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Scott County candidates discuss their plans -- if elected

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

After 28 years as Scott County's sheriff, Bill Ferrell has decided not to pursue another term, leaving three candidates vying for his job.

"Twenty-eight years is long enough, it's time to let somebody else do it," he said.

According to Ferrell, it is important for the next sheriff to "have knowledge of what we do and why we do it." He said the sheriff's department has a lot of responsibilities including being in charge of the 120-bed jail that was completed in April 2003.

All three sheriff candidates have extensive law enforcement background and have worked under Ferrell for a period of time.

Democratic candidate Jerry Bledsoe works at the sheriff's department as a captain in charge of operations. Bledsoe has worked with the Scott County Sheriff's Department on and off for 24 years, starting as a dispatcher.

Fellow Democrat Rick Walter worked as a night deputy at the Scott County Sheriff's Department for eight months. Walter has also worked as a project coordinator for a construction company. He is currently with the Charleston Police Department.

"I look at the sheriff's department as a two-fold operation, business and law enforcement," Walter said.

Republican Wes Drury had several different positions at the sheriff's department and is now a criminal investigator for the Scott County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.

"I've been privileged to work with the prosecuting attorney's office and that has really made me understand the criminal justice system. I've worked the entire scope of law enforcement and that gives me a better idea of how things work," Drury said.

1st District Commissioner

Five candidates are running for the commission seat vacated by Walter Bizzell. Democrats Norman Lambert, Jerry Burge and Dennis Ziegenhorn and Republicans Jim Schwaninger and Brad Wilson are included on the ballot.

Schwaninger is currently the executive director of economic development for Scott County. He has served as corporate vice president and government relations director for J.C. Penney and was executive director of the Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce for three years.

Wilson is employed with the jail division of the Scott County Sheriff's Department but worked as a sales coordinator for grocery wholesaler Malone and Hyde.

He said his experience working in the sheriff's office gives him a unique perspective on some of the problems facing Scott County, such as unemployment. "I don't feel like we're particularly growing," he said of the county. "We need more development, we need to get new businesses to come and look at our county."

Ziegenhorn agrees, but he wants to be more aggressive about courting new businesses. "You need to be a salesperson, you need to sell the county," he said.

Although he currently works at 731 Real Estate in Sikeston, Mo., he served as a Missouri state representative for 15 years.

"I think the commissioners need to take another position. We can't be doing business as usual. We have to get kids coming back to Scott County," Ziegenhorn said.

Retired land surveyor Lambert said tax incentives for businesses would be a good way to start bringing jobs back into the county.

2nd District Commissioner

Incumbent Jamie Burger is running unopposed on the Democratic ticket.

Public Administrator

There are six candidates running for Scott County public administrator, a seat now held by H.J. Holyfield. Public administrators work for the county out of the probate court, taking care of the estates of those without personal representatives and acting as a guardian and/or conservator for people who are incapacitated.

The Republican candidates are Jay Bledsoe and Aleta "Lee" Trankler and the Democratic candidates are Pam Dirnberger, Sonny Alcorn, Jim Marshall and Glendella May.

Trankler is the director of the Region IX Council for Developmental Disabilities and worked as a certified nursing assistant at a nursing home for two years.

May has worked as a legal assistant for 18 years. Currently she is an assistant at Bradshaw, Steele, Conchrane & Berens law office in Cape Girardeau.

According to May, the biggest issue facing the public administrator's office is the growing number of people who need services coming to the office. She said a few years ago the county had 60 individual cases and now that number is up to 88.

"Most are living in some sort of restricted facility and they need more personal attention. You need someone who will devote time to going to these facilities. There has to be a physical presence to make sure these people are cared for," May said.

Dirnberger, who is self-employed at American Storage in Sikeston, also believes it is important to visit wards more often, but with the heavy caseloads that is often impossible. She said the department should hire an assistant to help deal with the caseload.

Assessor

Incumbant Teresa Houchin, a Democrat, has been Scott County's assessor since 1992 and is running for the position again, against fellow Democrat Bill Keefer and Republican "Dee" Anne Marie Cookson.

Keefer is a real estate appraiser who works part-time for the Pemiscot County Assessor's Office. He worked briefly at the Scott County Assessor's Office in the 1980s.

According to Keefer, the biggest issue for the office is that it currently lacks a full-time certified appraiser. A county assessor does not have to be a certified appraiser as long as they complete 30 education hours every two years and attend the annual assessors conference.

"It's hard in a third-class county to afford one," Keefer said. "If the assessor is an appraiser, you've got it pretty much made."

Right now the office has a contracted appraiser.

Cookson is a retired Scott County social studies teacher. Next week she will attend a four-day real estate appraisal class.

She is not worried about her lack of appraisal experience.

"They have an excellent staff on duty and what I learn in my classes will help me as far as an introduction. Also, I'm the type of person that at a new job I'll stay until midnight until I learn what I need to do," Cookson said.

Coroner

Incumbent Scott Amick is running unopposed on the Democratic ticket.

kalfisi@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182


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