Editor’s note: Candidates for mayor of Springfield, City Council and school board were invited to submit a column in their own words explaining why they are seeking election April 4, or focusing on a topic of their choosing. All guest columns will be published by March 30.
I am honored that my experience and passion for Springfield have led me to today:
campaigning to be your next city councilman.
As a Springfield area native, I grew up building memories here, from caving as a child in Sequiota Park to walking across JQH Arena on graduation day at Missouri State University, where I earned a degree in French (very helpful in Southwest MO), as well as a degree in Community and Regional Planning.
Like many young people, I moved away, until an opportunity to serve the 10-county region as a city planner for the Southwest Missouri Council of Governments brought me back. In that role, I helped communities plan for infrastructure needs, secure state and federal grants, and spur new economic opportunities for the people who live here. Since then I’ve gone on to a role with statewide impacts, gaining experience in policy crafting, personnel management, and public budgeting. I am humbled by the opportunities I have had so far in life to broaden my experience and build up the tools I will need to serve my hometown.
After I returned to Springfield, I found a renewed love for this great city. We have so many exciting opportunities before us with projects like the daylighting of a stream that hasn’t flowed through our downtown for nearly a century or our recent commitment to a bold vision of the community we will be in 20 years with the Forward SGF comprehensive plan. There is so much to be hopeful for in our community, whether it’s our thriving small businesses and startup scenes or pursuing a trade or higher education — Springfield has something for all of us.
These things didn’t just happen, though; they required bold leadership with the experience and passion to do the job, in partnership with thriving business and nonprofit communities. But as mighty as Springfield is, we cannot ignore the challenges we currently face.
It’s no secret almost everyone in our community is feeling the pinch of the housing shortage. Rather than turning a blind eye, we must prioritize everyone having a place to call home, whether for the night or for the rest of their 30-year mortgage. As chair of the Community Partnership of the Ozarks Housing Collaborative, I work with a group of housing agencies, Realtors, tenants, and nonprofits to address chronic nuisance properties and advocate for safe, accessible, and attainable housing in our community.
Paradoxically, our community has too much vacant, dilapidated housing and not enough places for people to live. If we want to be a community that everyone can call home, we must support diverse housing forms and ownership models. This can be done through reinvestment in our existing housing stock and support for new construction of missing middle housing that incorporate mixed income units. We can’t build our way out of this problem, though; equally as important is ensuring that homeowners can continue to live in and maintain what is often their single-largest investment and ensuring that housing agencies receive the support to serve those in our community with less.
While nearly every category of crime is decreasing, gun violence seems to be on the rise and folks do not always feel safe in their homes or our businesses. While our sworn police force is growing, we still have nearly 50 vacant positions. Innovative strategies to attract and retain a high-quality police force, and keep them here once they’re trained, is critical and I appreciate the efforts Chief Paul Williams has made. We must not only focus on immediate enforcement action, but also long-term crime prevention.
One of the best ways to reduce crime and create a police force that is adaptive and responsive to local conditions is through community-based violence interventions. Imagine living in a neighborhood where you know the names of the police officers keeping you and your family safe — someone based in your community, building relationships and running down leads in a humane way, before it becomes another news story. Our city already has a great start in the PAR Officer and Neighborhood Watch programs, but they are under-resourced. We must do more to ensure everyone feels safe.
Government should be responsive to everyone it serves and, just as importantly, it must be accessible to everyone. Transparency and credibility are critical for a thriving community where everyone is moving forward. I recognize that community engagement is the single most critical element to achieving the best version of our future. As an elected official, I will strive to always maintain the vision of our neighborhoods, support the expansion of our businesses, and partner
with our strong nonprofit ecosystem for those that need it. Only with all of these stakeholders given an equal seat at the table can elected officials shape the best possible policies and budgets.
We have a bright future if only we will let ourselves achieve it. To do that requires bold leadership and a strong command of how to make government work for those it serves. On April 4, I hope that you give me the opportunity to combine my experience and passion to get the job done.
In their own words: Council Zone 3 candidate David Nokes
The Springfield community has been very supportive of me during my public safety career. It is now time for me to pay it forward and serve the community with the skills I learned as the result of my successful career.