NIXA, Mo. – Missouri’s municipal election is less than a week away, and voters in Nixa have a decision to make about District 3. Three candidates are running for the council seat: Justin Orf, Isaiah Lockhart and Jeff Belcher.

Orf currently represents District 3, which is south of Highway 14 and west of Main Street. He tells OzarksFirst he’d like to be reelected.

“Largely it’s to continue what I’ve been doing for the past six years which is helping citizens navigate city government,” Orf said. “I’ve learned how city government works, who to talk to and what it takes to get an ordinance through council. I’ve developed great working relationships with city staff, so that I know who to talk to. I get those answers really quickly.”

The incumbent candidate is the youngest person to ever serve on Nixa City Council, starting when he was just 20 years old.

During Orf’s term, the city built a sidewalk that goes from Nixa High School to the X Center. This year, he is helping bring an inclusive playground to McCauley Park for kids of all abilities. Orf says he also helped drop utility rates in the city by diversifying the electric grid and renegotiating on a contract. He tells OzarksFirst the average family in town will probably save around $17 a month on utilities.

Orf says if he’s reelected, he plans to continue helping people and answering their questions.

“I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to accomplish what I wanted to originally,” Orf said. “Now it’s just continuing on that success.”

OzarksFirst asked Orf why people should vote for him. He answered, “Experience and community involvement.”

One of Orf’s opponents is Isaiah Lockhart.

Lockhart tells OzarksFirst he has noticed how tense council meetings have become. He has overheard some debates about COVID-19 and Mayor Brian Steele’s position. He says if he’s elected, he would like to ease that tension.

“Figure out a way to facilitate conversations regardless of our differences,” Lockhart said. “This is a pandemic. It’s not fun for anybody. Looking back it’s easy to say, ‘They should’ve done this, or they should’ve done that.’ I’m a firm believer that the things that unite us are far more greater than the things we may disagree on or have indifferences.”

Lockhart adds that if he’s elected, he’ll focus on what residents are worried about. He tells OzarksFirst he hears from people concerned about Nixa not being a small town anymore after seeing some subdivisions go up.

Keeping that in mind, Lockhart also wants to help the city deal with the growth it saw in the 2020 census. In 2010, 19,022 people lived in Nixa. Ten years later, that number grew to 23,257. As his town becomes a more popular place to live, Lockhart says he’d like to help the police department hire more officers.

He tells OzarksFirst he wants to be a representative people can rely on.

“Whatever the challenge may be, whether it’s just growth or helping our small businesses,” Lockhart said. “I grew up working for my dad in a fast food restaurant, so I know a lot of those challenges and things they face. Just dealing with those things.”

When asked why people should vote for him, Lockhart said he is someone who will listen, and that’s something the community can work on.

Running against Lockhart and Orf is Jeff Belcher, who has been going to a lot of council meetings lately. At those meetings, he says he has seen some decisions pass without everyone’s approval.

“I just feel that’s not an accurate representation of our city,” Belcher said. “Again, nobody 100% for 100% for 100%. It’s kind of rare. I think there needs to be more discussion, more opposing views brought to the table instead of, ‘Let’s just go along with the good ole’ boy system and not rock the boat.”

Belcher tells OzarksFIrst if he’s elected, he wants to help make city council become more transparent. He wants council to have less closed meetings, and let residents know about what’s being discussed.

“Bring the government back to the people,” Belcher said. “Let’s not do our business, and then we’ll leak out what we feel they need to hear.”

He says he’s worried about Nixa becoming a more popular city to live in. When Belcher first moved to the area, he recalls it being a small town. He tells OzarksFirst it’s now a much more expensive place to live.

“We really need to pause and take a look at the development we’re doing,” Belcher said. “Making sure we’re going to be able to have a community we have a good blend. Not just all the upper echelons getting out of Springfield coming here to settle and squeezing the little guy out. I’m all for the little guy. I’m an average Joe, and that’s what I think Nixa needs is more average Joe representation.”

When asked why people should vote for him, Belcher said he would ask the hard questions and offer a different approach to city council.