After four years at the helm of Fulton's City Council, Mayor Charles Latham has decided not to seek another term in office this April.
"I needed to get back to the family time. The kids are getting older and there were times when it was tough to have to choose between obligations to the city and your family," Latham said. "Rather than choose do I miss a council meeting or my son's first tackle football game, I'm choosing to make myself available to my family."
As the Jan. 18 election filing deadline looms, Latham's decision not to seek a second term has prompted to veterans of city government to express an interest in the position. Former mayor Robert Craghead has filed to run for mayor on the April ballot, and former council member LeRoy Benton currently is working to gather the 100 voters' signatures necessary to do the same.
Craghead, who served on the city council from 1971-79 and as mayor from 1999-2007, said he decided to return to Fulton politics after hearing that Latham did not intend to run again.
"I had a number of people come ask me if I would consider it," Craghead said. "After a good deal of thought and discussion with family members - including my wife - I decided to try it again."
He said he had enjoyed his years of service to the city and "I thought I could still contribute."
"I like to be involved, and I miss the people," Craghead said. "There's plenty to do and plenty to think about and I have the time to do it. That's why I decided to run again."
He said he was not entirely up-to-date on what the Fulton council is working on right now, but noted "there are a lot of things that could use attention," specifically mentioning issues with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources in relation to the city landfill and one of the city's sewage system lift stations.
"I'm not upset about anything, I just want to be there to help guide as best I can," Craghead said, adding he has complete confidence in city staff. "I'll do my best to serve them just like I did last time; to the best of my ability."
Benton, who served 10 years as a Ward I council representative from 1998 to 2008, gave a similar reason to Craghead as to his decision to run for mayor.
"I continued to always have an interest in the city," Benton said. "When I heard Mayor Latham had decided not to run, I thought this would be a good time."
If elected, he said one of the most important things he would do is update Fulton's strategic plan, which Benton said has not been done in at least eight years.
"That would be a major goal of mine in the first year, and I would include the citizens so we can define for sure where we're heading," Benton said. "Every organization has to have a goal and a purpose, and I think it's no different for cities."
He said he wants to help "Fulton be all it can be."
"We need to keep that focus on what city government should be all about: Service to its citizens," Benton said.
Latham himself has a long history of service to the City of Fulton. He started in 1981 as a police officer and had a stint as Fulton police chief from August 1997 until his retirement from the department in March 2002.
With his pending departure from city government, Latham said he plans to return to the same thing he did to supplement his income as a police officer.
"I'm going to go back to working for myself as a one-person carpenter business," Latham said, noting he does "just about anything to do with residential carpentry; everything from building a home or garage to remodeling rooms and windows."
He cited tearing down the city's old power plant, building the new roundabout and building a new fire station as the projects he is most proud of from his term in office.
He said the murder/suicide of Rich and Lori McKee and the landfill controversy were the two toughest issues to deal with.
"With the landfill, I knew what made the best economic sense for the city, but since the public did not agree, we had to do what the public wanted," Latham said. "It was hard knowing the amount of money that would have generated, and there probably never would have been a landfill - there are still at least 20 years left at the Jefferson City landfill, and in 20 years there may be some other way of disposing of trash - I think that deal was more about the land."
In all, Latham said he thinks he was a good mayor.
"Every day I did the best I possibly could, and I always did what I thought was the best for the city and the citizens," Latham said.
Petitions for the mayor's seat as well as for city prosecuting attorney, one seat in Wards 1, 3 and 4, and both Ward 2 positions are available at city hall. They must be filed by Jan. 18. Those seeking council seats are required to collect signatures from 25 voters who voted in the last election. Anyone intending to run for mayor needs to collect 100 signatures.
For more information, or any questions, contact the city clerk at (573) 592-3111, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.