Gville, Dora school district voters head to polls Tuesday

Dustin Howard

Lynda Smith

Dan Hurd

Jeff Strong

Tim Masters

Jay Smith

Voters in the Gainesville and Dora school districts will go to the polls Tuesday to elect school board members in Dora and decide two funding proposals in Gainesville. A sample ballot appears on page 15 of this week’s Times.

Poling places, listed on the sample ballot, will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Richland precinct for Dora voters, and in the Barren Fork, Bridges, Dawt, Jackson, Lick Creek and Pontiac precincts for Gainesville voters.

Eleven Ozark Counties entities – school and municipal boards and public agencies – have positions coming open on their governing boards, but only the Dora school board race is contested. Missouri law specifies that an election doesn’t have to be held if the number of candidates equals the number of open positions on these boards, and that is the case on the Bakersfield, Lutie and Thornfield school boards; the Bakersfield, Gainesville and Theodosia village boards; and the Ozark County Ambulance District, the Ozark County Health Department Board and Public Water District #1 in Theodosia. (For a list of whose terms are expiring and the names of candidates who will fill them, see the Jan. 30 edition of the Times.)

The exception to this rule is the Gainesville school board, where only the two incumbents, Heather Bushner and Robby Walrath, have filed. However, a new state law requires that the names of board-member candidates appear on the ballot when one or more additional issues – such as the Gainesville district’s two funding proposals – are also being decided. So Bushner and Walrath’s names appear on the Gainesville ballot, even though they are running unopposed.

Also, Ozark County residents who live in the Ava R-1 School District will choose two members from a field of four candidates: Rance (Tanner) Clark, Dan Johnson, Anna Gamboa and Brandi Kay Stanifer. 


Issues to be decided in Dora and Gainesville

In Dora, six candidates are running for two expiring school board positions, the seats currently held by Lynda Smith and Jeff Strong. Both incumbents have filed for re-election. Dustin Howard, Dan Hurd, Tim Masters and Jay Smith have also filed. See the Dora candidate profiles, page 5.

Gainesville voters will be asked to approve two funding proposals, something that hasn’t happened since voters approved bonds for construction of the new elementary school in 1993. When the debt levy supporting those bonds expired in 2010, voters voted against renewing them, and the next year the levy reverted to the state minimum $2.75 per $100 assessed valuation, where it has remained since then.

Tax levies apply to both assessed property and personal property valuations.

The Gainesville district’s first ballot proposal is a request to increase the school’s operating tax levy ceiling by 47 cents, bringing it to $3.22. Funds generated by the levy increase would be used to fund capital improvements, including the renovation of the high school and junior high school, student lockers, HVAC, roof replacement, computer equipment, classroom furniture and other facility maintenance and improvement projects.

Also on the April 2 ballot, Gainesville voters will be asked to approve the issuance of $1.9 million in general obligation bonds to pay for a new multipurpose gymnasium. The bonds will be secured on a 20-year pay-back schedule, meaning in 20 years, the bond levy would have to be voted back in – or it could be allowed to expire, as voters decreed in the April 2010 election, when they turned down a proposal to renew the 28-cent debt service that was expiring. The 2010 renewal proposal was part of another request that also included a 62 cents levy increase. The proposal failed, and the next year the school’s operating levy fell to $2.75, the state minimum, where it has remained since then.

The district currently has no debt service levy. Approving the $1.9 bond issue proposal in the latest proposal would result in an estimated increase to the debt service property tax levy of 28 cents per $100 assessed valuation, bringing the total levy to $3.03. 

If both proposals pass, the Gainesville district’s total tax levy would increase by a total of 75 cents per $100 valuation for a total of $3.50. 

The operating levy requires a simple majority vote for approval. The bond issue requires a four-sevenths (57.14 percent) majority for approval. 

A proposal to increase the school’s operating levy by 75 cents failed by 14 votes (out of 1,394 votes cast) in the Aug. 7, 2018, election. The board put the proposal back on the ballot in the Nov. 6, 2018, election but graduated the 75-cent increase over three years and added a 25-year sunset clause. That proposal failed by 150 votes (out of 2,010 votes cast). 

In the Jan. 30 Times story, Gainesville superintendent Dr. Jeff Hyatt said, “The levy request is for overall district improvements that are so desperately needed,” he said. 

In an email to the Times he provided these estimates for needed repairs and upgrades that would be funded by the levy increase: 

Roof repair $980,000

Junior high, high school remodel $250,000

Security upgrades $100,000

Heating upgrades $100,000

Locker replacements $75,000

Computer upgrades $75,000

Parking lot repairs $50,000

Phone upgrades $30,000

Covered walkway $30,000

Referring to the proposed bond issue to replace the school’s outdated gymnasium, which is not handicap accessible, Hyatt said, “The gym is a question that is brought up constantly, and voters have a divided view. Here is the opportunity and the voters can decide one way or another.”


These candidates are running for seats on the Dora school board

The six Dora-area residents whose “profiles” appear on this page are running in the April 2 general municipal election for the two positions that are expiring on the Dora R-4 Board of Education.  

Seats are also expiring in other school and municipal boards in Ozark County, but candidates in those races are running unopposed, and state law allows government boards to bypass elections when the number of candidates and the number of vacancies is the same. It is the Times’ policy to profile only candidates running in contested races, and in the April 2 election, the only contested race is for the two seats on the Dora school board.

