Jerry Wade says it’s time Columbia residents put their differences aside and agreed on what to do to keep the city livable.
And the Columbia City Council should facilitate that result, he said.
Wade believes his professional background and years of service on the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission have prepared him to play a role in this process on the council.
“Columbia is no longer a town,” Wade said. “We are a growing city. Is growth good or bad? I don’t know; it depends on what kind of growth it is and where it will take us.”
Wade is running for the seat that will be vacated by outgoing Fourth Ward Councilman Jim Loveless, who announced in November he would not seek a third consecutive three-year term. Mike Holden, another member of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, also is running for the seat.
There is a Jan. 18 deadline for candidates to file for the April municipal election.
Wade, 65, moved to Columbia in 1963 to attend the University of Missouri-Columbia and has watched the community morph from small town to urban area. For the past 25 years, he has lived in the Fourth Ward. His grown daughter and her family also live in the ward.
As Columbia approaches the 100,000-population mark, Wade believes decisions about the community’s future are more important than ever before. That’s why he wants to be a part of the City Council, where policies are made that directly affect the direction in which the community will grow.
“I think Columbia is at a very key point, and I think there are a number of policy decisions that we need to be considering over the next few years,” Wade said. “I think my experience qualifies me to be an important part of those decisions we make here.”
Jeff Barrow, who serves on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission with both council candidates, said Wade’s experience on the commission and his professional experience put him “head and shoulders above” his opponent. In addition, Wade has served as a consultant in the United States and South Africa, assisting more than 100 communities with economic development.
“Jerry Wade is a very democratic and understanding guy,” Barrow said. “He wants the process to be such that everyone is involved and empowered. I think the city of Columbia has needed someone like that for a long time.”
Wade said for Columbia to move forward in an orderly way, residents need to stop arguing about issues that face the city and work together to solve concerns on which they agree.
“We need to find common ground and bring divergent thoughts and perspectives together and find how we can come to agreement on polices that guide us into the futures,” he said.
Wade said the city continues to grow. Making growth a positive experience, however, requires learning how to strike a balance between providing adequate city services and creating a viable community that attracts high-paying jobs that will stimulate the local economy, he said.
“Growth itself is neither good nor bad,” he said. “It’s the qualities that the growth adds to the community and where it leads the community that make the difference.”
Wade said it’s important the city continue to provide services at a level its residents have come to expect, no matter how much Columbia grows.
He added that as the community grows, city leaders should not lose sight of those qualities of Columbia that make it a special place to live, such as its parks and recreation programs, green spaces, trails and cultural opportunities.
“We have to make sure to pay attention to the little pieces of Columbia that make it a place where we want to live out our lives,” Wade said.
Finally, he said, Columbia should make it a priority to attract more high-tech developments that would offer more high-paying jobs with better benefits.
“Too much of our recent jobs creations have been low-wage, low-benefit jobs,” Wade said. “That is not to say anything negative about the people who hold those jobs. But if we attract high-tech developments, the retail sector will take care of itself.”
That kind of economic development doesn’t “just happen,” he said. “We have to clearly define what it takes. Those are the jobs that the whole world is competing for. They aren’t going to just come to Columbia because it’s a good place to live. There are thousands of good places like that.”
Barrow said Wade is adept at bringing people together on controversial subjects and making positive changes. But he said Wade sometimes comes across as too academic and abstract.
“He has to get his head out of the clouds and speak in terms people can understand,” he said. “Jerry has a long enough track record on planning and zoning that he can bring examples to the table.”
Don Stamper, executive director of the Central Missouri Development Council, said he suspects that on the campaign trail Wade will appear “more philosophical and global,” while Holden will be more specific with voters.
“I think that, in the end, it is common sense that will make the difference,” said Stamper, who said his group had not endorsed a candidate. “The council is not a place where we need people who practice theory. We need people who practice common sense.”
Wade said he has been employing sound reasoning for years on the Planning and Zoning Commission. He recently voted against the extension of LeMone Industrial Boulevard, a project he said was too expensive, would harm the environment and would benefit few people.
“Growth is going to be. So let’s work together to make the growth take us where we want to go,” Wade said. “My notion is this: Let’s look at creating our future instead of fixing everything that is wrong in our past.”