For the past eight years, most of Mayor Elaine Horn’s Monday nights have been spent at the Municipal Building in Sedalia City Council meetings. After completing her term on April 21, those nights will now be free.
“I guess I’ll get caught up on my Monday night TV watching,” Horn joked. “In all seriousness I will miss being a public servant, but after eight years I think it’s time to move on.”
Horn entered the world of politics “by dumb luck.”
“At the time we had two restaurants and a group of gentlemen would come in about once a week for breakfast and to talk, joke around,” she said. “Bill Carey was part of that group. He was a first ward councilman and decided not to run again and he kept bugging me to do it.”
Horn immediately dismissed the idea; she didn’t have the name recognition and no inkling to put her hat into the ring, but Carey finally talked her into it.
“I was the fourth name on the ballot, I was convinced no one would know who I was, much less vote for me,” she said. “I was really honored that people believed in me. I was shocked that I won, frankly.”
Horn was elected as a Ward 1 Councilwoman in 2006 and again in 2008. Mid-way through her second year, two weeks after being named mayor pro-tem, then-Mayor Bob Wasson died, leaving her to fill out the rest of his term.
“It was a sad time but serving as mayor for a year gave me a taste of what the mayoral position could be like,” she said. “I saw the challenges that we were facing and felt comfortable taking on that role.”
After being elected mayor, Horn continued to work with council members to see several major projects through. Recent highlights include the reopening of both the Sedalia Public Library and the Washington Avenue bridge after each was closed for repairs, the passage of the downtown inspection ordinance and numerous business openings and expansions.
“One thing that I’m really proud of is Sedalia becoming a Tree City,” she said. “Dr. (Doug) Kiburz first brought it to my attention that we could become a designated Tree City. I think it was an option with previous mayors but there hadn’t been a commitment made for it. We have these amazing 100-year-old trees in Sedalia, many of them them lining Broadway Boulevard, that visitors are always commenting on. Once I learned more about Tree City I couldn’t imagine not working to get that designation.”
Becoming a Tree City also opens the area up to special grants that help maintain and take care of the city’s trees, she added.
Horn also cited her Mayor’s Junior Civic Leaders Group as one of her proudest accomplishments during her term. Last year the group, with the mayor’s help, organized an all-day festival in downtown Sedalia.
“We have amazing young people in this community and getting to interact with students is always a highlight,” she said. “Starting the Civic Leaders Group and encouraging them with their project was fun but also inspiring.”
While Horn said she was ready to retire from public life, she would still be involved in city activities, in particular the neighborhood clean sweeps which were spearheaded by the Citizens for a Clean Sedalia Committee.
“I will absolutely stay involved with that,” she said. “Neighborhood involvement and cleaning up our city is an important component to moving Sedalia forward.”
The committee nearly wasn’t enacted. Two years ago the Sedalia City Council was divided on whether to form the committee with some councilmembers believing it would lead to infringing on property owner’s rights. Horn was the tie-breaking vote in the fight that allowed its creation.
Chairwoman of the committee, Mary Merritt, said Horn has always supported the group’s efforts to clean up Sedalia and noted she used her contacts at Whiteman Air Force Base to gather volunteers for the neighborhood clean sweeps.
“Her connection and work at the base was incredibly helpful when it came time for the clean ups to start,” Merritt said. “Of course she was right there along with us, her title didn’t stop her from picking up trash too. She really grew into her role as mayor tremendously well.”
One area that Horn said she has continually worked on is helping to bring businesses to Sedalia, through working with city and Economic Development Sedalia-Pettis County officials. EDSPC Executive Director Linda Christle said over the years Horn had become not just a coworker but a friend.
“She was always so positive and if I needed anything she was always immediately on the phone getting information for me,” Christle said. “She’s accomplished so much for this community, working as a team with city staff, she put in a lot more hours than a part-time position warrants.”
Horn said she would miss the city’s employees most, saying they have always been committed to making Sedalia “a great place to live and work.”
“It’s a bittersweet moment because I’ve really enjoyed this role as a councilwoman and mayor,” she said. “But I think it’s time for me to step down. Steve is going to do a great job as mayor. My only advice for him is to follow his heart and mind to do what’s right for Sedalia. He’s a great team leader, I know I’m leaving the city in the best possible hands.”