NEOSHO, Mo. — Voters in a number of Newton County communities have a decision to make concerning the future of their local elections.
On Tuesday, officials with several communities will ask voters to allow them to forgo annual elections should the number of candidates equal the number of open council or trustee seats to be filled. If approved, the authorizations would be effective for the 2022 elections.
The communities that have this question on the ballot are Grand Falls Plaza, Leawood, Newtonia, Redings Mill, Saginaw, Shoal Creek Drive, Stark City and Wentworth.
Officials say the impetus for the proposals is strictly to cut costs.
“If we have enough candidates to cover the positions that are needed … say, we have two people and we have (two open positions), (then) we don’t need to spend the $500 to $600 to put someone on the Shoal Creek Drive ballot,” said Steve Owen, chairman of the village Board of Trustees.
This year is a case in point. Garry Campbell and Deion Dees are the only candidates who have filed for the two board seats up for election Tuesday.
“Now, if we had three or four people” competing for those two open positions, Owen said, “then yes, we’d go through with the election.”
The Missouri Legislature allowed special districts — fire, school and community college — to forgo elections beginning in the late 1990s, said Richard Sheets, interim director of the Missouri Municipal League. In 2014, legislators expanded that option to include Missouri towns with 1,000 or fewer residents. Four years later, that was bumped to include towns with 2,000 or fewer residents.
“For many small cities with very limited budgets, it’s very difficult for some of them to get candidates to run for office, and sometimes they don’t have anyone running for those seats,” Sheets said. “So when they just get enough (candidates to fill the open seats), that’s a real success story. To make them pay the election costs just doesn’t make sense.”
Under the state law, the eligible villages and towns must obtain the authority to exercise the option via a simple-majority vote of the people.
Voters in the Newton County Ambulance District will be asked to reset the district’s property levy at the rate assessed when the district was founded in 1983. The rate was 35 cents per $100 assessed valuation then.
But due to rollbacks required by the state’s tax-limitation law, the levy now stands at 18.78 cents per $100 assessed valuation.
Officials of the district say the current rate is not enough to generate revenue required to pay for operational costs at today’s prices. A simple majority vote is required for the measure’s passage.
Seven candidates are vying for three open seats on the department’s five-member board of trustees, which oversees the county department that has received a lot of attention over the past 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of the pandemic, “there is a lot of interest” in the department, according to Newton County Health Department Director Larry Bergner.
Incumbents Patty Krueger, James Carter Jr. and Jon Willard are being challenged by J. Eric Venter, Al Gritten, Carmin Allen and Andrea Krummel.
Six people are running for two open seats on the Diamond Board of Education.
Incumbents Tracy Danner and Barb Badley will face off against challengers Jennifer Howard, Deke Beckett, David J. Marbough and Max Struewing.
Three people are vying for election as Diamond mayor: William Battiest, Mike Navarro and Marissa Bradley.
Three people also are running for the West Ward seat on the City Council. Incumbent Dale Alford is being challenged by Jennifer Howard and Brandon Webb.
Two candidates are vying for the open director seat on the Diamond Area Fire Protection District. They are Shane Hunter and Chuck Reynolds.
Four people are running for two open seats on the East Newton Board of Education. Challengers Andrew Baker and Julie McGill are trying to unseat incumbents Mandy McMahan and Robin Farmer.
Two people are vying for the single North Ward seat on the Fairview City Council. They are John Cook and Tammy O’Brien.
Regarding the South Ward, two people are running for the single seat. They are George W. Richards and Pamela McNee.
In Granby, Bill Kittrell and Bobby Brooks are seeking the North Ward two-year term on the council, and Jamie Arnall and Joyce Mann are running for the one-year term in the North Ward post.
Four people are running for two open seats on the board of trustees that carry two-year terms. They are Bubba Johnson, Casi Burrows, Mysty Isenberg and Kurt Sheehy.
Five people are running for two open seats on the Seneca Board of Education. Incumbents Matt Stewart and Rob Nesvold are being challenged by Andrew James Molder, Phillip Anthony Wilson and Monica Long.
The following candidates are unopposed and virtually assured of election.
CLIFF VILLAGE: Board of Trustees — Cassie Estes and Sharon S. Stuart.
DENNIS ACRES: Board of Trustees — Linda Born and Sandra J. Parrill.
DIAMOND: Area Fire Protection District director — Joe Chaney; City Council: Amy Thomlinson.
GRANBY: mayor — Ira Hawkins; City Council — Pat Kelly and Joann Lamp; municipal judge — Steve White.
GRAND FALLS PLAZA: Board of Trustees — Garry N. Campbell and Deion J. Dees.
LEAWOOD: Board of Trustees — Denis Desmond, Brad Long and Dale Owen.
LOMA LINDA: Board of Trustees — Bruce Ward and James Childers.
NEOSHO: Board of Education — Steffen Wiest and Dan Haskins.
AMBULANCE DISTRICT: Board — Joe Yust.
REDINGS MILL: Board of Trustees — Brent Smith, Joshua Paschke and Clayton Scott Webster.
RITCHEY: Board of Trustees — one-year term, Lewis Marion and Carolyn Marion; two-year term, Bill Breedlove and Jerry Hawkins; three-year term, Miranda Oxendine.
SAGINAW: Board of Trustees — Percy Blinzler and Phil Clayton.
SENECA: City Council — Brad Storrs.
SHOAL CREEK DRIVE: Board of Trustees — Ken Kennedy and Katrina L. Grouley.
SHOAL CREEK ESTATES: Board of Trustees — Bryan P. Stevenson and Tammy Wicke.
STARK CITY: Board of Trustees — Lois Ann Seng and Adam Pippin.
STELLA: Board of Trustees — Theresa Hammon, Mark Youngblood and Bill Alsop.
WENTWORTH: Board of Trustees — Rita Cartwell, Bruce Lambeth and Clyde R. Stephens.