MAYOR IN CHIEF: Mayor Ken McClure talks Springfield business with City Attorney Frank Romines, left, and City Manager Greg Burris.
Day in the Life with Ken McClure
Springfield is a small, but mighty, city. Home to 165,000 people and counting, it’s known for low costs of living, a small-town feel and its many restaurants. No joke – there’s over 850 in the city.
It’s fair to say Springfield deserves its “Queen City” nickname. Even Brad Pitt, local-turned movie star, thinks so. In a May interview with GQ Magazine, Pitt said Springfield “is a big place now.” There you have it.
Ken McClure is a native, too. Though, he doesn’t need Pitt to tell him Springfield’s on to bigger and better things. He’s head of it all as the volunteer mayor of Springfield.
“It’s been fine. Not a whole lot of surprises yet,” McClure says, modestly, on his short time as mayor so far.
He’s sitting at his desk between morning meetings with City Clerk Anita Cotter and City Manager Greg Burris.
It’s his busiest day of the week – Tuesday – but he takes the time to talk about the art on his office walls: two sets of paintings by local artists Mark Montgomery and Mike Myers. It’s there to help promote the local talent.
McClure retired in 2015 as vice president for administrative services at Missouri State University, a position he held for eight years. He brings to the mayor’s office experience as deputy director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development, associate general manger at City Utilities and chief of staff for Gov. Matt Blunt. At this age, 66, he thought he’d be retired. But his wife’s death six years ago influenced his decision to keep working in some capacity. At First Baptist Church, McClure works as a part-time administrator.
At 11 a.m., Burris arrives. McClure is all business. He’s been focused since 5 a.m. – when he wakes up to read and reply to emails for about an hour and a half.
Today, McClure also already attended a 7 a.m. service at the Assemblies of God headquarters. AG Superintendent George Wood invited him to say a few words in front of the institution’s employees.
The service pushed back his schedule and he arrived at 10 – a half-hour late to his first meeting. Fortunately, the mayor’s office is flexible, and McClure’s team checked things off their to-do list before the noon council luncheon.
Cotter reviews the council agenda with McClure once he arrives. With any question the mayor has, Cotter is quick on her feet to answer them. She shares events he may be interested in attending, and occasionally adds she, too, would like to go, if it’s alright. The mayor nods.
A small group of first and second graders are scheduled to visit next month, and Cotter asks when McClure will be able to see them.
“10:30, maybe,” he says, prompting Cotter to say she’ll gather pencils for him to hand out.
Cotter inquires about an internship application from an MSU freshman.
The mayor suggests they reach out to MSU political science head George Connor, regarding future leads. “I am willing and eager to have interns, if it works,” McClure says.
An hour later, McClure still sits across from Burris, his chair pulled in front of his desk, perhaps for extra concentration.
They discuss what will be talked about during the next formal council meeting, before Cora Scott, director of public information and civic engagement, interrupts to deliver McClure’s talking points for a dedication later in the day. McClure takes a minute to read over them before returning his attention to Burris, who gives more updates.
At noon, it’s time for lunch and city budget talk.
McClure waits for everyone to be seated around him in a meeting room, and then gets things started.
“We’ll go as far as we can today on the budget,” he says.
It’s the fourth meeting dedicated to the discussion of the 2018 budget. It won’t be the last.
McClure asks questions when he needs to and makes sure the councilmembers get their own questions answered, too. He’s the only person in the room who rocks in his chair during the duration of the meeting.
At 1, it’s time for a closed council session.
An hour later, McClure arrives at the Springfield Public Works and Environmental Services Compound on Chestnut Expressway for a short dedication of the site to the late Phil Broyles, the former Public Works director.
McClure is a social butterfly among colleagues and friends.
He works the crowd gathered before the speeches start – waving, shaking hands, chatting and chuckling.
He finds isolation at one point, however, to review his talking points. Several speak before the mayor’s name is called. He walks to a podium as the audience claps.
“This is a very special day,” McClure begins. “Phil Broyles had an incredible legacy.”
After the dedication, McClure retreats back to his office to check more emails.
It’s going to be a late workday. At 5:30, he arrives for a celebration at Maple Park Cemetery honoring the preservation of the old gazebo.
McClure is being friendly. He sips on iced tea and socializes. Before the event begins, he remarks how he’s been working in the yard a lot lately, but he’s not sure if he’ll get around to it tonight. No one should blame him. It’s been a long day for the mayor.
He begins his remarks by noting the cemetery is where his father once taught him to drive, which gets a rise in the audience.
“I’m so glad he’s mayor,” a woman in the crowd says candidly.
Soon, his spiel is over, as is the event and McClure’s day – but not before more handshakes and hellos.