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Springfield City Manager Jason Gage definitely didn’t have city management in his crosshairs when he was in college at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin.
He simply was looking for an elective and heard Tom Simpson, the professor of a public administration course who also happened to be the city administrator of Carthage at the time, was “pretty cool.”
“I had no idea and as a college student, I didn’t really care,” he says about the class that would lay the foundation for his career in municipal government. “It not only introduced me to it, but he kept telling the class that you get more opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people at the local government level than most anybody else does.”
Gage has spent half of his life in various city management roles, starting his first city manager post at the age of 25 in De Soto, a town of 6,000 south of St. Louis. He’s held the same titles in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and Salina, Kansas, where he served for 13 years before being hired in summer 2018 for the Springfield position vacated by Greg Burris.
“I feel like by being in a small town in Missouri, being in Kansas, being in Oklahoma – three really different settings – it’s helped me see different ways, different approaches to how municipal government operates and what its role is in a community,” he says, adding that his five years as De Soto city manager required him to wear multiple hats, such as planning director and head of human resources.
“I think that experience has been really valuable. It really gives me a broader dimension of thinking as I come into Springfield.”
Gage was sworn in to the job Aug. 1, 2018. With Springfield’s budget of $366 million for fiscal 2018 – the largest Gage has managed, as Salina topped out at $110 million – he says the main priority is capital improvement projects.
He emphasizes transportation and notes City Council has approved placing renewal of the quarter-cent capital improvement sales tax on the April 2019 ballot. Many of the transportation projects identified for the next five years came through resident survey input, Gage says.
That’s part of the collaborative spirit he considers vital to good management.
“If we can help move the needle and move Springfield forward in a positive way that the community wishes, then I think we’ve done a pretty good job,” he says. “I hope to be able to not only continue that but hopefully accelerate it.”
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