Two candidates for mayor, a man and a woman, sit side-by-side at a community forum
Mayoral candidate Melanie Bach, left, listens to Springfield Mayor Ken McClure at the forum. (Photo by Jym Wilson)


Part of a series of in-depth reports on key issues facing the city of Springfield and on candidates seeking city positions in the April 4 election.

Growth, development and the public’s input in matters of Springfield’s future are an apex issue surrounding the mayoral election in April 2023.

Challenger Melanie Bach is campaigning on a neighborhoods-first focus, while incumbent Ken McClure advocates for regulation and rethinking development within the confines of the Forward SGF 20-year comprehensive plan.

Springfield Daily Citizen reporters have attended candidate forums and conducted one-on-one interviews with both candidates to gauge their thoughts and views on planning and development, particularly commercial development and its relationship to the Forward SGF 20-year comprehensive plan.

A city’s comprehensive plan is not a legally binding document, but it is meant to serve as a guide or a playbook for development and growth.

The Forward SGF plan contains a present-day profile of Springfield; a vision statement; guiding themes and principles; land use information; policies for housing, transportation, parks and trails and community buildings; public health information; arts and culture information; a piece on historic preservation; and some plans that are unique for certain parts of Springfield.

The land use map that is part of the Forward SGF comprehensive plan resembles a patchwork quilt of differing zones across Springfield. (Contributed photo)

The economic pieces of Forward SGF call for locals and leaders to rethink land use. For example, there’s encouragement for more mixed-use developments, in which retail and residential often live side-by-side. These models are believed to breathe life into struggling neighborhoods. The walkable hub at the intersection of Cherry and Pickwick, for example, is held up as an illustration of success.

Some of these changes were ushered in when the COVID-19 pandemic made lasting changes to Springfield’s business climate. A common theory is that integrating work, live and play all in one place will boost foot traffic and help otherwise struggling districts thrive. 

Where McClure and Bach seem to differ is their philosophy on how development projects should move from ideas to completion. McClure believes updates to Springfield’s building codes will incentivize development in “the most optimal locations,” so that Springfield is open to the benefits of “the right opportunities, the right way.” Bach pushes a message of preservation, and says Springfield should do more “preparation for future anticipated growth.”


Melanie Bach

Occupation: Neighborhood organizer/former records clerk

Why she’s running: “I am ready to rebuild trust between the city and our citizens,” Bach said. “I feel like there is a level of trust that’s been lost. People do feel disregarded and marginalized, for the most part, when they’re dealing with city government, and I want us to rebuild that level of trust.”

Melanie Bach, candidate for mayor, speaks at the Neighborhood Advisory Council’s City Council and Mayoral Candidate Forum on Tuesday. March 7, 2023. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

Galloway Village Neighborhood Association President Melanie Bach said the key to making Springfield a better place lies within its neighborhoods.

“We have 24 registered neighborhoods in the city,” Bach said. “Unfortunately, they become inactive and it’s hard to recruit members. Really, the best time to get a neighborhood really engaged is when they’re mad about something.”

More than 70 percent of the 46,616 Springfield voters who cast ballots Nov. 8 voted against Springfield Question 1, a referendum question that would have rezoned 4.2 acres of land in the 3500 block of South Lone Pine Avenue. Fresh off a victory in November, Bach picked up the packet needed to petition to file to run for mayor.

“After that and during that, what we found in Galloway Village is we have become super connected,” Bach said. “Our businesses are connected, our residents are connected, we know each other now, we know our history, our social media connections are strong, and then we do cleanups and community projects, which are really to the benefit of the entire community.”

Question 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot focused on the zoning change granted the developer of a parcel of land across from Sequiota Park. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

Bach said Springfield needs to concentrate on allowing development in places where it is needed, but keeping developments responsible and fitting for their area of placement.

Bach said some involvement of the city government is needed to grow neighborhood association participation and memberships. Specifically, she wants to see financial help for neighborhoods trying to organize and aid in communication power.

“I would like to see us focus on connecting this community from the ground up,” Bach said. “I don’t think any of our problems are getting better, and we need a new approach, some creative approaches.”

Neighborhood strength and individuality are key points for Bach’s campaign, and so they were also key elements she identified in the Forward SGF comprehensive plan, authored by consultants from Chicago-based Houseal Lavigne Associates.

“I do think that they have heard from the public that we want to have these niche, unique neighborhood hubs,” Bach said. 

Bach said a change of leaders will be a good way to ensure oversight for the changes in philosophy found within Forward SGF.

“I feel strongly this is one of the reasons we need some new leadership on Council, and other places in the city government, because, in the transition to a brand new plan, you may find leaders that have been in there for a decade or so that have a harder time,” Bach said. “They’re tripping over the new plan. They want to figure out a way to work around and do things the way that they used to instead of embracing the new plan and saying, ‘This is what the public has said to us. Let’s make this happen.’”

Bach believes embracing the strength and unique characteristics of each neighborhood could go a long way in helping to heal some of the hurt and “disconnect” that has occurred in places where neighbors have been outspoken against development proposals.

