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Willard's mayor is subject of impeachment hearing set for October 26

Willard City Hall in Greene County, Mo. is shown on Oct. 11, 2023.
Gregory Holman/KSMU
Willard City Hall in Greene County, Mo. is shown on Oct. 11, 2023.

Trunk-or-treats, chili cook-offs and bake sales are all a part of the typical fall season in the Greene County town of Willard, population 6,500. And they’re all happening this year — as well as an impeachment hearing focused on the town mayor, Samuel Snider.

The hearing is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, October 26, in the Community Center at Jackson Street Park.

Snider was elected in 2021 at age 25. He’s considered one of the youngest mayors — if not the youngest — in Greene County history. He’s also likely the first Black mayor in county history.

The now-28-year-old Snider talked about why he got into public affairs in an interview late last week.

“So I've been here since I was about 11-years-old," he said. "And, you know, I really, I care about the town, I’ve gone to school with a lot of the kids of people that I serve... and so it's, it has a special place in my heart, and that's why I got involved into it.”

Willard Mayor Samuel Snider was elected in 2021 at age 25.
Courtesy City of Willard
Willard Mayor Samuel Snider was elected in 2021 at age 25.

He became an alderman by appointment at age 20.

Despite the upcoming impeachment proceeding, Mayor Snider cited positive work being done by Willard’s government right now. More than $1 million in nonprofit and federal funding is going toward a new inclusive play area in Jackson Street Park, for example. And the city has worked to help get a brewery in town, expected to open next year close to Willard’s stretch of the Ozark Greenways trail network.

Willard government 'dysfunctional,' 'disheartening,' say former officials

But trouble has been brewing in city politics for a while. Back in April, half of Willard’s six-member board of aldermen was up for election. But nobody ran for those offices among the city’s highest elected leadership. Write-in votes decided who would fill the three vacant seats.

Meanwhile, Mayor Snider was re-elected by a 33-vote margin. Just 600 votes were cast in the mayoral election, according to results from the Greene County Clerk’s office. Census data show the town’s voting-age population is at least 4,000 people.

Shortly after that election, then-City Administrator Steve Bodenhamer addressed the Willard Board of Aldermen. He didn’t mince words.

"Observation: Willard municipal government is dysfunctional," Bodenhamer said on April 19. "Posts by certain elected officials on social media attacking others, lack of long-term planning and direction, conflict among elected officials, lack of professional respect by elected officials to city staff — I’ve observed it all.”

That audio was taken by former Willard Alderman Bradley Mowell for his online newsletter Man of Missouri. Ozarks Public Radio is using it with permission. Using online phone listings, we reached out to Bodenhamer last week for comment, but didn’t receive a response in time for this report.

Mowell didn’t want to go on air for an interview but told KSMU that following Willard civics these days has been “disheartening.”

City administrator controversy dominates bill of impeachment

According to a bill of impeachment obtained by Ozarks Public Radio from the Willard City Clerk, the board of aldermen has numerous grievances against Mayor Snider. Many of them focus on the office of city administrator, which hasn’t had a full-time professional in place since late last year. While Snider was out of town earlier this fall, the board hired a candidate for the job, then within days, Snider terminated her.

Alderman Sam Baird signed the bill of impeachment against Mayor Snider, along with all five other aldermen currently sitting on the board. He says community rumor has it that the impeachment effort is about ousting Snider so he can take up the mayor’s office — and Baird says that’s false.

"It's not a power play," Baird told Ozarks Public Radio over a mobile phone call last week. "This is about getting things done in Willard that have to get done.”

At meetings in September, the aldermen voted to formally censure Mayor Snider, a symbolic move. Later, Snider apologized for his actions.

"That was about really being able to humble myself and, and apologize for the discord that, you know, we're currently in," Snider said in a Friday interview.

According to meeting minutes, Snider told the community he’s committed to being a better servant to Willard’s residents, the city government and the aldermen.

State law says impeaching an elected officer in a fourth-class city like Willard requires a two-thirds vote of all members elected to the board of aldermen, independent of the mayor. The impeachment hearing is set for Thursday night. Willard City Clerk Dona Slater told Ozarks Public Radio on Friday that it’s not clear whether there will be a vote.

Copyright 2023 KSMU. To see more, visit KSMU.

Gregory Holman