Filing for the next mayoral election in April is still five months away, but the field of candidates is already taking shape.
Four contenders, each with a tie to city government, say they want to be the next mayor.
Two are aldermen, Steve Myers and Mike Pigg; one is a former alderman, Jerry Eversmeyer; and one is a veteran city board official, park board President Stephen Flannery III.
Current Mayor Jeff Palmore has not stated publicly whether he will seek another term.
A snapshot of recent administration shows how Pacific has changed under a succession of mayors.
Former Mayor Herb Adams ushered in massive infrastructure improvements, utilizing federal funds, including the first elevated rail crossing in the city’s history, to improving Osage (Historic Route 66) from city limit to city limit, and building a new Interstate 44 eastbound interchange using (Community Improvement District (CID) funds — at the same time building a reserve fund from zero to $1 million.
Former Mayor Jill Pigg created the Pacific Partnership, which positioned the city as a major outdoor events destination; crafted the first emergency management plan, which is now a requirement to receive FEMA reimbursement for disaster damages; purchased the property for Liberty Field; and hired the first economic development director.
Former Mayor Jeff Titter created a downtown redevelopment committee that sparked renovation of downtown buildings; rebuilt First and St. Louis streets with vintage street lights; completed the elevated rail crossing started under Mayor Adams; and created the city’s history museum.
Current Mayor Jeff Palmore has marshaled through the first major street repair project in several years, resurfacing most streets in the older section of the city; purchased the landmark Jensen’s Point as a city park; worked through the preparation and recovery of two record floods; and approved construction of a long-delayed concession stand/restroom building in Liberty Field.
The four mayoral contenders aid they have started an early run for the position because they want to see a resurgence of infrastructure improvements. Each has spoken freely of his desire to be at the helm of the city with the hope of shaping a future public works and policies.
Myers said he has already started his campaign with a four-point plan to foster economic growth, improve the city’s appeal to attract new businesses and residents, support first responders, “who should never have to beg for raises.”
He thinks the mayor should use every avenue to expand the budget, such as applying for grants. At the same time, Myers said he would still work to complete the Pacific River Walk trail system that he has espoused for several years.
“But that couldn’t be my main focus as mayor,” Myers said. “There is so much more that could be done.”
Pigg said he wants to see more businesses locate in the city and believes one way to do that is to be more creative in the use of the commercial improvement districts (CIDs) to attract new retail businesses to develop here.
He cited the financial aid given to the B&H Market as the catalyst for locating a new, large retail business in the city.
“Every candidate for the past several years has said we want more retail,” he said. “Here is a tool that we can actually use to draw in more retail.”
Pigg said he believes a CID could possibly be used to attract development in the unincorporated strip along Historic Route 66 between the city limits and the prison.
“This kind of financial help that doesn’t affect the schools or fire district could encourage the voluntary annexation of those properties,” he said. “That’s a prime retail strip.”
Pigg also would like to see the city provide the water to the prison as it does with sewer service, which would be a financial boost for the city water system.
Eversmeyer believes the next mayor must concentrate on improving the city’s infrastructure. He said it’s imperative for the city to get street projects back on the East-West Council of Government grant program.
“We can’t get back the money we lost when we turned back the I-44 westbound interchange,” he said. “But we have to get back in the game. We can’t stop moving forward.”
The city’s first need is for strong leadership and good management, Eversmeyer said
“We have to get the city government in order so we can conduct business,” he said.
Eversmeyer also believes the CIDs are a good tool.
“A lot of people don’t understand CIDs, but they are a mechanism that other cities use to increase business and improve infrastructure,” he said.
Flannery identified two measures that the next mayor could use to improve the economic vitality of the city.
“We need to annex, to expand the city’s corporate limits,” he said. “If we look at a map of our city, too much of it is in a flood plain. We need to expand our territory to give us room to grow.”
Within the flood plain, Flannery said the city must develop polices and practices to assist the property owners.
“Some have just abandoned their buildings,” he said. “The city has the ability to help those property owners to either elevate, purchase or offer some tax abatement. We, as a municipality, must do what we can to encourage redevelopment of those buildings.”
Flannery also believes the mayor should offer leadership that concentrates on implementation of plans.
“We have all sorts of plans, comprehensive plan, parks plan, stormwater plan and tree plan,” he said. “The city is not moving forward if those plans sit on a shelf. The first thing we need to do is to execute those plans.”
Flannery, who has a degree in parks management, also wants to see the city’s park system expanded and improved to include more recreational activities for the public.
He said service to the citizens is one measure of a happy, healthy community.