Columbia's Fourth Ward council race features familiar faces

Mar 27, 2013

Credit KBIA

The three candidates vying for Columbia’s fourth ward seat have different priority issues and disagreements on governing and budget spending, but what incumbent Daryl Dudley and challengers Ian Thomas and Bill Weitkemper have in common is the desire to make Columbia better and serve its residents.

Ian Thomas says he has already knocked on 2000 doors in the last two months and he is planning to visit another 2000 houses before the elections. He believes to representing the citizens involves synthesis of voters’ concerns and the candidate’s desires and ideas. A lot of people, he says, speak about lack of entry-level jobs, airport expansion issue and infrastructure. One of the priority issues on Thomas’s agenda is developing sustainable and economical modes of transportation. He rides a bike or bus in Columbia and says he feels very comfortable doing that. With background in science Thomas says that, if elected, he would bring more research to the policy-making process.

“A lot of public decision making is made based on conjecture or on emotion and what I want to do if I get on city council is rigorously study other communities where certain initiatives have been put in place and advance those projects that have the best research basis behind them.”

As a co-founder of PedNet Coalition, a non-profit promoting healthy modes of transportation he spent a lot of time at city council meetings and became interested in the local public policy process. A lot of people, he says, speak about lack of entry-level jobs, airport expansion issue and infrastructure.

Jobs are one of the primary issues for Daryl Dudely who currently holds the post and is running for re-election. Dudley holds his office hours in his workplace, Hy-Vee store on West Broadway.

He says what Columbia needs most now is jobs: “We need to put people to work. We need entry-level jobs for people who don’t have college educations.”

Dudley says he is running for re-election to continue to working on projects that current government started. “I’ve been in city council for the last three years,” he says. “I’ve learnt a lot about the city and we are making some changes in the direction city is going and I’m happy to be part of it.”

Another candidate has been serving the city of Columbia for 37 years already. Recently retired Columbia's sewer maintenance superintendent Bill Weitkemper says he is running for office to make sure that the public money is being spent wisely. “Well, it’s frequently easier just to ask for tax increase or raise rates,” he says. “It’s easier when you get money. It is more difficult to cut money from your budget and manage with what you’ve got rather with what you wish you had.”

Weitkemper doesn’t approve of current government’s budget planning. He says the money should first be directed to the projects of primary importance like 911 center. If elected, Weitkemper says he would work to improve the city’s infrastructure: “Our waterlines, sewer lines and storm waterlines, they are all deteriorated. They need to be improved before our roads are improved. Because these waterlines, sewer lines and storm waterlines are all buried under the roads. It doesn’t make much sense to improve the roads before you improve the infrastructure on the roads.”

Weitkemper believes his life-long experience in government and business would be a solid ground to work in the city council. A Columbia resident and Tigers fan for over 40 years Weitkemper says he has a few favorite places to go in town: “Well, I like to go to Boochers every Wednesday to have a hamburger.”