Richland mayor's race matches long local experience with focus on faith
By: Darrell Todd Maurina
Posted: Monday, April 6, 2009 11:57 pm
RICHLAND, Mo. (April 6, 2009) — Richland’s mayoral race features a contest between the incumbent, Bob Wall, who brings years of experience on the council, and a relative newcomer, Kimi Gerred, who says she wants to apply her faith to the political realm.
Now 67, Wall has lived in Richland since 1966 and after retiring as a public works inspector at Fort Leonard Wood, he became a Section 8 housing inspector for Missouri Ozarks Community Action, which is headquartered in Richland. He served four years in the 1980s as Richland’s mayor, ran again in 2004 and was re-elected in 2006, and is seeking his fifth term in office. He’s also served as a Richland alderman and as a member and chairman of the Richland Utility Board.
“I believe I have as much more experience than anyone else right now,” Wall said. “The number one reason (to vote for me) is just years of experience. I’ve been in Richland long enough to know quite a bit about it.”
His challenger is a Christian writer who grew up in Missouri but moved to Richland in January 2008 after a number of years in Florida, where she was an active participant in the campaigns of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and President George W. Bush. After returning to Missouri in August 2007 and to Richland a half-year later, she volunteered for Sen. John McCain in his unsuccessful bid for the presidency.
“I believe this is what God has anointed me to do, that is my main qualification, although I am educated and I have tested and stood strongly through the principles that I believe anyone in public office should be standing for, of trusty and integrity,” Gerred said. “He has anointed me to run in politics so I am trying to follow His lead.”
Five other races in Richland are up for election, but only three of them are contested.
• Richland Municipal Judge Rodney Blanchard and incumbent Ward III Alderman Tim Bailey have no opposition.
• Long-term incumbent Ward II Alderman Charles “Mac” Myers faces a re-election challenge from Thomas M. Murphy.
• Incumbent Ward I Alderman Eldon Haun, who was appointed to fill a vacancy, faces a challenge from Larry Jeffries.
• The Richland R-IV School Board has seven candidates seeking two positions; both incumbents decided not to run for re-election. The contestants are Brenda Mathes, Elizabeth Warren, Donna Guevremont, Michael Calvetti, Jerry Pemberton, Ira Moss and Eric Graves.
The mayor, municipal judge, and alderman positions are all for two-year terms. The top two school board candidates will be elected for three-year terms.
Wall said he was asked by numerous community residents to run for re-election, but said he’s aware of the limitations of what a small-town mayor can do to address his community’s problems.
“The mayor has less powers than a councilman because he does not get a vote, but he puts in the time,” Wall said.
“You try to make things better for people where you can. You can’t always satisfy people but you try,” Wall said. “The job doesn’t pay anything, I just do it to try to help the community if I can.”
Wall said he originally came to Richland after serving in the Navy because he appreciated the city’s appearance, and now that he’s in city government he wants to prevent the city’s standards of appearance from deteriorating.
“I think the city of Richland is one of the prettiest towns in the whole county; we try to just keep it that way,” Wall said. “When I first came to Richland, I used to drive from Camdenton to Fort Leonard Wood in the summer of 1966 through Richland every day and looked at houses. It’s not like there weren’t houses other places, but the pretty park and everything is just so nice.”
Gerred agreed that Richland is pretty..
“Sometimes it’s warm weather but the snow is beautiful. It’s a place for me to come back and rest and relax and enjoy what I think is the most beautiful place in the nation,” Gerred said. “It’s a great place to begin healing for this whole nation because it is central to the nation and a good connecting point.”
However, Gerred said the city’s moral standards are crucial.
“I’m interested in bringing justice and righteousness as the foundation of public policy, not only throughout this city, county and region, but also through the state. I want to see a standard raised where the general population’s best interest is keeping informed and open and honest public discussion,” Gerred said. “(The mayor) is the chief official of the city or the town. I believe the functions are that I want the best possible solutions for the general population and I like open and honest government and open and honest policy and fairness and everything, and I want to look out for the general public’s best interest.”
While Wall has years of local political experience in Richland, Gerred said she also has many years of experience even though it’s not in the local area.
“I have worked with some campaigns down in Florida; I started with a friend of mine working with the Christian Coalition and working with the Republican Party to distribute material and pass out voter guides,” Gerred said. “I also worked with the Republican Party to get Gov. Jeb Bush elected both times and also to get President Bush elected. I worked in Pinellas County to distribute literature and make phone calls. I continued through three elections and continued to work with the Republican Party in Missouri in the John McCain campaign.”
Electric rates are a problem in Richland, Gerred said, based on what she’s been told by her potential constituents.
“Some of my neighbors have asked me what I am going to do about the electric bill, and one of my other neighbors pointed out to me that we have a coming price increase. I’d like to see if we can get that minimized,” Gerred said. “We need to make sure everybody is a law abiding citizen and the children are safe and everybody is getting the best they can get of water, food and health care. Whatever I can do to bring that about, it is what I want to do.”
Gerred said electric rates are on many of her neighbors’ minds and solutions may require discussions beyond the city level.
“I would like to work with the people of the city to see if we can bring some light to the areas to see if there is anything that can be done on a local or a state level,” Gerred said.
Gerred described herself as a non-denominational Christian and said she has attended First Assembly of God in Richland as well as Walk on Water Faith Church.
“I’ve got a couple of books, one to be released on April 16,” she said.
Wall, who is a member of First Christian Church of Richland and the local American Legion chapter, said his key priorities for the next few years, if re-elected, will be to get more industry to Richland. The city has an industrial park but has suffered since it lost a Lee plant about a decade ago and Wall said the city’s lack of funds is a serious problem.
“With the economy the way it is, the sales tax numbers are down and you have to have increases in the utilities,” Wall said. “I wish there was some way we could get some more industry to get more jobs so more sales tax would be spent in town. Industry would drive a lot of things if you can get it, but we are like a lot of other small towns, everybody wants it. We do have a terrifically good work force if there were just jobs for us.”
Despite the difficulty in attracting new jobs, Wall said he’s glad Richland continues to provide employment for its residents.
“When I first started getting involved in this town, there was an idea I was trying to make things better for my family and so my kids could find jobs in the area and not have to move cross-country and then I would have to drive cross-country to visit them,” Wall said. “That’s still part of my goal. I now have seven of nine grandkids living within 10 miles of me so that just tickles me to death.”