Sullivan resigns from Gainesville council; Postponed April 7 election is Tuesday
In less than a week, Ozark County’s registered voters will decide whether the county will begin collecting a 2 percent internet “use tax,” similar to a sales tax, on some online purchases, and who will fill open seats on the Dora, Gainesville and Thornfield school boards. Some Ozark Countians also vote in the Ava school board election. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson rescheduled the General Municipal Election from April 7 to June 2 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because a county-wide tax matter is on the ballot, all poling places in all precincts in the county will be open from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday. In some of the precincts, the tax decision will be the only issue on the ballot; state law specifies that no election will be held when the number of candidates running for seats on a board equals the number of positions that are coming open.
That is the case for these school, municipal and public boards, which do not have to hold an election: Bakersfield and Lutie school boards, the county’s three village boards (Bakersfield, Gainesville and Theodosia), the Ozark County Ambulance District and Ozark County Health Department boards and the board overseeing Public Water Supply District #1 in Theodosia.
An unexpected situation has occurred in Gainesville, where an election will not be held because all the incumbents whose terms are expiring filed for re-election, and no other candidates filed. West Ward Alderman Rocky Sullivan, who has served in the position for 10 years, filed for re-election, and his name will appear on the ballot. However, Sullivan resigned from the board of aldermen recently, and he has told the Times that he will not serve if re-elected. He declined to discuss the reason for his resignation, but it occurred at the same time that long-time Gainesville city maintenance man William Walrath resigned as a city employee. A west ward resident will be appointed to fill the west ward seat, Mayor Gail Reich said Monday.
Two Theodosia residents will also be appointed to fill positions that are expiring on the Theodosia Village Council, where three terms are ending and only one incumbent has filed for re-election.
Polling places will look ‘a little different’
May 20 was the last day to apply for an absentee ballot to vote in the election. All absentee ballots must be received by the clerk’s office by 7 p.m. June 2. To accommodate absentee voters wishing to vote in person, the clerk’s office in the Ozark County Courthouse will be open from 8 a.m. until noon Saturday, May 30, and 30 minutes longer than usual, until 5 p.m. on Monday, June 1.
Ozark County Clerk Brian Wise said Thursday that 83 applications for absentee ballots had been received, a “little higher” than normal, he said, a difference he attributed to the fact that voters have had two extra months to apply for the absentee ballots.
Wise also said polling places will look a little different for this election with new precautions in place to avoid spreading the COVID-19 virus. Wise got a grant from the state that let him order sneeze guards that will sit on the table in front of every election judge. Judges may also wear masks. Wise ordered 12 gallons of hand sanitizer to be distributed to the polling places along with posters advising social distancing and sticker strips to mark distances on the floor – after making sure the strips can be removed without damaging the floor. “We have to watch what we do at polling places because they’re not ours,” he said.
Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft came to Gainesville earlier this month to deliver 7 gallons of spray sanitizer donated by a distillery in Weston for use on polling place tables and other surfaces. Wise also acquired devices that sanitize the writing pens voters will use.
“The actual voting process itself will be pretty much the same,” Wise said. “But voters will definitely see some changes in the polling places.”
The last day to register to vote in this election was March 11. The last day for candidate filing was Jan. 21.
The current board members and the candidates are named below. A sample ballot appears on page 9 of this week’s Times.
Because the June 2 election results will be finalized after the Times’ press deadline for the June 3 edition, general results will be posted Tuesday night on the Ozark County Times website and Facebook page, and votes by precinct will be published in the June 10 edition.
School board elections
Photos of candidates running in contested school board races are shown on page 1 of this week’s Times; their previously published candidate profiles are posted at ozarkcountytimes.com (except for Dora candidates Wanda Watkins and Gwen Chambers, who filed as write-in candidates after the filing deadline, and Thornfield candidate Donnie Cunningham, who declined to provide profile information).
Dora school board: Lindsay Collins, Cassidy Martin, Jerry Moritz and Mindy Trail are vying for three open positions, those currently held by Collins, Martin and Ed Lee. Lee has not filed for reelection.
Gwen Chambers and Wanda Watkins have filed as write-in candidates for the Dora school board. Their names will not appear on the ballot, and those wishing to vote for either or both candidates will need to fill in the circle next to the option “Write-in candidate,” and print “Gwen Chambers” or “Wanda Watkins” beside the circle.
Ozark County Clerk Brian Wise said the ballots with write-in candidates are hand-counted, and judges are able to count the ballots based on the intent of the voter; therefore, ballots with minor spelling mistakes will still be counted for the intended candidate.
