Five-way Republican primary for Christian County Eastern District commissioner 2020

FIVE CANDIDATES are running for one nomination in the 2020 Republican primary for Christian County Eastern District commissioner. From left, Bradley Jackson, Dan Hobbs, Dennis Lilly, Lynn Morris and Shane Nelson.

Five candidates seek their party’s nomination, but only one can run for Eastern District commissioner of Christian County in November.

The Christian County Commission is made up of three members, two associate commissioners in the Eastern and Western districts, and one presiding commissioner. In the west, Republican Hosea Bilyeu runs unopposed in a bid for reelection in his party’s primary. In the east, five men are all vying for one spot.

The winner of the August primary will face Democrat Nathan Billedo in November. Billedo runs unopposed for his party’s nomination for Eastern District commissioner.

Eastern District Commissioner Mike Robertson was appointed to office and sworn in on Jan. 3, 2019. His appointment followed Presiding Commissioner Ralph Phillips, then the Eastern District commissioner, running for and winning the race for presiding commissioner in the 2018 election.

Robertson decided that he would not run for another term in 2020.

We asked six equally-phrased and relatively open-ended questions of each candidate in the five-way primary, and selected some of their responses for publication. Efforts were made to give each candidate relatively equal amounts of space and time based on the responses that they provided. Note: candidates are listed in an order chosen at random through a computerized list randomizer.

Dan Hobbs

Sparta

Hobbs has an extensive background in the construction industry. He is a newcomer to running for public office, having been self-employed as a contractor for 30 years.

“Since 1991, I’ve been a house builder and dealt with the county a lot; I had to,” Hobbs said. “I was kind of raised in the (planning and zoning process), back when it evolved, I believe it was ’92. I feel like I would be a good fit in terms of past experience, and quite frankly, it wouldn’t be quite as physical.” 

What inspired you to file to run for the county commission?

Hobbs: “I’ve always been involved, but on the other end of the county and all of these different processes. Sometimes they’ve affected me good, sometimes they’ve affected me bad, so I understand both sides of the spectrum, per se. In terms of working with or through a budget—my whole life has been on a budget. Otherwise, I couldn’t have survived and raised three kids. I think I’d be good at the job, although unlike some of the others, I’ve never been in the public eye." 

What are some things you feel that the current county commission is doing well?

Hobbs: “I think they’re doing a good job on a whole. The things I’ve encountered in the past are—to me it’s imperative if the people vote for planning and zoning, and you have a set of rules and regulations, then those rules and regulations need to be upheld for everybody. It doesn’t matter if it’s Dan Hobbs that’s making a living or a big, corporate whatever. And it needs to be fluid. When people such as myself come in, that process needs to be fast. It needs to happen. I mean, you table this, you table this and you table this, and you push this man’s project back three, four or six months, per se, that’s a huge problem. He’s got carrying costs, he’s got all of these problems. They need to know then what you can do and what you can’t do.”

What are some areas where you feel the current commission could improve?

Hobbs: “I think we need to be careful, and it’s complicated and it kind of gets into grey areas, but when you deal with (tax increment financing) programs and things of this nature. I’m all about the good and the development and all of these kinds of things, but we’ve got to be really careful how this affects the taxpayer. If we’re not careful, our taxes are going to be higher than Greene County.”

Editor’s note: The average property tax rate in Christian County is 0.848 percent, though this figure depends on which taxing districts any given property owner falls within. The average property tax rate in Greene County is 0.880 percent. There are certain properties within Christian County that fall both above and below the Greene County average.

Lynn Morris

Nixa

Morris is a pharmacist whose background includes managing hospital pharmacies, teaching college courses in pharmacology and owning the Family Pharmacy chain for 42 years. He is finishing his eighth and final year as a member of the Missouri House of Representatives, having been previously elected to represent eastern Christian County in the House four times. 

What are some areas where you feel the current commission could improve?

