Springfield mayor says he will not seek re-election in 2017

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. Springfield Mayor Bob Stephens used his annual State of the City address to announce that he will not seek re-election in 2017.

Stephens opened the speech Thursday to the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s Good Morning Springfield gathering saying,
“I am delighted to be here for my final State of the City address.”

Stephens has served as mayor since he took over for Jim O’Neal in 2012. O’Neil had resigned when he moved outside the city limits. Before that, Stephens had served in Springfield City Council since 2009.

Stephens had not made his plans for next year known until now, even after city council member Kristi Fulnecky announced earlier this year that she would run for mayor in 2017.

In his speech, Stephens said the state of the city is strong. He pointed to a variety of examples in several areas to make his point.

On economic development and growth, Stephens said there is more that $150 million in the pipeline for upcoming public and private projects in our downtown area. He noted that Springfield has been named to the Top 5 in the nation for Economic Strength, and named the 15th Best City for job growth.

He pointed out that hotels are having a banner year in the area of Tourism and room sales in 2015 topped $100 million for the first time ever, and Springfield-Branson National Airport set a record for passenger arrivals and departures last year.

On public safety, Stephens told the audience that the city is working on fighting crime by putting more police officers on the street. He said the city has 321 sworn police officers with an additional 11 in the pipeline, thanks to a COPS grant that the City Council approved last year.

“While it is not totally where we want to be in terms of headcount, this 12% increase in headcount is the largest increase of any City department and certainly a noteworthy improvement over the 286 officers we had on staff in 2010 during the worst of the recession,” he said.

Stephens touted the city council’s conservative fiscal practices, pointing out that the city has, for several years in a row, passed a balanced budget without borrowing money, without using one-time funds, and without raiding the reserves for operations.

Stephens recounted the city’s efforts to revitalize the northwest quadrant of Springfield with the Zone 1 Blitz, which is working to address issues with nuisance properties, employment, sidewalks and public safety.

He also pointed to what he sees as City Hall’s improving image. “When I was first elected in 2009, the levels of the public’s trust in elected officials was, quite frankly, in the toilet. There was almost zero trust showing in multiple surveys. One of the accomplishments that I am most proud of is that, at the local level, our Council and staff has been able to move that needle to a higher level of trust.”

He concluded the speech with a reflection on his time serving the City of Springfield. “The past seven years have been full. I have had the opportunity to do things that I had never imagined, much less as part of day-to-day life. I have met people all over the world as well as within this community that I would not have met any other way. Some have become very special friends. As I finish out my term, it has been a pleasure to serve you.”

Stephens' term as mayor concludes in April 2017.