Six candidates vie for Boone County Northern District Commissioner nomination

Aug 6, 2012

A total of six candidates are vying for a spot to be the next Boone County Northern District Commissioner on the primary ballot.  The candidates are now on the final stretch of their campaigns before the primary election on Tuesday.  Lance Robbins and Don Bormann are the two candidates going head-to-head in the Republican primary campaign. Brian Dollar, Darin Fugit, O.J. Stone, and Janet Thompson are all gunning for the Democratic nomination.

Lance Robbins is a sergeant at the Boone County sheriff’s department and commander of the department SWAT team. Don Bormann is an ex-road surveyor and an alderman in Centralia. Both candidates have addressed the question of Boone County’s style of government. Robbins says he supports a home rule style of government in Boone County, which is where a local government lets people vote on their own rules without help from outside forces.

“I’m kind of a traditionalist as far as that goes, so the idea of ruling ourselves or home rule is appealing to me. I like the idea of it being maybe more responsive or quicker in responding to maybe the changing needs of a populous,” said Robbins.

Bormann agrees, as long as the proposed style of charter government elects officials instead of switching to a style where officials are appointed by the county commission.

“I’m going to be in favor of charter government if there is the proper format there. If they start making radical changes and get rid of elected officials I’m probably going to vote against it,” said Bormann.

Emergency management funding is also a key issue taken by the candidates: Bormann says although he hasn’t looked at the budget he thinks sales tax may be the best way to finance it.

“I don’t really know what the best way of funding it is, because I haven’t really looked at the budget and I haven’t looked at what else has been proposed if anything. Sales tax is one way of funding it, but any sales tax is going to have to be voted on by the people,” said Bormann.

Road work around the site of Columbia’s new Battle High School is also an issue. Robbins says he’s concerned about where the funding for the construction is going to come from. He says a lack of communication has made it harder to come up with the money.

“I come into the situation that I believe there could have been other decisions made but that’s water under the bridge, we have what we have and we have to deal with it. I’m really concerned about how we’re going to pay for the roads. That would be another example of perhaps a lack of communication or of really listening and considering from people who maybe had some solid ideas and solid concerns,” said Robbins.

Bormann says communication was not the issue, as the county has little jurisdiction to say where the school decides to build their new location. 

“The county had little input into where the school decision, they did have some input but very little, into where the school district decided to put their school. The county, the state, and the city then need to respond by getting the proper roads and everything in place for them,” said Bormann.

When asked why he was the best candidate for the job, Robbins acknowledged that while he was the youngest person in the race, he was also the freshest – and considers himself a good leader.

“I am the freshest face, freshest ideas, freshest experience running in this race. I am certainly the youngest but I’m by no means the least experienced. I have experience solving any number of problems and dealing with situations that many people don’t even want to think about never mind have to solve,” said Robbins.

Bormann says he thinks his experience as a surveyor will create more efficiency among he and his staff when dealing with planning and zoning issues.

“They’re going to have to do less of an explanation for me to understand these issues and to come a decision on how to do these things than it will be somebody who doesn’t have that knowledge,” said Bormann.

Brian Dollar, Darin Fugit, O.J. Stone, and Janet Thompson: only one can prevail, but all four democratic candidates are competing to win the primary election for Boone County Northern District Commissioner One key issue emerging in this campaign is funding for mental health care. Candidate Janet Thompson, a public defender, thinks there needs to be a separation between criminal courts and mental health court systems.

“Mental health court has been a marvelous way of allowing us to take care of the criminal court issues, for these mental health patients, and finding ways to take care of those issues in a much more effective way and much more cost efficient way,” said Thompson.

Candidate Darin Fugit, however, doesn’t think that the current budget allows for the county commissioner to get involved in mental health care funding.

“I believe we’ve given money to the health department and some other places in the past, but the problem is when our budget gets tight we have to take care of our statutory responsibilities first,” said Fugit.

Another issue in the campaign is the road work being done near the newly-built Battle High School. A new connector from St. Charles Rd. to Route Z is proving difficult both to fund and to complete in time for the planned opening of the school in the fall of 2013. Candidate O.J. Stone thinks the only solution is to remain persistent on the completion.

“It doesn’t seem like it gets much more expensive than building roads. At the same time I think anywhere the school could have gone we would have had some issues and probably some road issues as well. And we’ll work through it. It may not be done as quickly and as cheaply as we’d like, but we’ll get through it,” said Stone.

Funding high speed internet access in rural areas is another pressing issue facing the Northern District Commissioner. Candidate Brian Dollar thinks connecting people to the necessary internet is not a county responsibility but a federal one.

“I think it’s a federal government thing. I think the federal government has to step in and subsidize rural areas for internet access. I wish they’ve been doing that for years. It’s something that the United States has fallen behind in, but it’s not something the county government is necessarily going to be involved in,” said Dollar.

Janet Thompson disagrees. While she acknowledges it can get expensive, she thinks the county government should make it as available as possible.

“We can try to make it as available as possible given the constraints of our budgets, given the constraints of what we can do for our private citizens. But again, I think if we work together with the providers, we can make it more available,” Thompson.

Another issue is whether or not to change to a charter style of government, which is where a local government lets people create their own rules without help from outside forces. Fugit thinks the charter style is something the county needs to adopt.

“What I would like to do is take our current form of county government and put it under a charter, because county government is working fine, it’s just when we need to pass an ordinance or something we have to attach it to a bill in Jeff. City and then it gets killed because we don’t have home rule or charter government here,” said Fugit.

Stone says maintaining and improving public safety is something he’d focus on if elected county commissioner. He outlined what the definition of public safety is to him.

“Public safety to me is not just having a good police department, sheriff’s department, fire protection, emergency medical. Those are part of it, but it’s also having clean water to drink, it’s having proper sewage disposal, it’s having good roads, it’s having safe schools, it’s having jobs in the community so you can raise your family,” said Stone.

The winners of both primaries will face off in the general election on Nov. 6.