Morris: “The county commission is an extremely important position and will continue to be more so as our county experiences record growth. I have no criticism of the current commissioners as they have a lot of responsibilities, as well as unforeseen issues they had to address this year. I feel I could be an asset to the commission and wish to focus on positive ideas going forward. I pledge to work fulltime-plus to accomplish success for our county.”

What is it like to campaign in a five-way race in this primary?

Morris: “This is not particularly concerning to me as I can only state what I hope to accomplish if elected to serve. I am acquainted with all the other candidates and applaud anyone who “throws their hat in the ring” as campaigning is rough, but it is great visiting with people and listening to their ideas. I do believe I am the most qualified candidate and I am working hard each day to earn more votes. The potential drawback is low voter turnout, which could certainly split the votes. I expect a close, but positive race. I encourage all citizens to vote.”

What is something that voters should know about you that makes you stand apart from the rest?

Morris: “My experience as a healthcare professional, a businessman, and my experience the last eight years serving as representative in Jefferson City. Serving has really been an honor. It has allowed me to establish contacts and have a good rapport with many officials and department heads. I have also had opportunity to network with other representatives and senators to explore what other states and counties are doing resulting in positive outcomes. 

Some of the state committees I served on include: economic development, local government, health and mental health, insurance policy, and appropriations for elementary and secondary education as well as appropriations for social services. This is an advantage I have over the other candidates as these contacts will certainly be beneficial for our county going forward. I have a great work ethic and will work tirelessly for our county. I have no other job to prevent me from working fulltime.  

I believe the trait of a good leader is to listen carefully to the people as they express their needs and concerns. I am polite and work well with others. I believe communication and transparency is vital for successful government. I have issued surveys and spoken with people personally as they express their most pressing issues:  High-speed internet, condition of roads and bridges, and high taxes. I pledge to work on these issues with citizen input as we can work together to find solutions.”

Bradley Jackson

Ozark

Jackson is an entrepreneur and business owner who owns and manages Hometown Print House in Ozark. He has been the mayor of Ozark as well as an alderman representing the southernmost of Ozark’s three wards. He has also served with the Ozark Historic River District, the Ozark Chamber of Commerce, the Ozark Historic Preservation Commission and the 4C Sertoma Club. Jackson is a veteran of the U.S. Army. 

What inspired you to file to run for the county commission?

Jackson: “I’m well-versed in a lot of topics that are going to be applicable to the county commissioner’s role. I understand government, I understand governance, I understand the legislative process, but most importantly, I have a strong desire to work with the people in the county to achieve their goals and dreams. I believe in citizen-driven leadership, which means I am constantly going to be asking for feedback from the community.” 

What are some things you feel that the current county commission is doing well?

Jackson: “I agree with the efforts that they’ve been putting forward with Show Me Christian County. I think it’s imperative that we continue that, and then probably even enhance that presence. Their involvement in the Ozark Transportation Organization is good, but I think that it could be better.

Going back to Show Me Christian County, one of the most important things that we can do as we’re growing at the rate that we are growing—if we don’t keep up commercial development in pace with the residential growth, we put a huge strain on the services, whether it be law enforcement, whether it be 911, all of these different entities that are operating off of not just property tax revenue, but sales tax revenue.”

 

What are some areas where you feel the current commission could improve?

Jackson: “One of the primary concerns that I have been given from the citizenry in this process of me running for office is the condition of our roadways. When you get outside into rural Christian County it is evident that our roads are not being maintained as well as they could and should probably be. In the process of asking questions, I’ve asked about a master transportation plan for the county. We don’t have one. Priority projects for the county? Eh, we don’t have one because we don’t really have a master transportation plan to look at the overall picture, the overall scope, and identify what is in the worst condition, what needs the most attention, where do we need to be going?”

“I honestly believe that some of the reason why it’s gotten to the condition that it is is because we’ve had five commissioners in the past 10 years. No one has stayed in the job long enough to establish a plan of action and then start to see it through to fruition. The past two commissioners that were elected to the seat vacated the seat at the opportunity to run for an office, and we had two appointments that either A. weren’t interested in running for office, or B. were in the wrong party and couldn’t get elected. We need somebody that will get elected, stay in that seat and finish the job that they start.”

