The Sedalia City Council Ward 1 seat is open April 5, as Councilman Jim Cunningham is not seeking re-election. Newcomers Jeff Leeman and Chuck Leftwich have both filed for the position.
A graduate of Smith-Cotton High School and State Fair Community College when it was Plywood U, Leftwich is a Sedalia native who grew up on West Broadway Boulevard. He is retired after 35 years in retail management.
“I have very strong ties with Sedalia. … I have a strong interest in the community and improving,” he said of his decision to run.
Leftwich’s main platform for running is the appearance and maintenance of Sedalia neighborhoods and he noted several issues the city needs to address.
“Some of my really strong concerns are that our neighborhoods have declined, the conditions have declined,” he said. “I see a lot of code violations that are not being acted on. I see things month after month that there’s no change — vehicles sitting in yards, lots of rubbish and trash. I just don’t understand why they’re not being acted on.
“Another concern is the growing amount of graffiti spreading across Sedalia,” he continued. “It sends a bad message, it hurts property values. In my mind I thought we need to have some kind of graffiti cleanup committee. If elected, this is something I want to propose to the council. I have already received a commitment from the store manager of Lowe’s and Walmart, they have both said if I am elected they will donate the materials needed to do a cleanup and Lowe’s said they will donate volunteer workers.”
Leftwich said he did not want to give an opinion on the Fiscal Year 2017 budget, which at the time of his interview with the Democrat was a week from being approved by council.
“I want to remain neutral on that. I don’t want to say anything negative,” he said. “If I’m elected, I will have my fair share to say.”
As for the proposed rental inspection ordinance, Leftwich has a very strong opinion in favor of the idea. He said he’s been doing research into other programs, specifically one in Adrian, Michigan, which is roughly the size of Sedalia and has been doing inspections since 2001.
“With these inspections you correct a lot of important safety issues,” he said. “They’re not going in there and nit-picking. They’re looking for electrical, plumbing, roofing violations — things where people can get hurt. … It’s had so many positive things that have gone along with it (in Adrian). … To me it’s a safety thing.”
Other top issues for Leftwich include increasing the number of staff at the Sedalia Animal Shelter, improving sidewalks, increasing street lighting and cleaning up the city.
“I’m an honest person, I’m looking out for the good of the community,” he said of why citizens should vote for him. “I have very strong ties to the community. My great-grandfather’s brother had a blacksmith shop in the late 1800s. This connects me to Sedalia. I’m a property owner here, this is where I was born and raised. This is where I want to be and I want to see improvement, not a decline in our neighborhoods.”
An Air Force veteran, Leeman owned JL Computer Technologies for 25 years. He sold it eight years ago but continues to work for the company, which helps with school district IT service. He serves on the Sedalia Police Personnel Board and has served on two bank boards, one of which he still serves as a director.
Being a public official runs in the family, as his dad was mayor and councilman in Leeman’s hometown. He has also been to most council meetings this year and the January strategic planning session.
“I’d like to bring to the city my experiences I’ve had over the past few years being in business and the armed services and different management positions to benefit the City of Sedalia,” he said of his decision to run.
Leeman offered up several goals for office if elected April 5.
“I think the budget needs to be really closely watched in regards to the issues we have, westward development and aging infrastructure,” he said. “I would like to see a couple things. We are in desperate need of a new police department. A new one is in the works, but it needs to be redeveloped. … We need to look at a community center. It’s been talked about, there are different avenues to get to that. … The problem is what you’re going to do after to maintain it.”
He said he thinks the FY17 budget approved last week is “put together very well.” He also said he is fully in favor of the new public safety wage plan.
“I’d say it’s a lean budget but allows for adjustment and movement as its actually being used,” Leeman said. “… Council set up a guideline of percentages for the budget (keeping the general fund between 25 and 50 percent of revenue) and that guideline I think is a very good guideline. I think we’re in really good shape to proceed forward.”
All candidates have been asked about the proposed rental inspection ordinance, and Leeman said he’s not ready to offer an opinion.
“This is a tough one to answer. I’m on the outside. If any candidate says they have an exact opinion, they don’t have all the information at their fingertips,” he said. “That being said, there’s some reason this has all come up to the city level. What that is, I can’t put my finger on it. I think it should be treated as a major project and if you’re going to do something with this, then you need to sit down with all the parties involved. Define what happened, why are we here, and what can we do to solve this problem?”
Leeman said a few top issues facing the city include westward growth, aging infrastructure and maintaining and developing downtown Sedalia.
“My experiences, my fiscal soundness that I’m able to read and do budgets,” he said of why citizens should vote for him. “I hope I can present to the voters this is what they should have to represent them. From the outside, I think I’m the most qualified candidate they’ve got.”
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.