She’d rather see developers use existing buildings that haven’t reached their potential rather than tear them down and build new construction.

Melanie Bach, candidate for mayor, speaks at the Neighborhood Advisory Council’s Forum on Tuesday, March 7, 2023. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

“I do feel like there was a disproportionate amount of high-density mixed-use allotted for Galloway Village, and I don’t know why,” Bach said.

“That’s a thing I don’t like to see, because the infill [into existing structures], I think, is what most neighborhoods want to see.”

Bach said she wants the City Council to view neighborhood associations as assets for help and growth, not stumbling blocks to development.

“It requires that development be very responsible and that it fits the area that it’s going in, so I think that the most important thing is that we have some fresh leadership that is able to pivot from the old way of doing things, to the new way of doing things,” Bach said.

Ken McClure

Occupation: Mayor of Springfield/retired vice president for administrative services at Missouri State University

Why he’s running: “We’re dealing with a post-pandemic environment, and that makes things almost unprecedented,” McClure said. “How do we make sure that we continue to progress, to continue to make good growth decisions, good economic decisions, good social decisions, good neighborhood decisions? And that’s a different challenge than we’ve had to face before.”

Mayor Ken McClure speaks at the Neighborhood Advisory Council’s City Council and Mayoral Candidate Forum on Tuesday, March 7, 2023. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

McClure was elected to the Springfield City Council in 2015, and was elected mayor in 2017. He says citizen engagement, especially when it concerns development proposals, has never been higher than it is now. He attributes some of that to the reactions people had about the spread of COVID-19 in 2020, and the public health orders that arrived with the respiratory disease.

“Clearly, there are a lot of strong feelings,” McClure said. “Going through the pandemic, I’ve never seen more public engagement than what we’ve had. It can be good, it can be bad. It’s the Council’s role to balance all of those interests.”

Neighborhood groups have complained about being unheard or overlooked in their opposition to development proposals, but McClure said builders have raised complaints about the fees, scheduling and other red tape associated with securing permits to build in Springfield.

“I hear, ‘Well, we can’t get anything done in Springfield,’ or ‘Anybody that wants to get anything done can,’ and it’s probably somewhere in the middle,” McClure said. “Getting that right balance is a challenge. We have to grow, we have to develop and we have to do it in the right way.”

McClure said regulation is important, but so is encouraging new projects.

“You have to make it attractive for people coming into town to want to do business here, or existing development,” McClure said. “You have certain requirements that are in place for a lot of reasons, for safety, for aesthetics, for all of that. I don’t want it to be overburdensome, but I don’t want it to be under-burdensome. I want the appropriate amount of attention.”

At a Neighborhood Advisory Council-sponsored candidate forum March 7, McClure was quick to tout the 10,000-plus “points of contact” between planners and members of the general public that led to the details of the Forward SGF plan.

“It’s very detailed, and I like that because it gives us a good blueprint,” McClure said. “It focuses on land use, it focuses on zoning, and it focuses on annexation, which we sorely need. We needed to address that 40 years ago, but it gives us a good, good road map.”

McClure said following a complex plan to completion won’t be easy.

“We have several challenges, and I mean challenges in a positive sense, that we need to finish and then address,” McClure said. “Grant Avenue Parkway is a great example.”

Signs touting the Grant Avenue Parkway project, like this one at the intersection of Grant Avenue and West Grand Street, can be found along a section of Grant Avenue subject to a study for future improvements and economic development. (Photo by Rance Burger)

The Grant Avenue Parkway project is a $25 million plan to transform three miles of city street from the Bass Pro Shops Wonders of Wildlife museum on Sunshine Street to Park Central Square. He hopes the development of the parkway will lead to similar work to the north and east.

“My vision is to do what we are doing with the Grant Avenue Parkway, the same concept, and apply that north from the square, Boonville to Commercial,” McClure said. “It goes past the government plaza, the Assemblies of God headquarters up there, and that’s underutilized.”

McClure believes other public projects, or public-private projects, will be key to spurring development in Springfield. He points to the Jordan Creek daylighting project as an example. 

Mayor Ken McClure speaks at the Neighborhood Advisory Council’s Forum on Tuesday, March 7, 2023. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

“That’s got to get done, not only for the amenity, but because of the stormwater help that it will give, because that whole area is in a floodplain, and it’s really been remarkable that it hasn’t been worse in the last several years that MSU has owned Brick City and now the Efactory,” McClure said.

McClure is also excited about the development potential and now decommissioned James River Power Station at Lake Springfield.

To meet Forward SGF’s commitment to “quality of place,” McClure said there must be some development of less noticeable kinds, such as the systemwide improvement and maintenance of roads, utilities and broadband internet access.


To vote April 4, 2023

Registration ended March 8

Absentee voting began Feb. 21

Information on absentee voting, election regulations and polling locations 

Greene County Clerk-issued sample ballot

Rance Burger

Rance Burger covers local government for the Daily Citizen. His goal is to help people know more about what projects their government is involved in, and how their tax dollars are being spent. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia with 15 years experience in journalism. Reach him at or by calling 417-837-3669. Twitter: @RanceBurger More by Rance Burger