By Debby Woodin
MOUNT VERNON, Mo. — Republican races for three county offices are to be decided in the Aug. 5 primary election in Lawrence County.
The sheriff’s race drew the most interest with five candidates: two current members of the department, two former deputies and an Aurora police officer.
Also contested are the offices of assessor and Eastern District commissioner.
The incumbent sheriff, Ed Weisacosky, 64, who was elected in 2004, decided to retire and is not seeking a second term.
Two of his subordinates, Lt. Brad DeLay and Cpl. Jim Tennyson, both of Mount Vernon, are seeking the seat. Two former deputies, Kevin Davis, of Verona, and Rick Abney, of Mount Vernon, also filed. The fifth candidate is Jay Jastal, of Monett, who works for the Aurora Police Department.
Delay, 36, has worked for the department 15 years. He supervises eight uniformed officers, 22 reserve officers and the victims’ advocate, a program started three years ago.
His priority, he said, would be investigating drug cases. “This is basically the key to everything,” he said. “Any crime we have we can trace to drugs or drug usage.”
Tennyson, 58, has been with the department nine years. Before that, he was a state conservation agent and was assigned to Lawrence County for 26 years.
He said his priorities, if elected, would be drug-crime investigation and livestock rustling, which can become a problem when the economy slumps. “I also would like to improve communication with the department and with the other departments in the county, and with the citizenry,” he said. “I would like to see us more visible in the community.”
Davis, 47, said he has worked in law enforcement for 23 years. He left the Sheriff’s Department four years ago and has operated his own excavating business since.
He, too, cited work on drug-related crime as his priority, if elected. “To me, that’s one of our main problems in the nation, let alone Southwest Missouri,” he said. He also believes the department’s budget needs to be tightened, and that patrols need to be targeted to specific areas of need.
Abney and Jastal could not be reached for comment.
Earl Dotson, 43, a dairy farmer, is seeking election to his second term.
Dotson cited county spending and his willingness to help with whatever work is needed as his strengths for the job. As an example of his supervision of spending, he said he checked the insurance on all county vehicles and found that the county was paying for some vehicles it hadn’t owned in several years. He also said he helped to save money by rebidding the county’s contract for making signs, which he said hadn’t been done in a number of years. He also helped the road districts clear roads of tree debris after storms, he said.
Joe Ruscha, 57, of Verona, is a real-estate salesman for Carol Jones Realtors. He was presiding commissioner for 16 years, starting in 1991. He decided not to run in 2006.
“After 16 years, I decided to give it a rest,” he said. “But I’ve missed it more than I thought I would, and I’m ready to go back after it.”
Ruscha said he is interested in making sure the county’s money is spent as wisely as possible. He said he believes the county is mostly sound financially, except for the 911 system. “The 911 system is not paying its way, so we need to find a way to finance it,” he said. He would like to increase revenue by sustained growth rather than increased taxes, he said.
Doug Bowerman, 43, a beef cattle rancher, is seeking election to his second term as assessor.
Bowerman worked in the assessor’s office before being elected to the office in 2004.
He said no issues have surfaced regarding assessments. “I just want to continue the job the way it’s been going,” he said. “You don’t want to fix it if it’s not broke.”
Jerry Lee West, of Aurora, has previously run for county and local offices. He most recently was a candidate for Aurora City Council in the April election. He could not be reached for comment.
Voters in a proposed Pierce City Rural Fire Association will be asked a second time to form a tax-supported district that would serve about 75 square miles around Pierce City now served by the rural department that supports itself with membership fees.
The proposal was turned down last year, but fire Chief Daryl Fenski said he hopes voters have had an opportunity to get more information about the proposal and will reconsider.
Fenski said he the department needs an increased and a reliable revenue source to provide the service it does. Increasing gas prices are using up money the department needs for equipment, training and expenses of fighting fires, he said.
The proposal would impose a tax of 30 cents per $100 assessed valuation on real estate and personal property.
As an example, a person with real estate assessed at $22,830 and personal property of $6,280 would pay $87.33 a year for fire department service, Fenski said.
Currently, residents pay $75 a year for membership.
A 30-cent levy on a home with market value of $100,000 would equate to an annual tax bill of $57.
The chief said he believes any increased cost of paying taxes instead of a membership would eventually be offset by a decrease in a property-insurance premiums because the area would obtain a better fire rating with a tax-supported district and better equipment. He said his insurance agent calculated that he could save up to $200 a year on his premiums if the tax-supported district went into effect.
By Debby Woodin
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