Ruffin excited to advocate for First Ward from the inside

“It’s the same work I’ve always done, but now I’m on the other side of the table,” Ruffin said. “I’ll have a more complete vision and understanding of how decisions are made.”
Portrait of Rev. Clyde Ruffin. Courtesy of Clyde Ruffin

Often an outsider in many community discussions, newly elected First Ward councilman Rev. Clyde Ruffin said he is ready to make a difference from the inside of City Hall.

Ruffin grew up in Kansas City and taught at Washington University in St. Louis before joining the faculty of the MU Department of Theatre in 1983.

“I love the city,” Ruffin said. “When I first moved to Columbia, ‘I was like, where am I?’ I was unimpressed. But over the past 30 years, I have come to love Columbia and I’m excited to make a difference here.”

Ruffin is about to retire from MU. He has written and directed acclaimed plays and organized the Black Theatre Workshop, now known as the World Theatre Workshop, which allows city residents opportunities to participate in university plays. He has been the senior pastor of the Second Missionary Baptist Church since 2003.

Ruffin said he sees his many vocations and passions as working together for the good of the overall community; each one makes him a more complete person. He said he hopes to bring his many experiences to the council and come into contact with more people in the community.

“The flock just got a little bit bigger,” he said, retelling a comment a congregant made, and laughed.

Ruffin faces a packed spring agenda with the potential demolition and redevelopment of Shakespeare’s Pizza, zoning propositions and other proposed downtown development.

Ruffin said he is working on understanding the avalanche of issues and requests that began filling his inbox immediately after the election, but he said his immediate philosophical goal is connecting with residents.

“I have the responsibility of presence,” Ruffin said. “I want to connect with individuals who work here and residents who are passionate about the ward.”

Ruffin said his interest in city government began when he worked on the restoration of the Blind Boone Home and the installation of a headstone for James T. Scott. Scott, a member of the Second Missionary Baptist Church, was lynched in 1923 and his remains lay in an unmarked grave until Ruffin and other community members lobbied to mark his grave and give him a memorial service in 2011. The Blind Boone home, next door to Ruffin’s church, was the residence of accomplished pianist John William Boone and has fallen into disrepair. Ruffin chairs the J.W. Blind Boone Heritage Foundation Board, which has been trying to fully restore the home since 2010.

“The campaign piqued my interest in city government, to see how decisions are made, who makes them and how money gets used,” Ruffin said.

Now, after being elected to represent the First Ward, Ruffin said he is excited to advocate for the same issues and concerns of his ward, but with better access to information.

“It’s the same work I’ve always done, but now I’m on the other side of the table,” he said. “I’ll have a more complete vision and understanding of how decisions are made.”

Ruffin said he hopes to bring his diverse experience in theater, the pulpit and the classroom to council meetings. He said he hopes to live out his life motto in the council seat and would offer the same advice to any resident hoping to get involved in Columbia and their community.

“You always seek to live a complete life that encompasses close relationships, meaningful work, service and faith,” he said. “If you can do those things, I think you’ll be fulfilled and make a real difference.”

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