Springfield, MO

Log in Subscribe

A Conversation With ... Jim O'Neal

Posted online
How long have you operated O&S Trucking? Tell us about the operation.
It’ll be 30 years Dec. 6. We’re running, right now, about 220 power units, and about 450 trailers in the refrigerated transportation business. We haul mainly food and food products. We own some (trucks) and have some that are owner-operator independent contractors. We have about 70 full-time employees.

You were first elected mayor in 2009 and are now in your second term. How have you balanced leading your business and serving the city?
Well, it’s difficult. I did have another CEO for the first year and a half (after being elected). He left at the first of the year, so I’m actually the CEO again. We have downsized our business some, and I decided to be back in it on a daily basis. … The mayor’s job is kind of unpredictable. You can go days at a time where you don’t really do anything except perhaps correspond with people or talk (to them) about their concerns. Then, there’ll be times when everything seems to happen at once, and you have a contentious issue before City Council. ... There are a lot of ceremonial duties, too, for the mayor, and I’ve found myself having to back out of more of those recently, because I’m much more involved in the day-to-day operation of my business. That’s why it’s healthy to have a good mayor pro tem like Robert Stephens, who can do those things. I’m honored to be mayor, and there are times when the mayor just needs to be present, so I try to discern (which) events and duties … I can delegate.

Is the mayor’s job a volunteer position?
Technically, I’m paid $200 a month, as per charter provision. I’m required to sign certain legal documents on behalf of the city, and I’m required to preside at council meetings, though I’ve missed a few because of business situations. I think the mayor’s job is definitely a full-time job, and if there were no other employment responsibilities, the mayor could be in the office daily, and there would be things that would be appropriate for him or her to do.

What are your proudest accomplishments as mayor?
I don’t look at it as that I have accomplished a lot. I’m fortunate to serve with a very good group on City Council, and I firmly believe we have an excellent city manager. We don’t all think alike, that’s for sure. … There was no question that the cloud that was looming over the city – and I didn’t fully realize it until after I was elected – was the funding of the Police and Fire pension system. Without adequate funding, it was going to lead to the bankruptcy of this community. … With the voters having the will to take the issue seriously and (approve a sales tax) the pension fund is well on its way to being taken care of. We closed the old pension, and all the new hires since 2004 have gone into the state-funded program (which) is … not a risk for the city. … We’re going to have to renew the pension sales tax, and I hope that when the five-year term of the tax is up, we can offer the voters a lesser amount or a shorter term for its renewal to finish the job.
How has your business experience helped you as mayor?
In retrospect, I think we have a very competent city manager who has brought a new attitude to city management. (Greg Burris) had never been a city manager before, and he came out of Missouri State University. When we came together, it was obvious that we thought quite a bit alike. What we wanted was a customer-friendly city that’s open to expansion of businesses that are currently here, and inviting to new businesses that want to locate here. ... We’re in the finishing process of re-engineering city government and trying to consolidate certain positions, and determine priorities. … That process, plus a strategic plan for the city, like any business should (help us) look forward and measure our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and identify problems and approach them from a planning point of view.

Your term expires in 2013. Then what?
I’m not going to run again. I’ve got too many things that need my attention, and I think four years is enough. (Being mayor) has come at a price. I’ve had a lot that’s occurred in my business and personal life, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I underestimated the time that it would take and what it might take away from my business and family, but it’s still an honor that I cherish.
[[In-content Ad]]


No comments on this story |
Please log in to add your comment
Editors' Pick
Workforce hurdles, culture investments earn attention at manufacturing conference

Missouri Association of Manufacturers event sets record in third year.

Most Read Poll
What kind of housing does Springfield need more of?


View results

Update cookies preferences