Joplin’s new mayor pledged Monday night that the city will operate with more transparency and that work toward redevelopment will be the City Council’s priority.
Mike Seibert, who withstood a challenge by another incumbent councilman in last Tuesday’s election to be the Zone 4 councilman, was elected mayor by a unanimous vote of the panel Monday night.
“I think a priority, from the redevelopment standpoint, is that we’ve learned through the election process how critical it is to be transparent with citizens,” he said. “We will require the master developer to give frequent updates on the status of projects.” He said he hopes that will help reassure residents who have been critical of the use of a master developer to lead housing, retail and public projects intended to spur Joplin’s economic redevelopment from the 2011 tornado.
Seibert said frequent council appearances by representatives of the master developer, Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, “not only serves to give the citizens an update but also to give some insight into the complexity and challenges that we face in putting some of these big projects together.”
“My hope and my goal is that Joplin, which is known for its recovery, also will be known for its redevelopment,” he said.
David Wallace, CEO of Wallace Bajjali, has said that the firm has had to find financing and buy land before construction of any projects could start. The firm started work in August 2012.
Seibert was nominated for the mayor’s post by newly elected general Councilman Ryan Stanley, who said Seibert and Gary Shaw, who was unopposed for re-election to represent Zone 1, were both worthy men. Shaw served one term as mayor before the 2011 tornado. Seibert has not yet been mayor. He has served on the council since 2008.
Morris Glaze was elected mayor pro tem in a split vote. Councilman Benjamin Rosenberg nominated Stanley as mayor pro tem, saying that the council would be passing the torch to a new generation.
Councilman Mike Woolston, who was re-elected last week to a general seat, nominated Glaze because of Glaze’s length of service on the council and because “he is engaged with citizens.”
Glaze drew five votes, those of himself, Woolston, Shaw, outgoing Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean and new council member Miranda Lewis.
Glaze said that based on his talks with Seibert, economic redevelopment and building more housing in the tornado zone will be the priorities of the new council administration.
Seibert, in his first remarks as mayor from the dais, thanked the council and past mayors for their service and asked the city staff members who were present to stand for recognition of their work. Audience members responded with applause.
Before the newly elected and re-elected members of council took their oaths of office, Colbert-Kean was recognized for her mayoral term by the mayor pro tem, Bill Scearce, with the presentation of a gavel and a painting.
Last Tuesday’s spring election became another reflection of the turmoil that had existed since last summer at City Hall when five members unsuccessfully attempted to fire Mark Rohr as city manager. The same five members — Scearce, Colbert-Kean, Rosenberg, Trisha Raney and Jack Golden — succeeded in firing Rohr in a 5-4 vote on Feb. 4 based on a report on an investigation conducted by a private investigator hired by the council to look into ethical questions about Scearce and Woolston.
Rohr was fired “without cause,” and the city put the part of the report dealing with him under wraps, terming it a closed personnel record. The firing of Rohr prompted an outcry from the public, and the closing of the report portion prompted a successful lawsuit by the Globe for its disclosure.
A political action committee that had been formed by business people to endorse or contribute to council and school board candidates with shared views supported the elections of Stanley, Lewis, Seibert, Shaw and Woolston. Golden and Raney, two of the five members who had voted to fire Rohr, were up for re-election April 8. Voters rejected their bids. The other three were not up for re-election this year.
“We’re excited about the future of Joplin,” said Jerrod Hogan, assistant treasurer of the Joplin Progress Committee, on Monday night. “The candidates we supported were all elected, and tonight’s election of the mayor by a unanimous vote is a sign of a positive future.”
April 8 vote
MIKE SEIBERT defeated challenger Jack Golden, an incumbent general council member, for the 4th Zone council seat.