Pettis County Republicans had the chance to learn more about the candidates for Western Commissioner during a candidate forum Friday at Best Western State Fair Inn.
Incumbent Jim Marcum and newcomer Jack Robinson answered a variety of questions during Friday’s Pettis County Pachyderms meeting; candidate Jason D. Cunningham was not present. Since there are no Democratic candidates, the Western Commissioner race will be decided in the Aug. 2 primary election.
Both Marcum and Robinson have served time on various committees and boards in Pettis County. Marcum has been the Western Commissioner since 2013 and is the owner of Marcum’s Landscaping Stones and serves on an Economic Development Sedalia-Pettis County committee. Robinson is the former owner of Bryant Motors and has served on the Sedalia School District 200 Board of Education, Bothwell Regional Health Center Board of Directors, Clean Sedalia Committee and the Sedalia Public Works Board.
The eastern and western commissioners help with the county’s budget and Marcum and Robinson were each asked about their qualifications regarding budgets.
“I’ve been on the hospital board and school board both and they both have very large budgets,” Robinson replied. “I had a lot of input into those. Until you look into the finer details of an organization you really don’t know what’s important, although road and bridges is important here. I think large budgets are a translatable skill.”
“I’ve been on school boards, too and I’ve got a pretty successful business that has a large budget,” Marcum said. “The hardest part of this budget in the county is trying to guess what kind of sales tax you’re going to come in with. Schools and different places like that have it pretty well, this is what you’ll get. With the county you have to figure out what people will spend so you can get money. It’s a challenge sometimes, but I believe we’ve got a pretty good nest egg in both road and bridge and general revenue.”
The eastern and western commissioners are also responsible for overseeing the county’s Road and Bridge Department, which is responsible for maintenance and repair of all county roads. The candidates were also asked about their qualifications for that part of the job, and Robinson said he doesn’t think that should be part of the job description.
“I don’t think that you’re electing a road person. It seems like someone to supervise the roads, you have people. I think you have good people,” Robinson said. “I don’t understand why we would need an additional person to oversee their work. If they’re not doing a good job then they ought to be replaced. I’m not a micro-manager by any means. … I think it’s double-spending to have someone manage people that you pay to manage.”
Marcum noted that it saves the county money by delegating that responsibility to the commissioners.
“That’s a good thought, the previous commissioners before us though, they established that the eastern and western commissioners are the superintendent now instead of spending another $50,000 or $60,000 on a guy that really did what we do,” Marcum explained. “The two foremen we have, have been there a long time. They’re very good at doing exactly what you ask them to do, but coming up with long-range planning, sometimes it’s a little difficult and we don’t have the money to be paying $100,000 two good road foremen, so we take it upon ourselves. I’ve been in the road business for 43 years. We learn constantly new technologies and that goes right back into teaching the employees how to do it.”
The candidates were asked what changes or plans they have in mind for the county if they are elected in August. Robinson said he doesn’t have any specific ideas in mind until he gets in office.
“It sounds to me like there’s a good road program in place so I would suppose I would want to extend that,” Robinson said. “The other things, like I said until you’re there you don’t know. I don’t see any glaring faults in the county; it seems to me like it runs pretty well. Until you look at it, I don’t think there’s any way to know.”
Marcum offered some ideas for the Road and Bridge Department, such as continuing the current system of grinding up the old asphalt and injecting a plastic material to harden the product, costing one-tenth the cost of asphalt.
“We’re doing some asphalt work this year — we’ve gotten to a place in a couple of our housing districts out here that the roads have deteriorated so much it’s just pieces of chip stuck together so we’re trying to fix that. I look forward to doing a few more bridges,” Marcum said.
“One of the things I’m working on is taking Main Street Road and going all the way to (state Route) 127 where it’s a travelable route for the farmers because sometime in the next four or five years, they’re going to get money together for I-70 and we’re going to have a load of people coming down (U.S. Highway) 50 and (state Route) Y. We need a place for our farmers to get back to town.”
Both Marcum and Robinson agreed that major infrastructure issues cannot be solved locally, but rather at the state level by elected representatives and senators. They both also agreed that county zoning is a tough proposal for all citizens and businesses to get behind.
The candidates for Pettis County Eastern Commissioner will speak at the next Pachyderm meeting at noon Friday at Best Western State Fair Inn.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.