Dora School Board members whose positions are not expiring are Robert Lee, Tim Masters, Lynda Smith and Terry Martin.
Gainesville school board: Three three-year positions are coming open, those held by Jerry Kiger, Corey Hillhouse and Marti Warden. All three incumbents have filed for re-election, and Douglas Hawkins has also filed as a candidate. Board members whose terms are not expiring are Jabet Wade, Mason Eslinger, Heather Bushner and Robbie Walrath.
Thornfield school board: Three three-year positions are coming open, those held by Terry Ewing, Donnie Cunningham and Travis Tucker. All three have filed for re-election. Renee Graham and William “Mitch” Cook have also filed. Board members whose positions are not expiring are Darrin Clayton, Greg Prock, Daniel Collins and Shane Funk.
Ava school board: Three three-year positions are coming open, those currently held by Mark Henry, Michael Stewart and Kenneth Fleetwood. All three incumbents have filed for re-election, and three additional candidates have filed: Vernard Deatherage, Troy Tredway and Lowell Strong. Board members whose terms are not expiring are Bart Ellison, Deana Parsick, Dan Johnson and Brandi Stanifer.
School boards where no election is required
Bakersfield: Three three-year positions and one two-year position are coming open. The three-year terms of Matthew Evans, Mike Scott and Tim Watlington are expiring, and all three incumbents have filed for re-election. Kyle Clayton has filed for the two-year position to fill the seat currently held by Johnathan Belt, who can no longer serve due to a change in employment. Board members whose terms are not expiring are Bruce Bales, Johnathan Lashley and Chris Bales.
Lutie: Three three-year positions are coming open, those held by Chuck Myers, Julie Vaught and Bill Conklin. Three candidates have filed: Matthew Shockey, Robert Edwards and Luther Hampton. Board members whose positions are not expiring are Ric Engelhardt, Jennifer Garrison, Carl Kruger and Suzanne Meeks.
Municipal/public boards – No elections
None of Ozark County’s villages and public boards will hold elections for board positions. In Bakersfield and Gainesville, the number of expiring terms on the village boards equals the number of candidates who have filed. In Theodosia, three seats are coming open, and only one candidate has filed; two residents will be appointed to fill the empty positions.
• City of Bakersfield: Three two-year terms on the city council are expiring, positions currently held by Tony Johnson, Jodi Burns and Stephanie Guffey. Johnson and Guffey have filed for re-election, and Kevin Sewell has also filed. Johnson currently serves as mayor, a position determined by the board; the trustees will determine who serves as Bakersfield’s next mayor at their June meeting. Other council members whose terms are not expiring are Erin Bonham (mayor protem) and Dianna Stover.
• City of Gainesville: The position of mayor, currently held by Gail Reich, and three two-year city council terms are coming open, those held by West Ward Alderman Rocky Sullivan, Center Ward Alderman Lee Bowen and East Ward Alderman Lana Bushong. All incumbents filed for re-election; however, as noted above, since then Sullivan has resigned from the board and says he will not serve if re-elected. Council members whose positions are not expiring are West Ward Alderman Shane Ledbetter, Center Ward Alderman Treva Warrick and East Ward Alderman Dana Crisp. A replacement west ward alderman will be appointed.
• Theodosia Village: Three two-year positions are coming open on the Theodosia Board of Trustees, the seats currently held by Randal Unruh, Jerry Smith and Mike Allen. Only Smith has filed. Board members whose positions are not expiring are Bret Cook and Paul Dettinger. The board will appoint two residents to fill the expiring terms.
Public boards – No elections
Public Water Supply District #1: Two three-year positions are expiring, those held by Mike Cronce and Dale Cutbirth. Both candidates filed for re-election, and no other candidates filed. Other board members are Ric Engelhardt (board president), Connie Johns and Suzanne Meeks.
Ozark County Ambulance Board: Two three-year positions are expiring, those held by Douglas Hawkins, representing District 5, and Linda Dunsmuir, representing District 2. Both filed for re-election, and no other candidates filed. Board members whose positions are not expiring are Jerri Crawford, representing District 1; Craig Fox, District 3; Greg Zubrod, District 4; and Elaine Burnett, District 6.
Ozark County Health Department Board: Three four-year positions are expiring, those held by Joyce Morgan, Lyndell Strong and John Steffenson. All incumbents filed for re-election, and no other candidates filed. Other board members are Sue Orf and Bill Cockrum.