Ragtag owner runs in First Ward

Paul Sturtz flipped on the lights at the Big Canoe house on Sanford Avenue, where he's organized agricultural events for the community, and paused to regroup.

This was his fourth scheduled stop in a daylong trip across Columbia to announce his candidacy for First Ward councilman.

The founder of the True/False Film Festival and co-founder of Ragtag Cinemacafé said his background sets him apart from three other candidates who plan to run in the race, including incumbent First Ward Councilwoman Almeta Crayton.

"I feel like I've been fortunate to experience that so consistently, having these events where people support me," Sturtz said. "I want to offer that to others."

Most of the public and press saw Sturtz introduce his candidacy at three stops — Columbia Area Senior Center, Nora Stewart Memorial Nursery and J.R. Barton's Southern Kitchen and BBQ — before ending at Big Canoe.

"It was a beautiful day, and there were a bunch of media and supporters present," Sturtz's campaign manager Johann Holt said. "We got a lot of good feedback. Things are going well so far. I'm very excited about the race."

Sturtz said a key goal of his is to give opportunities to residents and hear what they have to say about their communities.

"So often our neighborhoods feel neglected," he said. "I want to open up the government and make it available to residents across the ward who want their voices heard."

Sturtz said he wants to address economic and minority conditions and links between income-levels and jobs within the community.

"Any time a community can have mixed income, it's going to be stable," he said.

Ensuring that residents receive equal treatment from government officials also concerns him.

"Young black people especially feel picked on," he said. "It's all in tandem, supporting the police in their job and making it a safe place for everyone."

Sturtz is holding a fundraiser from 5 to 6 p.m. today at Orr Street Studios, the first of many community events Holt said they are planning.

"It's a chance for people to come out and chat with Paul," Holt said.

At Big Canoe, Sturtz supporter and First Ward resident Dee Dokken said Sturtz has a way of articulating his ideas about things people understand and can get to the reality of neighborhood issues.

"I'm much more into the magic trick of taking ideas and making them into real-life projects," Sturtz said. "It can be exhausting, but in the end it's pretty fun. Facing the challenges of this neighborhood feels more like an adventure than a burden."

After giving the media a tour of the Big Canoe house, which Sturtz called a "project over time" that a group of community members is working to turn into a community demonstration center, he returned to J.R. Barton's Southern Kitchen and BBQ, located in the First Ward. Holt said they are considering holding future meetings at J.R. Barton's Southern Kitchen and BBQ.

"I haven't strictly been a political organizer, but most of my work has revolved around bringing people of all walks of life together," Sturtz said.

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