Mission city councilor Dave Shepard will not run for re-election when his term expires next year. Shepard has been part of the Mission City Council since 2005 and lost a run for mayor last year by only 16 votes.
Shepard’s term runs to April 2016, but confusion about the implementation of the state’s new election law may mean he will serve a few extra months.
“I’m not burned out,” Shepard said. “I still think this is important work. After 10 years, the timing seems right to take a step back.” Shepard has a new job this year and children entering high school. The fact that Ward 4 resident Ron Appletoft is willing to run for the seat again also makes it easier to step away, Shepard said.
In 2005 Shepard first came on to the council to fill part of Appletoft’s unexpired term. Shepard had been on the city council in Fairway before moving to Mission and had run unsuccessfully for the Mission council for the seat occupied by Suzie Gibbs.
Shepard is proud of how the city stepped up over the last decade to meet some significant challenges. He points to the street maintenance work that produced significant improvements on Nall, Roe, Martway and Johnson Drive. “(Also) how we encourage redevelopment. I think those go hand-in-hand.”
“I’m proud that we didn’t put our heads in the sand on stormwater,” Shepard said. “If we didn’t lift the downtown core out of the flood plain, then (we’d be in) trouble.” The FEMA flood plain map changes caught the city by surprise. No one could improve a property by more than 50 percent in the flood zone. The city relocated several Johnson Drive businesses and boxed and lowered parts of Rock Creek. Without the intervention, Shepard said, the Mission downtown would have been headed for blight. The stormwater work to address the floodplain and the rebuild of Johnson Drive have completely turned around what would have been a bleak future for Mission, Shepard believes.
A lot of solid pieces have been put in place in recent years, Shepard said, citing the professional city staff, the community center, the new aquatic center, and the street program. He credits former Mayor Laura McConwell and former city administrator Mike Scanlon for addressing tough issues. “Change agents rarely are rewarded,” he said.
The city had no preventive maintenance in 30 years, Shepard said. People were talking about how low they could keep taxes while the “city was crumbling around them.” But now, Shepard said, “just walk up and down Johnson Drive and look at the (private) investment.”
A number of Shepard’s council colleagues supported Steve Schowengerdt in the mayor’s race, but Shepard said he was pleased that during the recent budget discussion that they agreed to find the resources to continue the investment in the community, notably the street program.
The significant investment the city made also meant taking on some debt – which has been an issue in some campaigns. “We always had a plan to aggressively pay down debt,” Shepard said, “and a debt service schedule.” The city bond rating continued to stay strong, he noted.
Passing on projects also “can mean passing on money to help you,” Shepard said. Nall Avenue repair was just one of the projects that leveraged a large amount of money from outside the city. Shepard thinks the city should not have passed up doing a study on the Turkey Creek Trail extension, which might have brought in outside money to complete. “I think it was a missed opportunity,” he said.
“You can’t just be on cruise control,” Shepard said. Investments need to be made in streets, trails and Rock Creek. He points to the recent citizen satisfaction survey as an indicator that citizens want redevelopment. He said the city is in a much better position now to get behind the right projects because of the work that has been done.
A big project still on the table is the redevelopment of the Gateway. Shepard plans to be on the council to evaluate the next proposal as he has for the last several.
Being on the council and running for mayor involves the whole family, Shepard said, and their commitment as well. “Karla is a saint,” he said of his wife’s support for his public involvement.