The Sedalia City Council has a Ward 4 seat open in the April 5 election, and incumbent Tollie Rowe and challenger John Fritz have signed up for the race.
Rowe is a sergeant of investigations with the Pettis County Sheriff’s Office and a part-time instructor at State Fair Community College. He serves on the Economic Development Sedalia-Pettis County board and is president of the CASA board.
A lifelong Sedalian, Rowe is seeking a third term on council.
“I’ve enjoyed the two terms I’ve been on there and there’s still a lot more I want to do,” Rowe said of his decision to seek re-election. “I think I bring a good, fair, balanced, informed voice to the council.”
Rowe offered what he thinks are top issues facing the City of Sedalia.
“I think keeping the $30 million sewer project on task, on budget and on time is a significant event so we don’t get another issue or consent order from Department of Natural Resources,” he said. “I think looking into the construction of a new police station is important. I’ve been in that building since I was 17 years old. The building hasn’t changed much, but the dynamics of law enforcement have.
“Also stabilizing our fund balance and making sure we have excess funds and the financial stability to handle whatever events might come our way.”
Council approved the Fiscal Year 2017 budget Monday, and Rowe said he was pleased with several specific items.
“One thing I was pleased with was the public safety salary proposal,” he said. “The Sedalia Fire Department and Police Department have lost a lot of people to different agencies. A lot of my friends have left here to go to Lee’s Summit. To increase the base pay to make it more competitive is a good thing. That’s one thing I was proud to see. And of course, continue to work on roads and sidewalks.”
The idea of a rental inspection ordinance was brought to the city’s attention more than a year ago and was a question asked of candidates in last year’s municipal election. City Administrator Gary Edwards has said he expects preliminary information to be presented to council this spring after the election.
“I’m curious to see what the ordinance will say. I’m very cautious about people that will talk about how they’ll vote for something before they’re actually given the issue to vote on. … I can’t say until I see the ordinance,” Rowe said. “I want to make sure we strike a fair balance between the good landlords and those who are not so. … Striking a balance between the business side and the personal property side is what I’m looking at. I don’t want to regulate someone at a business, but at what point do you stop regulating safety?”
Rowe said his goals include pushing for a new police station, improving and replacing aging infrastructure, and keeping council a “fair, balanced, informed group.”
“I believe that I have proven over the past four years I am willing to spend the time to thoroughly examine an issue,” Rowe said of why citizens should vote for him. “I will vote for what I believe is right, not because I’m told to or not to. And I’m not afraid to actually spend my time and make the right decision.”
Fritz is familiar with council, as he served as Ward 4 councilman in 1992. He managed the campaign to establish the Pettis County Ambulance District in 2012, and served on the Bothwell Regional Health Center Board of Trustees from 2011 to June 2015.
“I love politics,” Fritz said of his decision to run. “I love the challenge of finding ways we can improve city government, making it more efficient. I think it’s important to always find ways to improve city services, building partnerships to create a safer and healthier community. I think that’s real vital work. Those have been my priorities each and every time I’ve served.”
Fritz brought up issues he would like addressed soon, including a plan for a community center and putting it on a ballot for citizens to vote on, creating a social media policy for the city to foster more engagement with citizens, conducting a review of the mission, vision and value statements for the City of Sedalia, and creating a policy for dealing with TIF decisions in the future, something he cited as a reason for running for office.
As with Rowe, Fritz said he thinks the city has created a strong FY17 budget.
“I think the city administrator and council have an excellent plan in how they budget,” he said. “Sedalia’s been very fortunate to have had very wise and conservative budgeting practices and I think that lends a perspective on the type of city administrators we have. … The 25/50 rule (keeping the general fund between 25 and 50 percent of revenue) is an excellent rule.”
While Rowe said he wants more information before giving an opinion, Fritz said he is already strongly opposed to rental inspections. He said, however, if an ordinance ends up getting approved, he is “prepared to climb on board and help make that ordinance as palatable as possible for local landlords.”
“Creating a new rental inspection law is not going to solve the underlying ordinance problem. The underlying law they struggle with now is the inability to have any teeth to force someone to make repairs,” Fritz said. “… The huge problem you have with it is the cost of the inspection — landlords fear that cost will narrow their margins to a point their business is no longer viable.
“… I understand that tenants do find themselves in difficult standoffs with landlords that won’t make needed repairs, but a rental inspection law won’t change those unfortunate situations,” he added.
His goals include being a new voice for Ward 4 and gaining council support to rebrand the community.
“My previous leadership experience and commitment to creating a safer and healthier community,” he said of why citizens should vote for him. “I love the challenge of finding ways that government can do a better job.”
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.