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Baxter joins crowded First Ward race

Saturday, October 27, 2007 | 5:31 p.m. CDT; updated 6:49 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Another candidate has joined the already-crowded field in the First Ward City Council race.

Karen Baxter, a nurse and former vice president of the Ridgeway Neighborhood Association, filed her application with the city clerk’s office on Friday.

Baxter brings the First Ward candidate count to six. The other candidates are incumbent Almeta Crayton, area activist Marlon Jordan, Eastside Tavern owner Sal Nuccio, former mayoral candidate John Clark and Ragtag Cinemacafe and True/False Film Festival co-founder Paul Sturtz.

Baxter, who has lived in the First Ward for 9½ years, said proposed changes to city code should come directly from ward residents.

“I want the First Ward residents’ agenda to be my agenda,” Baxter said. “I don’t have an agenda that I’m putting forth. I don’t think that’s the role of a city council member.”

To gain an understanding of what residents want, Baxter said she wants to be easy to reach.

“I want to be very accessible to people in ward one,” Baxter said. “I want them to be able to call me whenever they want. I want them to be able to drop by my house.”

Critics have said Crayton, whose third three-year term ends in April 2008, has ignored citizens’ complaints and misspent money earmarked for charities. She was the subject of a short-lived recall effort last year.

Crayton, whose community work has largely focused on housing, utility assistance and understanding government assistance benefits, has denied accusations of misspending charity money and defended her council record.

Aside from working as a nurse, Baxter, 58, has been a secretary and an animal control officer, and she has cleaned bathrooms at Bass Pro Shop. She is a mother and a grandmother.

Baxter said her background makes her “uniquely qualified” to understand constituents’ concerns.

“Because of my background, I think I have an idea of the variety of obstacles people face in their everyday life,” Baxter said. “I know what it’s like to ride the city bus.”

Baxter has never been elected to public office before, but she served on the committee that drafted Columbia’s nuisance ordinance, in addition to serving as an officer for the Ridgeway Neighborhood Association.

Baxter, formerly known as both Karen Cupp and Karen Hildebrand, was born in Mexico, Mo. She went to high school in a Chicago suburb and moved to Columbia in 1970.

City Council applications are not valid until the names and addresses are confirmed by officials.


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