NEOSHO, Mo. —
Two incumbent Neosho City Council members are working on a council challenger’s campaign to unseat a fellow incumbent.
Councilman Steve Hart is Heather Bowers’ campaign chairman, and Councilman David Ruth is her campaign treasurer in the former council member’s effort to unseat incumbent Charles Collinsworth.
On some divisive issues, including continued pursuit of legal action related to the Neosho Transportation Development District, Collinsworth has voted in the majority with Mayor Richard Davidson and Councilman Tom Workman.
If Bowers were to be elected, that could create a new majority of Bowers, Hart and Ruth. All three say that is not the intent.
Bowers was on the council from 2009 until 2011. The council in 2011 voted to remove her from office for violating its meeting attendance rule. She announced her candidacy for an unexpired term on the council in 2012 but withdrew from the race the week before the election.
“Politically, we have a lot of common goals,” Bowers said of herself, Hart and Ruth. “We have common agendas.”
But she said there is no agreement to vote the same way and that she has independent ideas.
She said she holds Davidson responsible for removing her from office in 2011, but that returning to the council isn’t meant as revenge.
“I see it as a civic duty,” Bowers said. “I would like to see the mayor making decisions involving the council, not alone.”
Davidson brought up issues addressed in a Bowers campaign letter at Tuesday night’s council meeting.
The letter states in part that electing Bowers would result in a property tax reduction, a reduction in water and sewer rates, a balanced city budget, and honoring the agreement with the Neosho American Legion.
The Clyde R. Burdick American Legion post sued the city in Newton County Circuit Court in December. The lawsuit alleges that the city has failed to transfer ownership of a city building to the post as had been agreed.
City Attorney Steve Hays said things look promising for a mediated settlement. He said he toured the former Police Department building last week with the American Legion post’s lawyer and a few members.
“I would say that it was a very pleasant meeting,” Hays said.
The council approved a motion by Davidson to open the minutes of recent closed-door meetings about the lawsuit. Davidson then read from the minutes a statement by Hart that the city should drive a bulldozer down the middle of the building.
Hart didn’t dispute the statement, but he said it was made in jest and that Davidson had taken it out of context. He said the way Davidson portrayed it was a “half-truth.”
Hart said it shouldn’t have taken a lawsuit to settle the matter.
“It is sickening the way we’ve treated them,” he said of the Legion members.
Davidson said water rates must be kept at current levels until a low-interest state loan is repaid. Then there are water infrastructure improvements that will be required.
He said the property tax rate was reduced this year.
Bowers said Wednesday that she doesn’t think the water rate is as inflexible as Davidson describes it. She said better management practices and resolving unmetered water losses could result in reduced water rates. She said she would like to see some relief on water rates for low-income residents.
Bowers said she knows that using the term “re-elect” on her campaign signs and literature riles some, but she said it is accurate.