After 20 years of combined service, Bob Hutton and Jim Loveless gave enthusiastic “thank yous” to Columbia and their families as they bid goodbye to the City Council at a ceremony Monday night.
During their time on the council, the Third and Fourth Ward councilmen saw trail networks grow, the purchase and development of parks, a new Activity and Recreation Center, and expanded city government buildings.
“I’ve jokingly compared being a councilman to the opening line of (Charles Dickens’) ‘A Tale of Two Cities’: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,’” Hutton laughed. “I don’t know if anyone remembers that, but this is the speech I gave in 1995 when I retired the first time.”
Hutton, who served from 1989 to 1995 and 2001 to 2007, said the time was right for him to step down. After six years on the council, in addition to two years served earlier for the Second Ward from 1989 to 1991, Loveless also said it was time to give someone else the opportunity to speak for the citizens of the Fourth Ward.
“Bob and Jim have been straight-shooters,” City Manager Bill Watkins said Monday night. “There was never any doubt about their position on issues.”
Nile Kemble, of the Mexico Gravel neighborhood, said he wasn’t aware of much interaction between Hutton and constituents over the past six years, but he had the sense that Hutton was listening when residents spoke up.
“I know he was supportive when the neighborhood went to the council, and he listened to the neighborhood and the developers,” Kemble said.
Improving the city’s infrastructure, especially streets and government buildings was particularly important to the two councilmen, they said. While both said the city has made significant progress on buildings, rapid growth and a lack of money have made road issues difficult to address.
“I think it’s been handled relatively well,” Hutton said. “We’re between a rock and a hard place as far as keeping up with the road infrastructure.”
One of the biggest pending projects in the Fourth Ward is the widening of Scott Boulevard to make it safer and to help alleviate traffic congestion. Loveless said it was one of his top priorities when he came into office and is pleased to see it on track to be completed in the near future.
Wade gave Loveless some credit for getting that project moving and said he will continue to push it forward.
“Could it have been done quicker? Probably,” Wade said. “But I’m not sure what that would have entailed.”
Loveless was adamant that the city address the problem as quickly as possible.
“We pushed it just as hard as it could be pushed,” Loveless said.
In the Third Ward, Hutton helped the city make progress on the widening of Clark Lane east of U.S. 63 and the extension of Vandiver Drive to the highway, a project that accommodated the development of Bass Pro Shops and improved overall traffic flow in the northeast.
Skala said he supports the Vandiver extension, but he would rather see projects on Ballenger Lane completed.
Asked if there was anything in hindsight they wish they’d done differently, Loveless said he couldn’t address the question. Hutton, however, said second thoughts are inevitable.
“We passed something like 600 ordinances each year,” Hutton said, “so there are probably two or three that I wish I would have voted differently on.”
At the ceremony, City Clerk Sheela Amin swore in Karl Skala and Jerry Wade, who respectively replace Hutton and Loveless on the council.
“I think it’s going to be a very positive change for the City Council,” said Michael Ugarte, a Third Ward resident and a member of Skala’s election campaign. “I think now the council may be a little more sensitive to growth issues.”
Although the two new members don’t have any previous council experience, both have had lengthy stays on the Planning and Zoning Commission. Wade said this taught him a lot about the city’s policies, but he still has more to learn about difficult processes like the city’s budget.
“There’s a lot of years of experience that’ll be leaving the council,” said John Ott, a Fifth Ward resident from the Grasslands. “But at the same time we have some people joining the council that not only have public service experience but have been students of the council as well.”
A smiling Mayor Darwin Hindman was sworn in for his fifth term. The council unanimously appointed Second Ward Councilman Chris Janku as mayor pro-tem.
Missourian reporter Katie Fretland contributed to this report.