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Rolla City Council election ballot will not provide any choices to voters

Rolla City Hall is home of a city council that has seen some contentious elections in recent years but has no contested races this year.
Jonathan Ahl
St. Louis Public Radio
Rolla City Hall is home of a city council that has seen some contentious elections in recent years but has no contested races this year.

Voters in Rolla will have no choices when they vote for city council members this Spring. This is in stark contrast to the past three elections, which featured contested races including some that were contentious.

On April 4th, there will be only one candidate on the ballot in each of the city’s six wards. The incumbents in Wards 2-6 are all unopposed in their attempts to win another two year term. In the Ward 1, incumbent Moriah Renaud has chosen to not seek a second term, but only one person has filed for the seat.

Victoria Steen, who is running to reelection in Ward 6, said she isn’t happy about being unopposed, because of what it might say about the city.

“It worries me that people are not paying attention to what we are doing. I really think people just need to focus on what their government is doing and say their piece,” Steen said. “I think it’s better if people are involved. Even though I want to win, I hope people are paying attention to what we’re doing to hold us accountable.”

The Mayor of Rolla is not up for election this year. Mayor Lou Magdits said he has mixed feelings about the lack of contested races. He said he is looking forward to the stability of so little turnover this year on the one hand,

“To have to start over every year or every other year is a challenge. That’s what leads to inefficiency and that’s what leads to mistakes,” he said.

On the other hand, Magdits said he shares council member Steen’s concerns.

“You want to see people involved and wanting to give back to their community, and it’s critically important that we have a lot of people wanting to run for office,” Magdits said. “And voters should have a choice.”

Magdits ran unopposed for Mayor in 2022.

Magdits also said he doesn’t interpret the lack of challengers as an automatic endorsement of the work the city council is doing.

But he does acknowledge the resolution of contentious issues like COVID mitigation strategies and a new ordinance to regulate homeless shelters, both of which led some people to challenge incumbents for council seats in recent years.

“I just think more than anything, they say, ok, some of these big issues have been resolved to the general satisfaction. And let’s go on,” Magdits said.

Council Member Steen said the next big issue that could cause more people to seek a seat on the council is just around the corner.

“Legal recreational marijuana, and how we deal with it in Rolla is going to cause some contention in town,” Steen said. “And even though we passed an ordinance about homeless people in Rolla, I think people may still want to discuss that with us.”

Jonathan Ahl is the Newscast Editor and Rolla correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.