COLUMBUS, Kan. —
Several primary races are on the Aug. 7 ballots in Cherokee County.
There are primary races for the Republican nominations for county attorney and 2nd District county commissioner, and for the Democratic nominations for county treasurer and county clerk.
Nathan Coleman and Robert Myers are vying for the Republican nomination for county attorney, the county prosecutor. The position pays $58,601 annually. The winner will face Democrat Melanie Bingham in November. She is unchallenged in the primary.
Incumbent County Attorney John Bullard, who was appointed, didn’t file for the election.
• Coleman, 35, of Galena, has lived most of his life in Cherokee County, most recently moving back in 2006. He has a private law practice with offices in Galena and Joplin, Mo. He has a law degree from Washburn University, Topeka. This is his first campaign.
“The county needs someone in the county attorney’s office who is going to work with law enforcement to charge individuals that have been arrested for crimes,” Coleman said. “You’re going to see me work hard at aggressively prosecuting crimes. We need to see filings go up. For quite some time, a crime committed hasn’t necessarily meant a crime is charged. That’s going to change if I’m in office.”
Coleman said he would be in the courtroom regularly arguing cases himself.
• Myers, 44, of Riverton, has lived all but 10 years of his life in Cherokee County. He has a private law practice in Columbus, and also is city attorney in Baxter Springs and Columbus. He has a law degree from the University of Oklahoma, Norman. He previously ran unsuccessfully for county attorney and for a position on the Riverton Board of Education.
“I’ve been practicing here many years,” Myers said. “The number of cases that are being prosecuted have steadily declined every year, but crime’s not decreasing. And it’s not because law enforcement is not doing its job.”
He said he has experience prosecuting cases in city court as a city attorney.
“I’m the only candidate who has the experience,” he said. “I’ve done jury trials. I’ve punished criminals.”
2ND DISTRICT COMMISSIONER
Jerry Messer and Charles Napier are competing for the Republican nomination for 2nd District county commissioner. The winner in the primary will face incumbent Democrat Jack Garner in November.
The district takes in the western half of the county, including Columbus. Commissioners are paid $24,521 a year.
• Messer, 57, of rural Columbus, has lived in the Columbus area since 1974. He has an associate degree from Coffeyville Community College. He owns a crane service and also has worked in construction. This is his first run for elected office.
“I think there could be a lot more done with the money we have in repairing the roads,” Messer said. “I’m really concerned about the budget, and I think it could be managed a little better.”
He said agriculture remains the county’s biggest industry. He said business recruitment shouldn’t focus on enticing large companies that leave when their tax breaks end.
“You can recruit small businesses and grow them right here in the county,” he said.
• Napier, 69, of Columbus, has lived his entire life in Columbus except for his time in Kansas City, Mo., for barber college and his apprenticeship. He graduated from Columbus High School and Moler Barber College, Kansas City. He is a retired barber. He served one term on the County Commission from 2004-08 but didn’t seek re-election then.
He said his priorities include keeping property taxes low, and roads and bridges.
“It’s not a one-day-a-week job with me,” Napier said, adding that he would travel every county road in his district every month. He said he would be available to residents to help them with any problems they have with county government.
Vicky Bagdriwicz is challenging incumbent Juanita Hodgson for the Democratic nomination for county treasurer. The winner will face Republican Charlene Hunley in November.
The county treasurer handles the county’s finances, including property tax statements and payments, and also performs vehicle registration work. The position pays $44,999 annually, including $10,455 from the state.
• Bagdriwicz, 55, of Columbus, has lived in the county for 20 years. She is a graduate of Fredonia High School and has 75 hours of college credit from various colleges, but no degree. She is executive director of the Columbus Housing Authority. She served 10 years, five terms, on the Columbus City Council.
“It’s a customer service-oriented position, and long lines are not a good representation of good customer service,” she said of the lines that sometimes form outside the door of the treasurer’s office. She said lines can be expected on the last days of the month, but not other days. She said the computer systems for vehicle registration have been upgraded, but it doesn’t appear to have alleviated the lines.
“Customer service is the No. 1 priority,” she said. “Nobody likes to pay taxes or vehicle fees. That’s why you want to make it as pleasant and least frustrating as possible.”
• Hodgson, 42, of Columbus, is the current county treasurer, having lived in and worked for the county for 21 years. She graduated from Pittsburg High School and has some college credits from Labette Community College, Parsons. This is her third term as county treasurer, covering 11 1/2 years.
Hodgson said she has three of the four certifications available from the Kansas County Treasurers Association and is pursuing the final level of certification.
“I’m going to continue the job I’m doing,” Hodgson said. “I perform county and state functions. I collect and distribute taxes. We have a new computer system in the vehicle department.”
Hodgson said though it is not among her official duties, she oversees the courthouse computer system.
“I keep them up to date and running,” she said.
Cecil Flood is challenging incumbent Crystal Gatewood for the Democratic nomination for county clerk. The winner will face Rodney Edmondson in November.
The county clerk is the chief election officer for the county, the custodian of county records and is responsible for keeping the minutes of County Commission meetings. The position pays $45,194, including $10,600 for state responsibilities.
• Flood, of Weir, declined to reveal his age. He has lived nearly his entire life in Cherokee County. He is retired from a career as a math instructor at Labette Community College, Parsons, and as a high school math teacher. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in math from Pittsburg State University. This is his first run for elected public office.
“I want to serve the people of Cherokee County,” Flood said. “It’s a good place to raise children and a good place to live. I want to pay back the people of the county.”
He said he wants to restore harmony among county offices, which he said has been lacking.
“I’ll serve the people to the best of my ability,” he said.
• Gatewood, 54, of Columbus, has lived in the county for 35 years. The current county clerk has two associate degrees from Labette Community College, Parsons. Her campaign for county clerk four years ago was her first campaign. She is the wife of soon-to-be-former state Rep. Doug Gatewood, who is not seeking re-election to the Legislature.
“I’d like to continue to get the county back on track,” Gatewood said. “I’ve made some tough decisions in the office. I’ve added efficiency. We have more use of technology within the office. I’ve developed a website for the county clerk’s office, where I have made available the commission minutes, agendas, budgets and election results. I’ve made county government more transparent to the citizens of the county.”
COLUMBUS, Kan. —
Several primary races are on the Aug. 7 ballots in Cherokee County.
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