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JERRY WADE DIES: CoMo City Councilman, Mayoral candidate remembered as "wise public servant"

A passionate populist devoted to public service
 
COLUMBIA, Mo 7/27/14 (Remembering) -- Jerry Wade, a retired Mizzou sociology and community development professor who became a tough-talking, populist Columbia City Council member and 2010 candidate for Mayor, died Saturday after a prolonged battle with lung cancer. 

Survived by his wife Edge, daughter Kim, and grandchildren who appeared alongside him during the Mayoral campaign, Mr. Wade was 73. 

The announcement of Councilman Wade's passing came as a tribute yesterday to his career as an educator, conservationist, and public servant suddenly became a memorial.   Remembrances appeared throughout the day on social media. 

Fellow Council member and longtime friend Karl Skala, who served with Mr. Wade from 2007-10, remembered "the lessons of his community service legacy, which shall endure within all of those that he touched." 

"
Jerry was an outstanding Councilman, as well as an all round good guy," Columbia resident Andrew Twaddle remembered on Mr. Wade's Facebook page.   "We will miss his wisdom and tenacity."

A devoted birdwatcher whose conservation efforts led to his becoming president of the Audubon Society of Missouri, Mr. Wade started his career with graduate degrees in community development and rural sociology.  

On election as 4th Ward City Council representative in April 2007, the former Planning and Zoning Commission chairman brought a canny, informed, no-nonsense debate style to the Council dais, often sparring with senior city administrators over policies he found questionable or procedures he found wanting.    He led the charge, for instance, to quash two ordinances approving eminent domain against downtown Columbia landowners then-city manager Bill Watkins placed on the Council's consent agenda for automatic approval.     

To constituents, Mr. Wade was
an old-fashioned, hands-on Council member, holding regular "Coffeehouse Conversations", and personally overseeing city projects in his Ward.   

After receiving complaints about yard renovation delays connected with a sewer renovation on Maupin and Edgewood Streets, and visiting the site several times, Mr. Wade in turn complained
to Watkins until he got results.  

"The project reached a point where the City could no longer tolerate non-completion of the yard restoration, which is being handled by a subcontractor," Mr. Wade told constituents on his 4th Ward Google Group, one of the first such communication tools created by a Council member.  "Earlier this week, the City took the unusual step of notifying the contractor that the work of the landscaping subcontractor, was not acceptable.  This subcontractor has been removed from the project and a new landscaping subcontractor has been brought in to do the job properly."

Among the first "smart growth" proponents to ascend the city's highest elected office, Mr. Wade sustained controversy over his populist views.   This publication broke a 2009 story about development advocates who presented plans to oust Wade, Skala, and other so-called "activist" Council members at a meeting attended by Watkins and several former Mayors.   

Controversy also followed two votes Mr. Wade cast approving CrossCreek -- a troubled development east of town -- and the Lemone/Maguire project, a $5.5 million road extension that promised long-lasting adverse environmental impacts.   Mr. Wade was the swing vote both times, leading to Council approval 4-3. 

For months the front-runner in the 2010 Mayoral race, Mr. Wade eventually lost to Dr. Bob McDavid, who received an endorsement from the Columbia Chamber of Commerce coveted by candidates for the financial support it can bring.   Though he gradually retired from public life, Mr. Wade stayed abreast of city politics enough that his name was often discussed as a Mayoral candidate once again, maybe in a McDavid rematch. 

Mr. Wade gladly tolerated the hassles of elected office "because I love it," he told this writer on a visit to my home, where we sat on the back porch talking sewer renovations and a small brick street repair job he pushed the city to complete.   "I really do love it," he said, remarking something to the effect that he was having a lot of fun. 

-- Mike Martin
 
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