Local elections will be taking place throughout Greene County on April 2, meaning there could be some potential changes within Springfield government.
Three of the five council seats on the ballot are uncontested this year, including Zone 4 Matthew Simpson, General Seat D Richard Ollis and Zone 2 Abe McGull, who will be replacing active Council Member Tom Prater.
Mayor Ken McClure is also running unopposed, meaning the only decisions left on the ballot for voters are the council positions of Zone 3 and General Seat C, and a question concerning the continuation of Springfield’s Capital Improvements Tax.
The tax question would preserve the current one-fourth of one percent sales tax which is used primarily for infrastructure purposes.
The two candidates running for Zone 3 are incumbent Councilman Mike Schilling and Noah Snelson.
Schilling, who has eight years of experience in the Missouri legislature, was first elected to the council seat in 2015. One of the bigger problems he would address with another term is low-quality rental properties throughout Springfield.
“Do people want to come and live here when they see some of this stuff we’ve got out there, or set up a business?” Schilling said. “It’s a health and safety issue for renters and it’s an economic issue in terms of it might turn people away.”
Schilling also has concerns regarding quality of life issues for Springfield citizens, including noise pollution and frequent traffic violations such as speeding.
Snelson is a former police officer who currently works in manufacturing as a training coordinator. According to an email from Snelson, he feels that crime is the biggest problem for Springfield and its citizens.
“I will guide our ordinances and enforcement capabilities to protect our community as well as working in tandem with the Springfield Police Department and their leadership to enact their vision of a safe Springfield,” Snelson said.
He said his plans for reduced crime rates would also promote business and economic growth, encouraging job creation.
On the ballot for General Seat C are incumbent Andrew Lear, Amy Champlin and Jaye Owens.
Lear, who is retired and has a history of financial experience and community involvement, has held the seat since October 2018. One of the biggest policies he’s concerned about is what will replace Springfield’s current strategic plan Vision 20/20.
“I am really interested in what comes out of that over the next 18 months because that will drive our policy making and really provide a position for this community for the next 20 years,” Lear said.
He is also concerned with the many “nuisance properties,” like Schilling, and with preserving Springfield neighborhoods and their “unique nature.”
Champlin received her BA for political science from the University of Central Florida and her Juris Doctor degree from Stetson University College of Law.
One of her main concerns, as a person with a physical disability, is discrimination.
Champlin’s campaign is also focused on addressing a wide variety of issues, including homelessness, nuisance properties and the ability for public input within City Council.
“I didn’t plan to run: I just went to City Council meetings — my first degree is in political science so I am attracted to that kind of thing,” Champlin said in an email. “I’ve attended most meetings for more than two years, and City Council doesn’t handle many social issues like homelessness, public input and wheelchair accessible taxis.”
Owens, a self-described activist, feels that the biggest qualifier for a council position is a passion for the community. A focus of her campaign is addressing what she feels is a lack of representation in the City Council due to the difficulty for ordinary working citizens to have a position.
“It’s an unpaid position,” Owens said. “The schedule sort of requires meetings during the time when most people would be working … and I found myself in a position where I felt that I can do that.”
If elected, Owens hopes to improve City Council’s socioeconomic representation with a number of policies.
McClure said he believes that the number of unopposed council seats demonstrates the recent positive opinion of the council and is hopeful for this year’s council members.
“I think there’s a very strong pool of candidates running, and I think the city will be well served however the outcome,” McClure said.