Bill Weitkemper archive portrait

Bill Weitkemper is shown in this file photo from 2013. Weitkemper plans to run for the Second Ward seat on the Columbia City Council.

Bill Weitkemper spent nearly 38 years working for Columbia’s Sewer Utility. After eight years of retirement, he decided he wants to work for the city again, this time as the Second Ward City Council representative.

Second Ward Councilman Mike Trapp’s second three-year term ends in April 2021, and he has said publicly that he doesn’t plan to seek a third.

Weitkemper ran for the Fourth Ward council seat in 2013 but lost to Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas in a three-person race.

Weitkemper said he’s running again because he has “unfinished business.”

His biggest goal in office would be to create two new departments, one focused on safety and training and the other on diversity and customer service.

During his time as a sewer maintenance supervisor, Weitkemper developed customer service standards that he thinks are better than many of the city’s standards, and he wants similar guidelines across the board.

He also oversaw and developed “countless” training programs, which he doesn’t think should have been his job.

“Supervisors now are doing the training and supervising employees,” he said. “Not every supervisor can do that.”

He also wants to:

  • Make public safety and the elimination of violent behavior the top priority of the Police Department.
  • Give the city’s police chief more access to resources from the other departments.
  • Request a state audit of all the city’s departments, beginning with the utilities departments and ending when the audit achieves about $10 million in savings or additional income.
  • Convert the city’s trash pickup system to roll carts.
  • Hire companies to conduct exit interviews with all employees who leave the city and perform background checks on anyone hired or promoted to a supervisor position.
  • Establish a law for certain authorities to be able to petition a judge to have guns confiscated due to someone’s “violent threats or actions.”

Weitkemper believes his years of learning the inner workings of the city will make him a strong candidate.

“Experience is a big thing,” he said. “You don’t know where all the problems are at if you don’t have experience working for the city.”

One problem Weitkemper focused on during his time in the sewer utility was the way it bills for sewer service. One push he made was to persuade the city to charge apartment buildings a base sewer charge for each residence rather than for the single water meter that many apartment buildings have.

After he persisted for years, the city added nearly 6,000 base charges, and it increased MU's monthly base sewer charge from $4.35 to $50,000 a month, spread over 10 years.

To make his run official, Weitkemper will need to collect signatures from at least 50 but no more than 75 registered voters who live in the Second Ward.

The signatures will then need to be verified by City Clerk Sheela Amin.

He’s not particularly worried about the petition.

He also has plenty of time, since the earliest he can file the petition is the last Tuesday in October.

The filing period for those who want to run for City Council extends into late January.

“I probably know 50 people in the Second Ward,” he said. “Probably a lot more than that.”

What Weitkemper, 72, does worry about is how his Parkinson’s disease will affect his ability to campaign.

He has trouble with his sense of smell, with balance and with the ability to speak, so he can’t run a typical campaign.

“I don’t talk as well as I’d like, so I’ve got to write down my thoughts and hope that people read it,” he said.

Toward that end, Weitkemper spent months creating a binder with 70 pages of information about himself and his platform.

It includes his ideas, records of his performance reviews while a city employee, personal anecdotes and photos of friends and family.

Weitkemper and his wife, Judy, moved to a house in the Second Ward in September 2019 because he knew at some time that he would no longer be able to manage the stairs at their former home.

  • Public life reporter, fall 2020. Studying print and digital news journalism. Reach me at skylarlaird@mail.missouri.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5720

  • I've been a reporter and editor at Missouri community newspapers for 35 years and joined the Columbia Missourian in 2003. My emphasis at the Missourian is on local government and elections. You can reach me at swaffords@missouri.edu or at 573-884-5366.

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