McDavid, Kespohl and Dudley sworn into City Council

The Chamber of Commerce backed all three members in their races.
Columbia's new Mayor Bob McDavid takes his place on the City Council after being inaugurated at Monday's meeting in the Daniel Boone Building. McDavid was elected last Tuesday to replace Darwin Hindman, Columbia's mayor of 15 years.

Columbia's new mayor and two new council members took their oaths of office Monday night, officially giving City Council a decidedly conservative shift.

Retired obstetrician Bob McDavid was sworn in as mayor, replacing Darwin Hindman, who retired after five terms. Gary Kespohl replaced Karl Skala as Third Ward councilman and Daryl Dudley replaced Jerry Wade, representing the Fourth Ward.

Part of the northeast corner of Stephens Lake Park will also be designated as the Darwin Hindman Discovery Garden, an educational nature area established in honor of his service to the city.

After the ceremony, McDavid said he had met with UM system President Gary Forsee since his election to talk about city policies affecting the university.

"I'm interested in establishing a strong dialogue with him because this is a college town," McDavid said. "We need a strong university and the university needs a strong city."

He also talked about other college towns across the country that are increasing taxes or utility charges on universities and students to help close local budget deficits in the down economy. McDavid said Columbia should make policies similar to other college towns, such as Champaign, Ill., and Ann Arbor, Mich.

"I think when you talk about something like sewer charges, I think you look at those relationships to see what the best practices are," McDavid said. "There is a lot to learn from benchmarking to other cities that are in the same situation as we're in."

The Columbia Chamber of Commerce had endorsed all three new council members during their campaigns. Chamber President Don Laird said his group endorsed candidates it felt brought the most balance to the council. In throwing its support behind McDavid, the chamber made its first endorsement of a mayoral candidate in 105 years. Kespohl and Dudley also had the chamber's backing.

"We felt this was the right year," Laird said. "We picked candidates who we thought had the best leadership abilities and brought the most balance to the Council."

When he made an appearance at McDavid's watch party on election night, Hindman said the emphasis of the council could change, but the council decides many issues, moderating any political agendas.

"Being on the council, you have a certain range in which you can make your decisions," Hindman said. "In general, I think there could be a change in emphasis, but I don't think there will be a dramatic change."

Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser echoed that sentiment. She said she does not anticipate a pro-business shift in the council's priorities, despite the economic downturn or the chamber's backing of all three winners.

"I cannot really recall any council member being anti-business," she said. "We don't direct what comes to us. The people do that."

Some groups are worried how the new elected officials could impact the debate about urban development. Ben Londree, chairman of the Boone County Smart Growth Coalition, said Friday his group had not met since the election. He said the group would discuss its options for dealing with the new structure of the council.

"We're concerned that smart growth will not be the order of the day," he said. "Obviously, we'll be watching to see what happens."

Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe said the new council members would have to respond to the community, but she also said the city's residential and commercial development should have to consider its societal and financial impacts.

"The biggest issue is whether development is done in a way that is responsible both socially and environmentally, for neighborhoods and in terms of who pays, whether it will be developers or if citizens are saddled with the bill," Hoppe said.

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