After nine years, Mike Trapp has retired from serving as council member for Columbia’s Second Ward.
He had no intention of running for office about a decade ago, but after the existing councilperson decided not to run for reelection citing apathy in the ward and nobody else was filing, Mike decided to put his hat in the ring.
It turned out being a three-way race, and he surprisingly slipped in.
Mike could be pigeonholed as a left-wing person but instead seemed to go out of his way to fill the role of pragmatic centrist. He declares himself now as an anarchist with “a soft spot” for local government. Mike was the rare bird who was often able to put his personal political ideology aside for a more “consensus” governing philosophy. He was often a swing vote, making him difficult to stereotype.
Mike caught flack early on from his progressive supporters for supporting downtown student apartments, determining that density in the city center in an otherwise sprawling suburban community was a good thing.
He describes a pragmatic approach to the hot topic of trash: The old system was broken. Roll carts had the most to offer. He worked for that, but the politics of trash became increasingly complicated.
I first met Michael Trapp at one of the voter forums in early 2012 when he first ran for office. I remember him being a decent, thoughtful fellow. I later got to interview him on KOPN/89.5 FM radio. I remember him still being pretty nervous with the public speaking thing but there was zero BS factor.
One topic of mutual interest for the two of us was the decriminalization of marijuana. Mike had actively worked on a ballot measure in California before landing in CoMo, although he didn’t wear the issue on his sleeve to avoid being labeled “that guy.”
I feel goodwill when I see or hear of Mike Trapp. We seemed to know when we agreed or disagreed on an issue, and that was okay with both of us, so there was never a coarse word or personal attack. This is a great way to build public trust.
Back in my activist days, nobody would publicly be the opposition on a popular parks sales tax renewal, so I stepped in. On a radio debate hosted by our friend Tyree Byndom, I arrived expecting a Parks Department staffer to join us, but to my surprise it was the political heavyweights of former Mayor Darwin Hindman and then-Councilperson Mike Trapp — oh, boy. I can still hear Darwin’s impassioned, sophisticated, yet folksy drawl and Mike lighting up like an NPR host on sunshine. Still, we were all smiles afterward.
Not to glorify anybody, but elected officials often leave a legacy. For Mike, it wasn’t pot or trash but his pragmatic M.O. that always struck me as very unique. He has built a reputation of being always thoughtful and diplomatic and seeking common ground solutions. He therefore identified well with our community, calling Columbia “the Athens of the Midwest.”
Especially in this day and age, to set aside one’s personal utopian political opinions, to instead try to do what one interprets as what’s best for everybody, or at least what democratic consensus can be reached, is so commendable.
Thank goodness our City Council and School Board are nonpartisan races because if candidates had to declare a party affiliation, such a political leadership style as Mike’s might have been impossible to come by.
I will disagree with Mike about constituent apathy, though. Sure, many residents of the Second Ward surely do care, but when citywide voter turnout was only about 14% last week, apparently a vast majority of people don’t find it worthwhile to even come out and vote at all.
Mike says he’s going to take a long overdue vacation. He’s installed a cot in the back of his van and is heading out west to soak in the National Parks or wherever else inspires. Maybe he’ll rediscover himself and what the next chapter in life might bring. He is involved in social entrepreneurship and has a stake in a pending business involved in our state’s new medical marijuana industry.
So, no more 3 a.m. calls to Mike about potholes on your street or complaints about the trash service.