The Ozark County Times sent brief questionnaires to the candidates, asking them to limit their responses to a total of 400 words. The profiles presented here have been edited to follow newspaper format and style; the edited drafts were sent to the candidates for their review. 

Dustin Howard
Present employment: I am currently a lineman for Pike Electric.
Education, experience and/or other factors that qualify you for the Dora school board: I’m a 2004 graduate of Dora High School, and also a 2016 graduate of the North American Lineman Training Center in McEwen, Tennessee.
Challenges and goals: The biggest challenge is to make sure our children receive the best education possible. The ability to retain great teachers and provide them with all the necessary resources is a must!
Personal information: I have lived in Dora all my life. I have been married to my wife, Kyla, for 13 years. We have four children who attend Dora School.
Lynda Smith
Present employment: I am retired from Century Bank of the Ozarks. I currently  volunteer / work every Monday at Ozark Action in Gainesville.
Education, experience and/or other factors that qualify you for the Dora school board: I graduated from Dora High School and have lived in the area most of my life. I currently serve on the Dora school board and have served two consecutive terms. I worked in banking and know there has to be checks and balances in the school’s finances as well as in all aspects of life. I want to see that we provide the best opportunity for our students to learn and become outstanding individuals in all professions they may choose for their careers. I have been involved in and supported the school since 1975. Our school is very important to me as it is the primary makeup of our community.  
Challenges and goals: The biggest challenge is the safety of our most precious assets, our students and our faculty. We have to make sure we use our finances wisely and beneficially for all of our students, making decisions for whatever is best for our students and all of our school.
Personal information: My husband Joel and I have been married for 55 years. We have three children, nine grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. I have attended Family Life Church in Dora for over 50 years. I help the ladies of Family Life Church cook and feed our athletes for all home basketball games. Joel and I try to support our community, and we’ve been involved in school activities as far back as the 1980s, when we sold products out of the back of our pickup trucks to help the Dora Booster Club raise money to build our baseball fields.
Dan Hurd
Present employment: I’m retired from the U.S. Postal Service. Currently my wife, Gale, and I operate The Master’s Table at Hill in the Holler Farm, managing aquaponic / organic vegetable sales.
Education, experience and/or other factors that qualify you for the Dora school board: I have an Associate of Applied Science degree in business administration, and I completed a 27-year career with the USPS, starting as a mail handler and then progressing to letter carrier, manager and automation / window clerk. 
Challenges and goals: I believe one of the biggest challenges will be to distribute resources equitably in order to provide the programs the students need in order to be successful, whether in an academic or vocational setting
Personal information: My wife, Gale, and I have been married 45 years. We have three kids and four grandkids. Gale and I retired approximately five years ago and moved here to Dora. I am not related to anyone working in the Dora R-3 School District.
Jeff Strong
Present employment: I work for the Missouri Department of Transportation as a senior maintence worker.
Education, experience and/or other factors that qualify you for the Dora school board: I am a graduate of Dora High School, and I have served on the school board for the last six years. I have served as vice president of the board for the last three years. During this time we have proposed and been approved for multiple improvements, such as the middle school additions and the new FEMA building. 
Challenges and goals: The biggest challenge of this office is to continue to improve on the great educational experiences that we have at Dora. I hope to keep providing and expanding on the great educational experience for all the students and teachers at Dora School. We have great community support in Dora, and I don’t want that to change.
Personal information: Not only did my wife and I graduate from Dora School over 20 years ago, all of our children have graduated from Dora as well. I have been a part of this school for a long time and enjoy attending as many extracurricular activities as we can in support of the school, including ballgames, fundraisers and benefits, to name a few. In my opinion, we have one of the best schools in the county, and I am proud to support it as a school board member.  
Tim Masters
Present employment:  I have been the owner/operator of Dun-Rite Digital in Dora for the past 10 years. I am a Viasat Internet Retailer and install satellite TV and antennas.
Education, experience and/or other factors that qualify you for the Dora school board:   I am a graduate from Muncie Northside High School in Indiana. I attended college one year at Palm Beach Junior College and three years at Tusculum College in Tennessee, majoring in business administration. Being a parent of one Dora graduate and two current Dora students, I have a personal interest in the progression of the current policies as well as future advancements to ensure our students remain competitive upon graduation. My mother is a retired teacher, and I have always known how valuable a quality education is. I have volunteered to coach several youth teams to help local children. Volunteering to be a school board member is another way I can try to support our community.
Challenges and goals:  An important challenge we will face is staying competitive with the larger schools that receive more funding. Student safety and keeping up with current academic standards are constant challenges facing any school. I hope to provide some insight on decisions that will help our children have as many opportunities available as possible.
Personal information: My personal information was shared in my other answers.
Jay Smith
Present employment: I have owned and operated Jay’s Barber Shop in West Plains for 18 years.
Education, experience and/or other factors that qualify you for the Dora school board: I graduated from Dora High School and previously served nine years on the school board. I help raised thousands of dollars each year to help the kids in any extra way possible, from fulfilling teachers’ wish lists to helping out in the classroom to buying sports gear for summer programs and high school athletics.
Challenges and goals: The challenge is staying within the budget and still making sure the teachers have the resources to give the kids the best education possible. My goal is to keep trying to make Dora School the best possible school for our kids.  
Personal information: I was born and raised in Dora and graduated from Dora. I have two kids, Cameron and Makenzie.

Ozark County Times

504 Third Steet
PO Box 188
Gainesville, MO 65655

Phone: (417) 679-4641
Fax: (417) 679-3423