Shane Nelson

Ozark

Nelson is a commercial real estate agent with the Estes Stancer Group who previously owned Ozark Abstract and Title. Nelson has been Ozark’s mayor, a member of the Ozark Fire Protection District Board of Directors and presently serves on the Ozark R-VI Board of Education.

What inspired you to file to run for the county commission?

Nelson: “When I was young, it was a goal of mine that when I got older to give back to the community I lived in. My wife and I have taken that to heart and have been volunteering and serving our community for many years. The many offices I have held and boards I have served on have been very rewarding and enjoyable to me and it feels good to give back to the community that has given us so much and help lead. The past few months have shown how important it is to have people who are leaders and not followers. I have the most local experience and am a proven leader and feel that Eastern District commissioner is an office where I can make a very positive and professional impact.”

What are some areas where you feel the current commission could improve?

Nelson: “The past few months have shown how sometimes being a leader is important and being a follower is easy.  Leaders make tough decisions not based on votes or a story in the paper but what is right for the county. Those decisions can be tough but necessary. I feel some of the commission has been following and not leading during these tough times. I also feel we need to look for more intergovernmental partnerships to stretch taxpayer’s dollars when possible. I also feel we need to keep our reserve funds for unexpected items that may come up and not for speculative purchases.”

What is something that voters should know about you that makes you stand apart from the rest?

Nelson: “I am open, honest and have a strong personality which means I am not a “yes man” and will stand up for my constituents. I feel this is very important when you only have three commissioners making all the decisions and controlling the budget for the county. I am approachable and happy to meet with anyone who has a question or issue with the county. I have had this same policy in every office I have held and that is why everyone is welcome to my mobile number, (417) 861-4556. I have the most local experience and have been giving my time to Christian County for many years and would like to continue to help lead in a time where I think we could use more leadership.”

Dennis Lilly

Sparta

Lilly is a retired firefighter and emergency medical technician from the Springfield Fire Department, a father of seven children and the vice president of the Sparta R-III Board of Education. He also worked in construction to supplement his income as an emergency responder. Lilly served for three years in the U.S. Marine Corps.

 

What inspired you to file to run for the county commission?

Lilly: “I’ve got several irons in the fire, and I’d said a few prayers trying to find direction of where I needed to focus. Within a week, I had two of the commissioners ask me to run, and I so I felt like that was a pretty good sign that that’s the direction I needed to go. With Ralph Phillips and Mike Robertson both asking me within three days of each other if I would run, I told them that I would talk to the wife and get back with them. She supported that, and that’s what led me here.”

What are some things you feel that the current county commission is doing well?

Lilly: “We’ve been moving forward in Christian County for several years now, which is good. I think that with Ralph and Mike both asking me to run, they both thought that being raised here in eastern Christian County and living in Christian County most of my life, they both felt that I was a good fit for the position to keep things moving in a positive direction, and working with the other two commissioners to keep that momentum going and to try to bring more growth into Christian County.”

What are some areas where you feel the current commission could do better?

Lilly: “There is always room for improvement no matter where you go. It’s not like I’m saying that there’s any one thing, but I think there is always room for improvement, there are always better ways to do things. I think the more that we communicate with the residents of Christian County and eastern Christian County that we can find those ways.”

“Being in the line of work that I’ve been in, in the Marine Corps—because I was in Marine Security dealing with a lot of people and different situations—and being in the fire department, dealing with life-threatening situations, life or death situations, dealing with the public, because we were public servants, and going out and campaigning—I’m always trying to find common ground with people and bridge ideas and people together to get things on the same page and move forward. It’s just been more of the same.”

What is it like to campaign in a five-way race in this primary?

Lilly: “Although I’ve never really campaigned like this before, for anything, I ran for the school board, which was totally different. Running against four other people—I really don’t feel like I’m running against them, because we’re all running for a position. I’m running for this position, and there are just other people running for that position, too. I’m not really running against those people. It’s been, from what I hear, totally different.”

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