Joplin Mayor Ryan Stanley reflects on time on city council, Mayor during COVID-19 pandemic

After eight years on the city council, Joplin Mayor Ryan Stanely will call it a career Monday night (April 4, 2022) after deciding not to run for reelection. Stanley won his first general council seat in 2014 and served a pandemic shortened tenure as Mayor. This was a result of Missouri Governor Mike Parson in 2020 shifting City and Municipal elections from the Spring to the Summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Director’s Cut Interview with Ryan Stanley
Radio edited interview with Stanley

Joplin city Hall

In a recent interview, Stanley said that he was proud of so many objectives that he and the council achieved over the past eight years and that it was difficult to list just a few.

“The thing I’m probably the most proud of is how public the city of Joplin was where we were with our process, our thoughts, and also how we publicly held our meetings to make sure all voices were being heard. And people watching civic government happen live as we were kind of debating and assessing what approaches to take.”

Although some in the community were upset with the city council and Mayor Stanley for imposing a mask mandate twice that led to a failed recall effort in late 2020.

Even though his tenure as Mayor was cut short due to the pandemic, the council was able to pass tax increases to address community needs during uncertain times. Stanley attributes that to meeting voters where they are and clear communication.

“I think what I learned was number one; voters tend to better understand the why behind tax initiatives when they can understand the challenges and the problems that we’re dealing with and why now is important to addressing them as opposed to waiting.”

Speaking of essential issues, for the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic before Freeman Health System stepped in to provide pandemic updates, Mayor Stanley, along with Joplin Health Directors Dan Pekarek and Ryan Talken, were the faces behind sometimes twice weekly COVID updates. Stanley says that this was a difficult and uncomfortable role for him.

“I did not enjoy actually being the face talking about COVID; I wish I weren’t. I wish it wasn’t here. And I had plenty of people that I was frustrating as we would expand restrictions. I had just as many people, different when we were relaxing restrictions.”

It appeared that Ryan Stanley would serve a longer time on the city council before the pandemic changed everyone’s reality. Joplin’s City Manager Nick Edwards was hired amid the pandemic in February 2020.

During his 26-months as City Manager, Edwards has spearheaded many initiatives, including the “Citywide Listening Tour”, which would lead to Question 1, and Joplin voters deciding Memorial Hall’s fate on Tuesday, April 4. Stanley says the hiring of Edwards was a turning point for the city.

“I really appreciate Mr. Edward’s leadership. I’m really happy with our hire of Nick Edwards. I think that he is a City Manager that serves with a big heart but also does his homework and pours himself into the work and has good solid department heads that he can work with.”

Stanley credits Edward’s “City-Wide Listening Tour” that was conducted in lastyear for helping bring the concerns of residents to the city council. The action plan benefited the Joplin city staff to establish 45 action plans, from improving parks and the city’s homelessness situation to settling on whether to rehab Memorial Hall. Stanley says that Edwards helped the city turn the corner and decide what to focus on.

“It’s one of those things where it’s more of a, hey, here’s a broad range now we have to prioritize it based on what kind of revenue is coming in, but we also knew with that Use Tax that was not going to sunset, so it was just something that we were going to have into perpetuity. And so a lot of those actions we’ve moved on already.”

Speaking of moving on, Stanley and fellow General council seat member Anthony Monteleone are leaving the council, while three incumbents are running to stay on the council, Diane Reid Adams, Doug Lawson, and Gary Shaw.

Reviewing the past eight years, Stanley shared some advice for those who will follow him on the Joplin city council as he served during perhaps one of the most contentious periods in recent American history.

“I’ll mention the things that I mention to every council person I’ve ever worked with. That is, show up, do your homework beforehand, ask good questions and speak your mind. If you’re going to go in opposition of something, it would be a benefit to know why. Not because I want to correct you, but maybe I’m looking at this from the wrong angle. Let me learn from you.”


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