Ronda Smith, Pam Mason and incumbent Kevin O'Neill compete for the 1st District At-Large seat.

An incumbent faces two challengers from the Northland

Meet the 1st District At-Large Candidates for KCMO City Council

By Sara Wiercinski

Kevin O’Neill is the current At-Large representative for the First District at Large He has two challengers: Ronda Smith and Pam Mason. The top two finishers will advance to the general election on June 20. The First District encompasses Kansas City north of Barry Road. “At-large” means voters throughout the city vote for the position.


Ronda Smith

Ronda Smith, 57, is from the Northland. She has worked in real estate since 2005 and is also an insurance agent. Smith’s husband is a retired KCMO police officer. Smith hopes to bring more accountability and transparency to city government by calling for a state-led external audit. She wants all department budgets to be published online for the public to view. 


Smith wants to repair the relationship between city hall and the police department. She says the council’s revocation of specific laws (like jaywalking) ties the hands of officers to enforce justice, ultimately breaking their spirit. She wants to see police officers engaging in neighborhood activities to build back trust in public safety. 


 Smith wants the city to give abandoned properties back to the community, and sees value in individual neighborhoods coming together to fix up their own spaces. Nonprofits and churches have a vital role to fill in the gaps. She wants enforcement of some codes, but not to such an extent that regulation prevents communities from solving their own problems. 

Business and infrastructure development

Smith wants the council to make it easier for small businesses to get started in Kansas City. She sees value in working with the sports commission to bring funding opportunities for tourism in individual neighborhoods. She says TIF money needs to be distributed more fairly. Smith participated in the Ruskin Heights ride-along.  She was frustrated at “seeing only liquor stores and tire shops instead of restaurants or grocery stores. There are no places for young people to work.”


Pam Mason

Pam Mason, 66, is a lifelong Kansas City resident who lives in the Northland. She is the former presiding commissioner and clerk for Clay County. She is a member of the Economic Development Council’s Tax Increment Financing Commission. Mason serves on the Mid-America Regional Council board, the Northland Regional Chamber of Commerce board and as chair of the zoological tax district commission. 


Mason says Kansas City needs to guarantee funding for its police department and first responders. She wants to increase the police force to a minimum of 1,500 officers. She wants to see a return to community policing where officers walk beats and are known in the community. Mason is in favor of school resource officers as a means of building trust and reducing violence.


Mason wants to see strict code enforcement for neglected property owned from outside Kansas City. She wants stronger city ordinances to create penalties that create strong financial consequences. “Drive down Blue Ridge Road, in the Hickman Mills area,” said Mason. “See the empty grocery stores, car washes falling down. Some of it looks like a ghost town.” 

Business and infrastructure development

Mason wants to make the city safer so businesses feel confident in investing. She says incentives are sometimes appropriate, and references the Cerner Campus as an example of how not to do things. “It’s beautiful, and Cerner got the tax breaks it wanted, but the assets it promised to the community simply aren’t there.” Mason wants any business that receives incentives to add real jobs added, without burdening residents with levies to make up the difference.


Kevin O’Neill

Kevin O’Neill, 66, is a fifth generation resident of Kansas City. In 2019 he was elected to city council, representing the First District at-Large. He serves on the Transportation Infrastructure Committee and Special Housing Committee. He also serves on the Economic Development Council’s Planned Industrial Expansion Authority board, the Visit KC board and Port KC board. For 30 years he was publisher of the Kansas City Labor Beacon. He grew up south of the river and attended Bishop Hogan High School. 


 O’Neill says the best way to address the high homicide rate is more police on the street. O’Neill says he’s worked with colleagues to address safety and violence prevention programs. He sees success in renewing efforts toward the Kansas City No Violence Alliance partnership, and he supports the KC Blueprint for Violence Prevention, which allocates $6 million annually for five years by providing community programs in the most violent areas.


 “A clean city represents a great city,” said O’Neill, who is encouraged by the city-wide emphasis on cleanup in advance of next month’s NFL Draft and leading up to the FIFA World Cup in 2026. He notes the complexity of the effort, with city departments such as Public Works and Parks and Recreation working alongside nonprofit organizations and community volunteers. He refers to himself as an advocate for all things streets/surfaces/sidewalks, and he wants to see PIAC funds prioritized on repairing and installing sidewalks connecting schools to neighborhoods.

Business and infrastructure development

O’Neill says that he wants to see a more even distribution of GO bonds to the six city districts. He highlights the success of the Richards-Gebaur Commerce Park, which brought jobs to the area in the form of tax abatements. O’Neill wants to see the council “pick up the pace” on permitting for new businesses to make it easier to operate in Kansas City.

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Twitter: @KOneillkcmo

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