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’m a fifth generation Springfieldian and I am truly grateful to be a part of this community. I grew up here. My dad owned a small business here and my mom was a teacher. I’ve lived in other places and I’m thankful I had the opportunity to return to and remain in Springfield.
There are many different reasons people run for office and why they seek to serve in these roles. I believe one of my greatest strengths is that I have never been motivated by a single issue or narrow agenda. I’m passionate about Springfield — that’s what drives my desire to serve. My approach to governing is collaborative, balanced by a desire to make the right decisions now while also considering the impact to future generations.
Springfield’s mayor is limited to serving four two-year terms. My primary motivation in seeking this final term is fighting and reducing crime. To make meaningful long-term progress on this goal, we must have a fully-staffed, well-trained police department. That is my top priority and vital to stopping crime. We’ve taken some steps in that direction, like strategic investments in technology, retention pay and retirement policy changes, but there is much more work to do. Talent recruitment and retention is also a challenge for our fire department. Council has an important role to play in ensuring there are well-designed plans and resources in place to attract, retain and train the public safety professionals we need. There’s tremendous workforce and training expertise here and we need to make sure we are tapping into that, collaborating in innovative ways, to support our police and fire departments.
Other priorities are tethered to making Springfield a safe and thriving place to live and work. We can’t solve the challenges we have if our local economy is not growing. Prioritizing economic vitality has enhanced our strategic approach to strengthening a vibrant local economy including building a robust talent pipeline, improving access to workforce training and education, a strong business climate that generates and sustains family-supporting jobs, investment in infrastructure and quality of place assets like Hammons Field — all of which interconnect to increase business activity, household income, and economic opportunity.
We are seeing the impact of these efforts like City Utilities’ investment in broadband. Springfield topped the list of best cities for remote workers in a recent Wall Street Journal study. This wasn’t a study to count remote workers. Rather, it was a study to identify what remote workers value in a place to live and then to evaluate cities based on those factors. Turns out, those attributes make a city an ideal place to live, whether you are working remotely or not. They included low cost of living, proximity to an airport, access to affordable, high-speed broadband, nearby parks and other amenities such as art venues and restaurants.
Data shared by an economist from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in August showed Springfield’s economic growth is trending above that of the state and nation. With unemployment low, it is also vital that we grow our working population.
The City’s financial position is strong. Year-to-date sales tax revenues are up 10.06%, compared to budget through January of 2023. The trend over the last 12 months, actual revenues are up about 15.68% compared to budget.
I am grateful to our nonprofit community for collective work to strengthen the infrastructure of our economy in impactful ways. As Francine Pratt pointed out in a recent column in this publication, collaborations have helped, “our community make great strides in poverty reduction.” Nonprofits are also trusted partners in efforts to address homelessness. American Rescue Plan Act funding provided us with a real opportunity to focus on solutions together and to consider what might work best for our city. In total, with HUD funding, we have approved about $12 million for projects such as affordable housing home ownership programs and a day center.
As I look ahead, one of our greatest opportunities lies in implementing our Forward SGF comprehensive plan. Within that, I believe that updating our codes will result in development occurring in the most optimal locations for it. We need to open up the right opportunities, the right way, with these updates. This will ultimately benefit those who live here and those who want to invest here.
I am proud to be endorsed by the Springfield Police Officers Association and the Southern Missouri Professional Firefighters Association IAFF Local 152, and to be supported by a number of business and industry groups. It has been a privilege to serve you as mayor. I never dreamed we would face some of the challenges we’ve seen in recent years. I am most proud of the strength and resilience of our citizens — your faithfulness renewed me many times.
While I know that driving a wedge can be an effective political tool, it is simply not my leadership style or desire. I love our City and I will always work to unite us around what we have in common, so we can work together to make this a place where our future generations will thrive.
In their own words: Mayoral candidate Melanie Bach
I decided to run for mayor after experiencing first-hand the marginalization of our neighborhoods and the deep disconnect that currently exists between our city government and its citizens.