While all three of Rolla's mayoral candidates running in the April 8 election support the parks/recreation sales tax, which will also be on the ballot, the goals they'd like to see accomplished after their first term differ — to some extent.
While all three of Rolla’s mayoral candidates running in the April 8 election support the parks/recreation sales tax, which will also be on the ballot, the goals they’d like to see accomplished after their first term differ — to some extent.
Louis Magdits IV, Sue Eudaly and Steve Leonard, who all currently serve as city council members, are vying to become Rolla’s next mayor.
Incumbent Mayor Bill Jenks III, who is completing his second four-year term, is not seeking re-election.
The three candidates shared their priorities and where they stand on several issues at the Feb. 26 meeting of the Public Relations Club held at Rolla City Hall. They were asked about their professional background, how a successful first term as mayor would be described and their stance on the sales tax, known as Proposition A.
Eudaly began the informal meeting, noting that she has lived in Rolla since around 1983. Two years ago, she retired after 32 years of teaching mostly kindergarten and second grade in Rolla.
Eudaly has been involved in several service, teaching and community organizations. She and her husband have one grown son.
Eudaly previously served on the council from 1996-2000 and 2006-2010 and after some time off, she was appointed by Jenks to fill unexpired terms two different times. She then won her current seat in Ward 3 again in the April 2013 election.
Eudaly said the decision to run for mayor was not one made overnight. “I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of years,” she said.
If she were to win the mayoral race, after her first term, she would like to see Rolla have a new animal shelter by then.
Economic development, especially in the downtown area and at the Rolla National Airport, is another of Eudaly’s priorities. Eudaly also said she is proud that Rolla has passed a smoke-free ordinance. A vibrant downtown is a draw for students, Eudaly said.
Eudaly said she supports the passage of Prop A because “we need the money not only for The Centre, but to make our parks and playground ADA-accessible.”
Eudaly said her name is on a dedication plaque at The Centre and said she is proud of it.
Eudaly questioned if the people who are “so against” the sales tax have ever actually been in The Centre.
Magdits, a transplant from the East Coast, represents Ward 4 on the council and works for the Doe Run Company as director of raw materials. At Doe Run, Magdits said he is responsible for a budget in excess of $100,000,000 a year.
Magdits said he was asked a number of years ago to serve on the council. “I think you need at least one (two-year) term to understand the job,” Magdits said.
Magdits said he has been elected 10 times to serve on the council and has been mayor pro-tem nine consecutive times. “If I’m involved in something, I’m engaged,” he said, naming several committees he has served on.
Magdits is married with three grown children.
The Centre, he said, is something he believes in strongly. Magdits said he served on several committees when talk of building The Centre began.
“The easy thing for me to do is not take a side or be wishy-washy (on the parks/rec sales tax),” Magdits said, but he noted he, like Eudaly, is proud to have his name on the plaque at The Centre after it was dedicated.
Magdits said more than 2 million people have checked in at the desk at The Centre since it opened, but that does not include the people who go there for meetings or programs who don’t have to check in.
Magdits said some people who oppose the tax have “framed the discussion in the incorrect way.” He said while the council has agreed to transfer money from the general revenue fund to cover the parks and recreation department, which includes The Centre, there is also revenue from The Centre and SplashZone that goes back to city hall. “It’s not a matter of subsidizing The Centre,” he added.
Magdits added, “It’s not a fitness center. Less than 10 percent of what is done there is fitness. It’s not in competition with other fitness centers. The city is not the dominant provider of fitness … It’s not about The Centre. It’s about the parks.”
Magdits also noted when he began serving on the council, he noted the city’s relationships with Rolla Municipal Utilities, the Chamber of Commerce and economic development agencies were fragmented. “They had the right intent, but it wasn’t organized,” he said.
If Magdits wins the April election, in four years, he would like to see the city have a budget that has no deficit spending and that maintains the city’s existing infrastructure. He said the next four years for the city would be tougher financially than the past four years.
Breaking ground on the Rolla West development is another goal Magdits wants to see achieved in four years.
Leonard, a lifelong resident of Rolla, has served as the Ward 2 representative on the council since 2012. Leonard spent about 10 years in the TV and radio industry and said he assisted when city council meetings began to be recorded.
Leonard told the PR Club that he is the chief of staff for an entrepreneurial venture that owns about five businesses, and soon, a sixth — a new outdoors store/rifle shooting range. While he did not mention this at last week’s meeting, he has previously told a Rolla Daily News reporter that he is chief of staff for the owner of the company that operates Big Louie’s, a gentleman’s club in St. Robert.
When asked what Leonard would like to accomplish in four years if he wins the mayoral race, Leonard listed things he’d like to see happen in two years, including a new animal shelter, which he’d like to see built sooner rather than later.
“The cost of construction is only going on direction — up. The longer we wait, the less we can build,” Leonard said, noting he is open to all types of financing for a new shelter.
He’d also like to see Rolla pass a home rule charter, which refers to the power of a local city or county to set up its own system of self-government without receiving a charter from the state.
Attracting and retaining employees is another goal Leonard has. He’d also like to see The Centre be financially stable, adding that he feels the parks sales tax will fix a lot of the problems.
“I’ll be voting yes on the ballot for the quarter-cent sales tax,” Leonard said. He said if the ballot issue were to fail, plans need to start being made the day after the election to figure out how to make The Centre and parks and recreation department more financially stable.
Leonard admitted that he voted no on the 1998 ballot for The Centre, “but I’m glad we now have this luxury here,” he said, noting that potential employers consider the health of a community when choosing to relocate or open a new company in Rolla.
Leonard said he is not a member of The Centre and while he has no children of his own, he still benefits from The Centre, because he believes it provides a healthy community to live in.
Leonard noted that many opponents to the new sales tax say in the past that a 100 percent recapture rate was promised for The Centre, but he said a 100 percent rate is not possible. “I don’t recall a single facility that could achieve a 100 percent recapture rate. The easiest way to solve the problem is to pass this tax.”