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Springfield's chamber of commerce is changing the way it’s involved in City Council elections

The downtown headquarters of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce are shown on Oct. 9, 2023.
Gregory Holman/KSMU
The downtown headquarters of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce are shown on Oct. 9, 2023.

In 2010, the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce began participating in a group called the Springfield Good Government Committee, which has its own political action committee for candidate fundraising. Now, the chamber is switching to a new approach.

Both the committee and its PAC have had a significant role in Springfield politics. For example, in the hard-fought 2017 race for Springfield mayor between Ken McClure and former candidate Kristi Fulnecky, the Good Government team threw its resources behind McClure and a slate of incumbent council members who were successful against Fulnecky and a slate of challengers.

Now, the dynamics are changing. On Friday, the chamber announced that both the Good Government committee and the PAC will be dissolved.

Starting early next year, the chamber will direct its power in a new way, focusing on getting candidates they consider qualified to run for Springfield City Council. The chamber will also provide “training and business-issue education to all candidates.”

Matt Morrow has served as president and CEO of the Springfield chamber since 2014. He says the chamber’s new model for weighing in on City Council elections is a positive change.

“The most important factor in getting success at the ballot box for candidates for city council is candidate quality," Morrow told Ozarks Public Radio during an interview on Friday shortly after the announcement.

"And so high-quality candidates, who are in it for the right reasons, looking for ways to serve their community and to help the community grow — foster a growing workforce and growing investment — those are all really important components for success.”

The chamber says numerous factors went into its decision to end the Good Government Committee, including “evolving dynamics in local nonpartisan elections” like City Council, and “a shift toward more direct financial support from donors to candidates rather than through PAC contributions.”

Local politics have changed since late 2000s

Morrow emphasized his view that conditions in Springfield’s political landscape have changed significantly since the Great Recession era, when planning for the Good Government committee began.

“When this effort began close to 15 years ago really in earnest, there was no real infrastructure for community-minded, business-focused candidates to serve on City Council.”

News of the end of the Good Government Committee and its PAC comes just 11 days after the announcement of a new political action committee, United Springfield.

Co-chaired by former Chamber president Jim Anderson and Terri McQueary — he’s a Democrat; she’s a Republican — the United Springfield group touts an independent political orientation and says it’s “seeking members to join the effort from all walks of life who recognize the need to preserve a united, nonpartisan local government.”

Gregory Holman is a KSMU reporter and editor focusing on public affairs.