Nauser beats Burns by 55 votes in race for Fifth Ward seat

In a three-way race, Laura Nauser won the Fifth Ward seat on City Council.

After being away from City Council for a little more than a year, Laura Nauser won the Fifth Ward seat in a special election Tuesday.

Former councilwoman Helen Anthony vacated the seat Nov. 30 so she could be closer to family in Providence, R.I.

Nauser beat out two opponents: Tootie Burns, Secretary for the Grasslands Neighborhood Association, and Mark Jones, a political director for the Missouri National Education Association.

"It was a hard-fought campaign," Nauser said. "I appreciate the endorsement from the Chamber of Commerce and my treasurer. She did wonders."

Nauser captured 43 percent of the vote while Burns received 41 percent and Jones received 16 percent. Nauser said not much has changed since she last served on City Council.

"The same issues that are on the table now were there when I left," Nauser said.

Nauser also served two years as mayor pro tem and later ran as a Republican against state Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, for a position in the Missouri House, but was unsuccessful and did not file for re-election to City Council.

Nauser got back into the swing of council duties shortly after the election and was already in a meeting about development Thursday and receiving calls about city issues. With her previous council experience, starting up again will be easy, she said.

"I will be familiar with the process, terminology and the way things operate," Nauser said. "I won't have that learning curve that somebody new would have had."

She said she plans to improve the way council handles policies. Recently, council has acted based on crises instead of planning ahead of time, Nauser said.

"I think for government to be effective, and work for all citizens, it's our job as the city council to set the legislative policies so that everybody knows what the rules are," Nauser said. "When we try to legislate in an instant, because there happens to be a situation at hand, that's not good government. So that's my goal: to try and be that voice that says, 'Hey, there's not a policy here and we're just basing our decisions on motions and not policy.'"

An example of this tendency was the proposal for a moratorium for downtown demolitions last month.

"The way they went about it, in my opinion, was absolutely inappropriate," Nauser said. "There never should have even been a mention or discussion in my mind on a moratorium on development. Especially since it was a legal contract between a buyer and seller and it met the current requirements of all of our city ordinances."

The issue of downtown development is something that will probably continue to come up in the community, and the council needs to help the city come to a consensus on the matter, Nauser said.

"If the community says they want that discussion, I'm open to that," Nauser said. "We've talked for years that our planning and zoning is maybe not up-to-date and maybe not up to what community standards expect. We've got to come up with some kind of agreement between all the stakeholders in the community. We need to come to a consensus as a community on what we want to be and how we want to get there."

Nauser said she also hopes to advocate for crime and family issues that she pushed for during her prior term on council.

"When I was on City Council, I had worked hard on many youth and family issues relating to youth crime and having opportunities for families here in our community, whether it be job creation or education," Nauser said. "Nobody picked up that cause when I left. Since I work with at-risk youth in many organizations I wanted to get back on and be that advocate again for the city and for those types of issues."

Nauser serves as president of the Boone County Federated Republican Women and serves on the board of directors of the Boys & Girls Club of Columbia.

Other issues that will be at the forefront of her term include electric transmission lines and airport expansion, Nauser said.

Nauser will be sworn in Feb. 18. She will then serve the rest of Anthony's term, which will put the Fifth Ward seat up for election again in April 2014. The Third and Fourth Ward seats are up for election on April 2, as well as mayor.

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