The race for Sedalia City Council’s open Ward 1 seat won’t include an incumbent this year, as Ward 1 Councilman Jim Cunningham has announced he will not be seeking re-election in April.
Cunningham is in his first term after being elected in April 2014. He told city department heads during Saturday’s goal-setting work session that his reasons are “personal.”
“I’ve had the experience, I enjoyed it. I think there’s some other things I need to focus on including my full-time job,” Cunningham told the Democrat on Thursday. “It’s just not best for me at the moment. There’s no one reason in general.”
Cunningham served as chair of the Finance and Administration Committee in 2015. He has been part of several projects as a councilman during the last two years, including awarding the Street Department another $1 million budget in Fiscal Year 2016, getting a use tax issue on the August 2015 ballot and the passage of a new TIF district, although Cunningham voted no on the proposal.
“I’ve enjoyed it. You’re never going to make everybody happy, but I enjoyed the interactions I’ve had with citizens, staff, employees.” Cunningham said. “After we had the TIF (district) vote I had been totally amazed at how much support I had gotten from people for voting the way I voted (against the proposal). It was amazing to see people come out and say thanks for going that way. Made it worthwhile.”
While Cunningham has worked on many projects, several of which will see even more progress in the next few months, he said his favorite part of his job has been the people.
“The thing I’ve enjoyed the most is I’ve gotten to know the people that run our city, work in our city,” he said. “We’ve got a great set of employees who work hard for the city and it’s a pleasure to work with them. It’s been valuable to learn how the city works; to see it from the other side has really been positive. I’m happy to see the community growing, that’s what I want.”
Cunningham said he hopes to stay involved in city government in the future, but in an unknown capacity at this point.
“I had a brief discussion with the mayor about maybe a board appointment at some point,” he said. “Am I necessarily done with the whole politics thing, maybe not. I don’t know where the future will go. In two, four years, there may be some things in the future that may present themselves.”
For now, he said he will be focusing on his full-time job at State Fair Community College, devoting more time to his role as a reserve deputy for the Pettis County Sheriff’s Office and spending more time with his family.
Cunningham saw only one opponent in the 2014 race for Ward 1, and last year only one council race was contested. With filing closing Tuesday, he encouraged citizens to consider public office.
“I would encourage people to run for these offices,” Cunningham said. “What disappoints me most is we have an election with very little competition. People should get involved, whether it’s for two years or 10 years; people get a different perspective of the city when they get involved.”
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.