SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Around noontime on Tuesday, Bob Stephens was officially sworn in as mayor of Springfield. The unexpected change in leadership came the day after Jim O'Neal resigned as mayor.
"I have an extreme amount of financial and business pressure, as well as some family pressure, and I can no longer serve as mayor of this community and it is with really a deep and broken heart that I say, 'I've got to resign as mayor effective immediately,'" O'Neal announced to a stunned audience in council chambers late Monday night.
The move came at the end of a regular council meeting that had become contentious as both public speakers and council members debated a handful of exemptions to the smoking ban.
"I really am concerned about what seems to be a dictatorial attitude, Mr. Mayor, of the way these proceedings have been conducted this evening," said Councilman Doug Burlison.
Even though council members and other city leaders were shocked by O'Neal stepping down, most had known he was facing some personal problems. In spite of the timing, Burlison believed those private reasons were the driving force behind O'Neal's decision.
"I don't think it really had anything to do with the issue that was so contentious and I do respect him as a person. Hopefully he considers me a friend because I consider him one," said Burlison on Tuesday afternoon.
O'Neal took office in April 2009. His second term was due to expire in April 2013; he was not going to run for reelection.
City manager Greg Burris said O'Neal put his heart and soul into being the mayor of Springfield.
"His work to get the police and fire pension tax passed the second time to voters, he's worked tirelessly and he gets the credit for that tax passing and in essence keeping the city out of bankruptcy," said Burris.
News release from Cora Scott, City of Sprinfield's director of public information:
Bob Stephens was sworn in May 8, 2012 as Springfield's Mayor, following the resignation of former Mayor Jim O'Neal. Stephens was elected as an at-large City Council member in April 2009 and selected by his fellow council members as Mayor Pro Tem in 2011. He currently serves as a Member of the Council Plans and Policies Committee and the Community Involvement Committee.
Stephens announced in January he would run for Mayor next year, receiving an endorsement from O'Neal, who had previously announced he would not run for a third term. Stephens also received endorsements from the local police and fire associations and the Springfield Good Government Committee, a political action committee started in 2008 by the local Home Builders Association and Chamber of Commerce.
"Bob Stephens has already shown himself as a leader" says former Mayor Jim O'Neal. "He has the experience, the temperament and the time. I wish him the best and know he will continue to do a great job for the people of Springfield."
He says one of his top priorities has been to keep the city fiscally solvent during the economic downturn.
"We've been able to pay down our debt. We've been able to put some additional money into some reserve funds. We have restored full employment to police and fire protection for citizens and public safety. " He also plans to focus on job creation.
As a life-long resident of Springfield, Stephens’ professional career includes more than thirty-five years in human resources management for Litton Industries and 3M Company. In 1998, he founded his own business, CascadeM3, as a human resource consulting organization–providing resources for smaller businesses. He has presented numerous training courses and workshops through Ozarks Technical Community College and served as an Adjunct Instructor for Drury University from 2002-2010.
Stephens is committed to giving back to the community. Being a part of City Council brings its own rewards, he explains. Stephens’ civic involvement includes service on the Springfield Art Museum Board and the Springfield Personnel Board. In addition, he serves as a member of Sus Derechos, a committee of the Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association dealing with Hispanic issues and education, and was nominated by the Missouri House of Representatives for the Missouri Hispanic Business, Trade, and Culture Commission. He has served on the boards for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the Ozarks, Campfire Boys and Girls, and the Springfield Family Y. He chaired the Missouri Employers’ Committee, a public-private partnership of small employers and the Division of Workforce Development, and has been a member of the Wal-Mart Scholarship Selection Committee for high school seniors.
Stephens received his Bachelor of Science in Education degree from Southwest Missouri State University, his Master of Arts in Communications from Drury University, and a Specialist’s Degree in Technical and Professional Communications from California State University.
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For more information on Mayor Bob Stephens, visit http://cityview.springfieldmo.gov/guide/bob-stephens
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