wade said.
Wade said he is running for council now because Columbia is a growing city reaching a critical point in its history.
“The decisions we make over the next several years will be critical in influencing that growth,” Wade said. “I care about what that will be. I care because this is where my grandkids are going to grow up.”
Some of the main issues Wade wants to address include the interests of the Fourth Ward, the role of the City Council, development policies and economic expansion.
“The interests of the Fourth Ward and the welfare of our city will be my priorities,” Wade said.
Wade said the role of the council is to set policy and to make major decisions. However, the decisions should reflect the input of citizens. He also said that clear, concise development policies are essential.
Wade also said that downtown revitalization would benefit all Columbians and that the time is right to do it.
John Ott, who owns property downtown, hosted an open house for Wade at The Tiger hotel. He said it is important to have council members who appreciate downtown and want to see it improved.
“Jerry falls into that category,” Ott said.
Citizen participation is a theme that has resounded throughout Wade’s campaign. At a recent forum co-sponsored by the Columbia Board of Realtors and the Boone County Smart Growth Coalition, he repeated a phrase first uttered at his early open houses.
“Democracy is governance by those who show up,” he said.
“There are six people here who have shown up,” Wade said of candidates at the forum. “So on April 3, I urge you to show up ... and vote.”