Election win creates opening on county commission

Friday, August 11, 2006

Gov. Matt Blunt will appoint someone to fill the vacant position.

BENTON, Mo. -- With the election over in Scott County, an uncertainty remains -- who will be the next commissioner to represent the county's northern half?

Current 2nd District Commissioner Jamie Burger won the Democratic party nomination for presiding commissioner Tuesday, all but guaranteeing him the seat since no Republican is challenging him.

But Burger is in the middle of his four-year term. When he's sworn in for his new position, his other commission seat will become vacant, opening the way for an appointment by Gov. Matt Blunt.

Burger's opponent in Tuesday's primary, Sikeston businessman Glenn Pinkerton, made an issue of the vacancy during his election run, saying the people should be able to select their commissioner, not the governor. Despite that challenge, Burger won the seat thanks largely to heavy support from his district.

Once Burger vacates his current position Jan. 1 to become presiding commissioner, the local Republican party committee will have the chance to make recommendations to the governor.

Those recommendations are usually given great weight by governors, said Blunt spokesman Spence Jackson, but governors are not bound to them.

The last time Republicans had an opportunity to appoint a commissioner was in 1989, when Ralph Boyer filled a vacancy on the commission. He lost in the following election.

In the heavily Democratic politics of Scott County such opportunities are rare.

County Republicans are happy to get such a chance, but they aren't salivating over the appointment.

Perry Waltrip, chairman of the Republican party committee in Scott County, said there was some speculation about people the committee might recommend for the job. He said it is still too early to mention any names.

What is sure is that the new commissioner will come from and represent the northern section of the county, currently Burger's domain. Burger, however, isn't worried about the party difference for his constituents.

"I think anybody that comes forward that wants the position has the county at heart and the county in mind to continue on and represent the community in the way the current commission has," he said.

Burger said he feels anyone appointed to the commission would keep the voters in mind since that person would likely seek the seat in two years.

First District Commissioner Dennis Ziegenhorn, also a Democrat, represents the county's southern section. He agrees with Burger's assertion that party makes no difference.

"We'll work with whomever they send up here, and we'll have one goal in mind. That's to balance the budget and work with the tax dollars as best we can," said Ziegenhorn.

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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