More mayor, council candidates
The field for next year's mayoral race in Independence continues to grow, and the City Council at-large race also looks to be contested.
Council Member Brice Stewart, who represents District 2, generally the northeast portion of Independence, has filed to run against Mayor Eileen Weir, along with three other challengers. Weir is seeking a third term.
Jared Fears, Billie Preston and former Council Member Marcie Gragg have filed to run for council at-large seats. Both incumbents appear to be in that race as well.
Voters will choose a mayor and two at-large council members. The four district council seats are up for election in 2024. Terms are four years.
A primary election would be held Feb. 8 if there are more than four at-large candidates or more than two mayoral candidates. The general election is April 5.
At-large Council Member Mike Huff, first elected in 2018, has filed paperwork to run for re-election. Karen DeLuccie, elected in 2014 and re-elected four years later, has been dealing with a health issue in recent weeks, though earlier in the summer she told The Examiner she planned to run for another term.
Besides Weir and Stewart, the early mayoral candidate field includes Kenneth Love, Holmes Osborne and state Rep. Rory Rowland.
Prospective candidates can pick up packets later this month to gather signatures for officially filing.
Stewart, said he only decided in the last couple of weeks to run for mayor after how some recent issues have been handled. In short, he said he believes a change is needed in the mayor's office.
Fears said he decided last month to run, after taking a few weeks to visit with several people to “do some due diligence and see if the time was right.” More completely, though, he said the idea first crossed his mind about 30 years ago, while working for city in the finance and human resources departments, to eventually run for office.
“I left full-time employment in April, and now I think have the time to commit to what it takes,” he said. “I grew up in family that was really involved in the community and church, and I'm still involved in Scouts. It's about giving back and providing professional level leadership for the community.”
Fears has worked in financial planning and currently chairs the city's appointed Public Safety Sales Tax Oversight Committee, and his wife Denise is CPA and current president of the Independence Board of Education.
Preston, a labor consultant for business, nonprofits and law firms, has been a member of the city's Planning Commission for several years.
He said he had never planned to run for office, but a “series of events,” ranging from the national to state and local levels, convinced him that a “sense of civility needs to return to political arena.”
Gragg was on the council from 2006 to 2016. She joined the council by winning a special election for District 1 (northwest) after Don Reimal was elected mayor, then twice got re-elected before stepping aside. She said the council and city accomplished goals in housing redevelopment, public safety and economic development, among other areas.
“In the last five years, I believe we've lost ground in all three areas,” she said, and the Independence Power & Light reserve funds have been “squandered,” which she worries will create a rate crisis soon for residents.
Gragg said that with her previous experien