The candidate field for an at-large seat on Columbia City Council continues to grow.
Aaron Smalls, a professional photographer and studio owner, confirmed to The State that he intends to seek the citywide seat. With his entry into the race, six candidates are now gunning for the at-large post.
The six at-large candidates are vying for the seat that currently is held by longtime Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine, who is running for mayor this year.
Smalls, 34, is seeking elected office for the first time. He told The State there are a number of issues he wants to tackle if elected, including increasing transparency in city government, improving infrastructure citywide and supporting the arts and culture community.
“I would definitely, as a councilman, try to help with whatever concerns any citizen has, as soon as I can,” Small said. “I’m ready, willing and able to do that.”
The at-large hopeful said he would work to help improve roads, and would focus on enhancing utilities.
“I want to help look into a lot of problems we have with sewers and flooding,” Smalls said. “I definitely think we need to look into water and sewer a lot more, and try to get issues fixed. It’s not like a problem that was just created. We’ve had areas that have been problems for years when it comes to flooding. It’s an issue I want to dig into with a fresh set of eyes.”
Smalls, who lives in the Melrose Heights neighborhood, said he thinks focusing on the arts community in Columbia is critical, especially in regards to the vibrancy of the capital city.
“I want to look at more funding to go to the arts in Columbia, to actually help bolster that community,” the photographer said. “The arts are something that is not always funded, even if you look on the national level.”
Smalls said he would be interested in a number of public safety initiatives, including mental health programs for officers and more security cameras in public places in Columbia.
But he also noted he wants to see more transparency and accountability from the police department, to build better trust in the community.
“Trust is paramount when it comes to any kind of relationship,” he said. “You can’t have a relationship unless you have that foundation of trust and transparency. It’s the same thing when you go to the police department. In order for relationships to be fostered in the communities where those relationships have kind of been strained, you have to be able to admit the wrongs at the end of the day.”
While he noted it will be hard work running in a field with so many candidates, Smalls said he feels comfortable that he will be able to make connections with local residents during the campaign.
“I’m determined to go ahead and get everything done and push forward and touch the community one-by-one to try let them know who I am and let them know I am running for them,” Smalls said.
The city’s elections are set for Nov. 2, with possible runoffs on Nov. 16. Seats up for election this year include mayor, District 1, District 4 and an at-large seat. Filing for the Columbia races opens Aug. 2.