County politicians preparing to start new year

Friday, December 31, 2004

Seven Cape Girardeau County officeholders were sworn in Thursday afternoon, including three new administrators.

Jay Purcell was sworn in as commissioner in District 2. He won a hotly contested race which began with 10 candidates. He narrowly defeated runner-up Dan Niswonger in the primary and easily defeated Democrat James Bowers in the general election.

Purcell is a former Cape Girardeau city councilman. He gave up that post this month and said he will soon leave his job at Dana Corp.

He attended the swearing-in ceremony with his children, who helped him campaign during the past year.

Thursday's ceremony notwithstanding, the officeholders don't officially assume their roles until one minute past midnight on New Year's Day.

Purcell said his first item of business is to meet with department heads and other elected officials to get acquainted with how the county operates.

"I'm going to come every day to work next week and learn the different facets of the county and see how everything works," Purcell said.

Purcell said he plans to maintain office hours at the county administrative building, something the current commissioners don't do.

He takes the place of Joe Gambill, who decided not to run for another term.

Republican John Clifton won a competitive race for coroner. Clifton met with commissioners a few weeks ago to discuss office space and perhaps a new place to store bodies while they await identification. Discussions are continuing.

The third new officeholder is Roger Hudson, who will take over for longtime treasurer Bill Reynolds, who retired.

The treasurer looks over 40 accounts, Hudson said.

"I'll have to learn quite a bit at first," Hudson said. "I'll have to see how they do it and then try to improve on that."

In the longer term, Hudson said he wants "to be a little more active" with the county commission. He said he'd like to look into centralized purchasing.

Other officeholders are incumbents.

District 1 Commissioner Larry Bock had the biggest challenge to staying in office. He faced eight opponents in the primary, winning fairly convincingly. He beat Democrat Fred Wilkinson by a wide margin in the general election.

Republican Phyllis Schwab defeated Deborah McBride in the general election for public administrator. Republican John Jordan defeated Alan Foust for sheriff in the primary and then ran unopposed in the general election.

Jerry Reynolds, the county assessor, had the easiest road. No one challenged his seat. He was the only Democrat to win a county election in 2004.


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