Smith and Combs file for 155th District Rep. seat

Travis Smith

Joe Combs

Editor’s note: In upcoming editions ahead of the Aug. 4 primary election the Ozark County Times will publish profiles of candidates running for Ozark County offices and for 44th Circuit Judge. Announcements of candidates who are running for state representative and state senator in districts that include Ozark County will be published as their information is submitted to the Times, but the candidate profiles to be published later will only include candidates for Ozark County offices. Current 155th District Rep. Karla Eslinger’s announcement that she is running for the 33rd Senate District was published in the Nov. 20, 2019, edition of the Times.      


Travis Smith and Joe Combs, both Republicans, have filed as candidates for the 155th District House of Representative seat in the Aug. 4 primary election. The seat will be vacated at the end of this year by current representative, Wasola resident Karla Eslinger, who has filed as a candidate for the 33rd District Senate seat. 

Current Ozark County Sheriff Darrin Reed earlier announced his intention to run for the position; however, Reed told the Times last week he had decided not to run due to health and personal issues that have arisen. 


Travis Smith

Smith, a Douglas County resident, officially filed as a candidate for the representative seat at 10:39 a.m. on the first day of filing, Feb. 25. 

Smith has lived for many years in West Plains, which is in the 154th House District, but in May 2019, with their four children grown and out of the house, Smith and his wife moved to the cabin they’ve owned for 47 years near Twin Bridges in Douglas County, which is in the 155th House District. Smith told the Times Monday that he had “always wanted to get into politics.” In October, when he learned that Karla Eslinger planned to give up her position as 155th District Representative to run for the 33rd District Senate seat, he decided to run for the representative position. 

“I look forward to being a voice for rural Missouri and speaking up about the biggest issues facing us today,” Smith said in a news release. “There has never been a more pressing time in our country or in our state to have strong, conservative leadership in government.”

Smith says he’s had his eye on a number of key legislative issues and sees President Donald Trump’s leadership as an inspiration for good governance, including his focus on First- and Second-Amendment rights, pro-life policies, combatting illegal immigration and education reform. 

“My top priority in the Capitol is to defend the Constitution,” Smith said. “Without these protected freedoms, there is no right to life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness, plain and simple. My next focus is on our children – the upcoming generations. We must protect their right to life and their right to get an excellent education anywhere in the state. I will strive to ensure that their future is secured through economic development and increased opportunities for success.”

Smith’s background is in the private sector. He obtained his undergraduate degree at the University of Missouri, where he served as student president of the College of Arts and Sciences. Later, he attended William Woods University and earned a master’s degree in business administration. In college, he was also in leadership with his social fraternity, Phi Delta Theta. He currently works as the radio announcer for West Plains High School football and is the developer and owner of Southern Hills Shopping Center in West Plains. Smith has also served for a collective 17 years as a football and track and field coach at West Plains High School.

“I love having the opportunity to inspire others to achieve their goals. Whether it’s helping small business owners realizing their dreams through affordable real estate or coaching athletes to always give their best efforts, I am happiest when making others successful,” Smith added. 

Smith says he believes the Republican party is a better choice for encouraging economic growth, supporting small business and fostering entrepreneurship. As a member of multiple boards, including the Ozarks Medical Center, West Plains Savings and Loan, and the West Plains Chamber of Commerce, Smith says he sees the direct impact government has on the community firsthand. 

“We need to cut the suffocating red tape of bureaucracy and return commonsense decision-making back to the people. Government is often the root of the problems we see today, not the solution,” noted Smith. “The road to a prosperous state is a continuous one. Each election holds the power to move us forwards or backwards. My plan is to keep us on the path to success.”

Smith has retained Axiom Strategies to serve as consultants on his campaign. 


Joe Combs

Combs, a fifth generation native of eastern Taney County, filed within an hour of Smith, at 11:49 a.m. Feb. 25. 

Combs and his wife, Paulette, live in Bradleyville and own and operate the Combs Store there. 

He graduated from Bradleyville High School, College of the Ozarks and Missouri State University. 

Both Joe and Paulette retired after lengthy careers in education. He served as director of the Ava Alternative School and later as superintendent of Bradleyville School, where Paulette was a special education teacher. 

Combs says he holds education as a priority and feels strongly that the state should do more to help local schools. One of his major focuses as representative would be to maintain separate, small, local schools and avoid consolidating current school districts into larger districts.

During his career, Combs also worked for the Department of Social Services, covering Ozark and Douglas counties as a child abuse and daycare worker. He says he is aware of, and understands, the needs of local families. 

Combs and his wife have backgrounds in operating small farms, and Joe says there is nothing more important to the local economy than the success of small farmers. 

In a press release, Combs said he believes he should campaign on issues that may be affected by the state. He says he was raised in a family that operated country stores, and he knows the plight of small business in today’s age of “large-box” stores and online shopping. 

Combs says he is pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, pro-family rights, pro-property rights, pro-Christian values and he believes in America. He says he will strive to make Missouri a better place to live and work.


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