A certain percentage of being mayor in Lee’s Summit is being present. How much of a percentage that is could be up to individual preferences, of course.
But the fact remains that staying visible, relevant and serving the community are all qualities that voters may look for when choosing a mayor next spring.
In April, we will vote for a new mayor for the first time since 2010. Yes, current mayor Randy Rhoads did run in 2014, but he was unopposed then and – like far too many of our council members – walked into the seat without any opposition.
Rhoads will have served two terms after the four-term Karen Messerli, making this next mayor only the third in Lee’s Summit in 24 years.
As predicted, the election cycle in Lee’s Summit has started early. But, not as early as it did in 2010, when Rhoads came out of the gate in July to announce his intentions to run against Messerli, a move that was ultimately part of a successful campaign to unseat the popular incumbent that year.
A few weeks ago, former Lee’s Summit City Councilman Ron Williams made his mayoral intentions known. Williams has arguably stayed more active an engaged than most previous members of the council in recent memory. Not only has he chaired the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce’s Government Relations Committee, but Williams has been active in many areas of Lee’s Summit, most recently as the co-chair of the City’s Charter Review Commission in 2016.
Last week, another former elected official with name recognition — former Lee’s Summit R-7 School Board member Bill Baird — also put his intentions to run for mayor into the public forum. Baird is best known for his public differences with former R-7 superintendent David McGehee, public squabbles that led to increased scrutiny of the school district, changes in meeting format and delivery and, ultimately, a new superintendent.
Taking with them public service, lessons learned and, certainly, support from certain voting blocks in Lee’s Summit, both Williams and Baird make for the start of what will be a fascinating city election.
All four council districts are up for election and could see multiple candidates vying for the seat. And in District 4, both seats will in fact be on the ballot. In District 2, incumbent Trish Carlyle has already announced her intention to seek a second term as well.
It’s the mayor’s race, however, where we could hear the most noise this fall and into December — when the official filing takes place for the office. From development topics to rules, ethics and charter changes, a new mayor and —potentially new council members — could vastly move the needle and set an entirely new course of leadership and vision for our city.
That two former public servants are the first to announce their intentions to take on such a task isn’t surprising, either.
There is plenty of room for new leadership, fresh ideas and pioneering philosophies when it comes to city governance. There also has to be room for those that have served in varying capacities to re-engage in the process and bring some needed and insightful institutional knowledge to the process.
In fact, in this point in Lee’s Summit’s history, mixing veteran and new leadership could be one of the ways we right the ship and encourage the continued emergence of responsible governance, citizen-led-initiatives and responsibility both within the walls of City Hall and in our individual neighborhoods.
Are more mayoral announcements on the horizon? Stay tuned…
Lee’s Summit resident John Beaudoin writes about city and civic issues, people and personalities around town. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.