First filing day draws handful of candidates

Being the first to file does not necessarily mean a candidate is going to win, but that did not stop eight different candidates from tossing their hats in the ring on the first day to file for Jefferson City offices.

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George Hartsfield, candidate for Jefferson City mayor

One candidate went the extra mile to make certain his name was at the top of the ballot in the mayoral race. Current 4th Ward Councilman Eric Struemph said he was waiting outside City Hall as early as 3:15 a.m. to be the first to file.

“I just felt it was important to show our supporters that we wanted to be first,” Struemph said.

He said he did not know if being at the top of the ballot was an advantage, but said that wasn’t what he thought people would focus on at the polls.

“I think my leadership abilities will speak for themselves,” Struemph said.

Tuesday’s early filing is in keeping with Struemph’s pattern. He was also the first to announce his candidacy for mayor, hosting a campaign kick-off party more than a month ago.

But Struemph was not the only person to file for the position at the start of the day. Former Mayor George Hartsfield also filed for the position which he held for eight years, from 1979 to 1987.

Hartsfield addressed the concern that, even though the term limits that are spelled out in city charter were put into place after Hartsfield left office, he should honor the spirit of the law and allow another candidate an opportunity to run in his place.

“I don’t think that (argument) holds much water,” Hartsfield said. “In this country, the constitution bars any ex post facto law, and there are reasons for that. We don’t make decisions legislatively and make them retroactive. What has passed has passed and that all of us need to deal with today and the future and forget about the past, in that context.”

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Eric Struemph, candidate for Jefferson City mayor

Both candidates had made it clear that they were running for mayor well before the start of filing. What was not clear was who would file for the other positions.

The only other contested race so far is for the City Council’s 1st Ward seat, currently occupied by Bob Weber.

Weber was appointed to the seat in July to finish out the term for former Councilman Ken Ferguson, who left the council when he reached his term limit. He said he had every intention of running for the seat when he was first appointed by the council. He added that he believes his experience on the council, both during his recent months in the 1st Ward and previously in the 4th Ward for five years.

It is that experience that Weber said he believes will be his biggest asset during the race.

“I’ve been involved in the community in many different volunteer capacities, and I look at this as a continuation of community service,” Weber said.

“I would definitely encourage people to get involved with city government, but I would have to say that, in the next couple of years, we are going to see some very important issues and possibly some tight budgets. I think my background with working with other organizations and so forth have me well prepared for that.”

Going up against Weber is 22-year-old Tyler Woods, owner of Colonial Monument Company. This is the second time Woods has sought to fill a 1st Ward Council seat. Last year, Woods filed to go against incumbent Mike Harvey, only to pull out of the race in January, citing “personal reasons unrelated to the current issues being discussed by the current council.”

Woods did not expand on the reason for leaving, but said the issue is no longer a problem and that he does not foresee any reason to withdraw again.

As opposed to his opponent, who has almost six years of experience to his credit, Woods said he believes his fresh take on the issues currently facing the community will be an advantage in helping the city move forward in “a smart manner.”

“I think there have been a lot of decisions that have been made lately at our city level that have affected the people in a negative way,” Woods said. “I don’t exactly know what is missing on there because I am not in the seat, but whatever is missing, we need to figure it out. Maybe they are not thinking enough or maybe they are stuck on certain ideas and not exploring other options. I’m not sure. But there are a lot of issues that have been brought up and are very controversial.”

Woods cited examples such as the city’s recent contract with Allied Waste and certain restrictions that may come with tattoo businesses.

In three of the council wards — the 2nd, 4th and 5th — the incumbent candidate announced they will not seek re-election, leaving the field wide open for challengers.

In two of the wards, one candidate has filed. In the 2nd Ward, newcomer Shawn Schulte filed to replace Jim Penfold. Schulte is the vice president of Curtiss-Manes-Schulte Inc., a private familyowned commercial general contractor.

He said his business sense gave him the confidence to run for the seat and is what he will bring to the office if elected.

“I am accustomed to the business world and what it takes to run a business,” Schulte said. “I feel like I bring that to the table. I understand that, as a community and as a city, we provide services to the citizens. But, underneath all of those services are basically little businesses.”

Like Schulte, Carlos Graham is the only candidate running in his ward, seeking to fill Struemph’s 4th Ward seat, which he is vacating to run for mayor.

Graham currently works as the director of housing for Lincoln University. He said friends and neighbors in his ward encouraged him to run, saying he would bring the right qualifications to meet the current demands of the job.

“It is something that I have been thinking about for a few years now, and I think this is a better time than ever, especially with the (St. Mary’s Health Center) moving out that way,” Graham said.

The only incumbent who has announced his candidacy is 3rd Ward Councilman Byran Pope, who is currently unopposed. Pope said his experience and his record of service for the people in his ward will be enough to make him the right choice for his third term.

However, he also acknowledged that, with a spirit of animosity against incumbents, regardless of their service or record, he stands in a potentially-precarious situation.

“I am as vulnerable as anyone else who is an incumbent in this election in the national, state or local elections,” Pope said. “The public is dissatisfied with the way things have turned out from them.”

The only other person to file for an office as of Tuesday was Cotton Walker, who filed for municipal judge.

Walker has served as municipal judge for Lohman and Russellville for full terms and has substituted for both Jefferson City and Holts Summit on and off for several years.

He said, while he has worked with the two previous municipal judges and respects the work they did, he intends to try and mix things up a little bit if he is elected to the position.

“There are just ideas on how to manage a docket, how to manage uncollected fines that are due the city, and I just feel like it is time for me to be in there and institute some of those changes,” Walker said.

The final day to file for city office is Nov. 23.

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