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Monica Horton is set to become the newest member of the Springfield City Council.
Horton received seven of the eight votes of her soon-to-be contemporaries after an interview session and a vote by ballot of the Springfield City Council and Mayor Ken McClure on April 12.
Applicant Steven Sexton received a vote in the ballot process. The other two applicants were Karen Banta and Kathy Hubbard.
Horton spoke to the City Council on the idea that Springfield needed to recover from two “twin pandemics,” COVID-19 and “systemic inequality” — identified as Springfield and the rest of the world picked itself up from COVID-19.
“I believe that the mission is clear, but I just think that what’s going to be difficult is how,” Horton said in her interview before the City Council. “The how — how do you go about unifying a city, unifying as a governing body and enacting common-sense policymaking, as well as policymaking, decision making that is inclusive as well as commonsense governance.”
Horton will take her oath of office at the start of the regular Springfield City Council meeting on April 18, and begin serving immediately. The term expires April 4, 2023. At the expiration of the term, Horton will have the option to run for a two-year term on the council, putting the Zone 1 seat back on the regular election cycles with the other seven seats on the City Council.
McClure and City Clerk Anita Cotter compiled a set of questions for each applicant to answer in writing before the interviews. Seated members of the City Council have had the opportunity to provide questions they would like asked of the applicants.
Monica Horton promotes inclusivity
“I would love to earn the trust and the respect of the neighborhood associations and the business associations and the community organizations in Zone 1,” Horton said. “I would also like to see portions of the comprehensive plan implemented and a significant portion of the recommendations from the Springfield Inclusiveness Survey implemented.”
The Springfield Inclusion Survey of 2020 was prepared for the Springfield City Council and for the Mayor’s Commission on Human Rights and Community Relations. More than 2,200 people responded to the survey.
“As we know, 45 percent of survey respondents view Springfield as ‘not very inclusive’ or ‘not inclusive at all,'” Horton said.
Horton noted that affordable housing and efforts to shelter and house the homeless were key priorities identified in the surveys of the public that led to the writing of the Forward SGF comprehensive plan.
“I tend to be very, very data-focused, and I know that Springfield is rich with data in the types of surveys and reports that are going on, and I think it’s our role to listen and to be actionable when it comes to the recommendations that have come out of the surveys and the reports, and here coming up soon, the comprehensive plan,” Horton said.
Horton is a self-employed consultant and music therapist, and a contributing researcher to the Springfield Inclusion Study funded by the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.
“My high degree of civic engagement and awareness in Springfield-Greene County (in multiple domains including poverty) certainly qualifies me to serve Zone 1 residents and make significant contributions to municipal governance and public policymaking necessary to make Springfield an extraordinary place for all to live, work and play,” Horton wrote on her initial application.
Why is there a vacancy on Springfield City Council?
The City of Springfield announced a vacancy representing Zone 1 on the City Council about four hours after Angela Romine filed to run for the Missouri Senate on Feb. 22. The vacancy spanned almost two months.
Romine will challenge incumbent State Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, in the primary election on Aug. 2. Democrat Raymond Lampert of Springfield runs unopposed in his party’s primary for Missouri Senate District 30.
Romine said she knew that filing to run for the Missouri General Assembly would disqualify her from serving on the Springfield City Council.
“I was aware, which is why it was a difficult decision,” Romine said.
When questioned, Romine said she was not surprised by the speed at which staffers from Springfield City Hall announced that her spot was vacant.
Romine said that “several people from different grassroots groups” approached her about challenging Hough.
“I had to think about it. After a lot of thought, prayers, and talking to many wise people, I came to the humbling decision to run for State Senate,” Romine said in her statement. “I am going to continue to serve our community and be your voice here in Springfield by taking this step, continuing the goal of strengthening the conservative grassroots movement here in Missouri.”
Applicant bowed out to run for House
Amy Blansit was initially one of five candidates who submitted documents to be considered for the vacant Zone 1 council seat.
On March 28, Blansit announced she filed to run as a candidate for Missouri’s 133rd House District. Blansit filed as a Democrat to run against Republican candidate Melanie Stinnett. The current representative for District 133 is State Rep. Curtis Trent, R-Springfield, and he is running for the Missouri Senate in District 20.
“I had thought the best way for me to serve our community was by serving on the City Council. Having spoken to other candidates, I believe that there are great leaders ready to serve in that role,” Blansit said.
The same clause in the city charter that disqualified Romine from holding office also disqualifies Blansit from seeking appointment to the Springfield City Council.
“No councilmember shall be a candidate or nominee for or hold any other lucrative public office or hold a lucrative position in the city government during his or her term as councilmember,” the law reads, in part.
Qualifications for Springfield City Council Zone 1
Before participating in the interviews, each of the four applicants signed an affidavit under oath that they meet all of the qualifications spelled out in the Springfield city charter in order to serve on the city council. The qualifications are that each member:
- Must be a registered voter in the city of Springfield
- Must have been a resident of the city of Springfield for at least two years prior to appointment
- Must have been a resident of Zone 1 for at least one year immediately prior to appointment
- Must not be disqualified from serving after being convicted of a felony.
- Must not be disqualified from serving due to being delinquent on state and local tax payments.
- Must have completed and filed Missouri Department of Revenue form 5120 per state law RsMO 115.306(2). Applications without Missouri Department of Revenue Form 5120 will not be accepted.