Next week, Sedalia residents will vote to elect a new mayor, deciding between current Sedalia City Councilman Steve Galliher and former Mayor Allen Hawkins.
Both served as Ward 1 councilman and both cited bringing new jobs and continued infrastructure improvements as top priorities, but both presented different ideas regarding the value of their past service and what they see for the city’s future.
Galliher, finishing up his second term as a councilman, said he’s “loved every minute” of his time in office.
“I like serving the people,” he said. “I like being part of council and working with the city staff and other councilmembers to get things done. I really enjoy talking to (citizens) too.”
Helping his constituents, even those not in his ward, is always a top priority, Galliher added.
“A lot of times it’s the little things,” he said. “I got a phone call a while back from a woman who was having trouble with a ditch and getting it mowed. I don’t think she was in my ward, but I told her, ‘well I can be there in about 20 minutes and we can figure out what to do.’ I like talking to people face-to-face, getting to know them.”
Aside from working with citizens, Galliher praised city staff and department heads, saying they keep the city running.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s my philosophy on staff. They do a great job,” he said. “We also have a lot of great people who volunteer for our boards and committees. The Citizens for a Clean Sedalia Committee especially; there was a little controversy when they got started but they’ve done a great job cleaning up the city.”
Galliher said if elected he would make it a priority to unite Sedalia.
“I don’t like a divided city, people thinking of north Sedalia or west Sedalia,” he said. “It’s all one Sedalia. The city is like a family, we have to take care of our family members and do what’s best for the family in the long-run.”
The idea of “Team Sedalia” was important, with Galliher emphasizing that all of the major projects that have been completed while he was in council — rebuilding the Washington Avenue bridge, repairs to the Sedalia Public Library, the new Fire Station Headquarters — were a group effort.
“No one person makes things happen, we have to work together as a council and with city staff and department heads to make these things happen,” he said. “The mayor doesn’t do things alone anymore.”
Looking ahead, Galliher said he would continue to keep a critical eye on the city budget, “I’m pretty stingy with my money and I tend to be stingy with taxpayer money too,” and would encourage the revitalization of downtown.
“Downtown is really the heart of a city,” he said. “When we have these private developers investing millions in downtown, we need to protect their investment by putting (city) money in it too, through streetscape and things like the downtown inspection ordinances.”
As mayor, Galliher said he would bring “common sense” to the office.
“I’ll bring the common sense, the city staff will bring their expertise and I think with that, we’ll continue to keep Sedalia moving forward,” he said.
Getting back into public service wasn’t something Hawkins thought he would do again, but after several people spoke to him about it, he decided to throw his hat back into the ring, he said.
“I was called by ministers and lawyers, asking me if I would run again,” he said. “I just thought it was a good time to run.”
Hawkins served as a Ward 1 councilman from April 1974 to August 1976, before taking over the mayoral seat for former Mayor Jerry Jones in 1976. He was then elected mayor the following April and served from 1978 to 1982.
His time in office isn’t without controversy. According to archived reports, in July 1978 Hawkins attended a local massage parlor and “paid $20 to be manually stimulated.” Last week, Hawkins addressed the rumors of what happened.
“I was invited to come out (to the VIP) as the mayor and I went,” he said. “I had no idea what kind of place it was. When they were done with the massage they told me to roll over and they touched my privates. I told them ‘this massage is over’ and got up and left.”
Hawkins said he felt he had to tell his constituents about the incident and apologize for his behavior.
“The media came and they blew it up,” he said. “I thought it was my responsibility to apologize to the public and thought that’d be the end of it. At least I thought it was. I would have never told anyone if I had realized the life sentence of a politician.”
Hawkins said he doesn’t dwell on the incident, preferring to think about the upcoming election. Continuing to bring industry to Sedalia was a top priority, he said.
“I brought in Kelsey Hayes, Waterloo, Gardner-Denver, Broaderick and Bascum and Alcolac,” he said. “I hired the first economic director and together we wined and dined them to bring them to Sedalia. The city hasn’t brought anything in since I left.”
New industry can’t be brought in, Hawkins added, until additional land is annexed into city limits.
“Now we’re running out of land,” he said. “The industrial park is almost full and when a company looks at a town, they want land to expand. When I was mayor I started an annexation plan in the southern part of town, but that wasn’t seen through with the next administration.”
Though he’s been away from the mayor’s office for the last 30 years, Hawkins said he’s kept on top of what’s going on in the city and said he had some issues with the last few city budgets.
“The fire station. I wasn’t opposed to building it, but it’s one-fifth of the budget and it’s not complete yet,” he said. “I also think the $1 million fire truck could have been phased in over the years instead of bought outright.”
The $3.7 million fire station, which was included in the city’s bond that also paid for the repairs to the Washington Avenue bridge and Sedalia Public Library, is scheduled to be completed later this spring.
Hawkins said he’d also like to “appoint a health person” if elected, though he did not give specific details about what the job would entail.
“There are people living in squalor,” he said. “I know there are laws on the books that cover that but we need to hire someone to help them.
“I will be a good mayor again, if elected,” Hawkins said. “The welfare and safety of the citizens will be my top priority and will make sure the mayor’s office is open 24/7 for questions.”