Cape lawyer granted Jackson license office

Friday, April 15, 2005

Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt chose his Cape Girardeau County campaign coordinator -- lawyer Gerry Jones -- to run the Jackson license bureau. Jones replaces the Southeast Missouri University Foundation, which had operated the office for the past dozen years.

Customers will notice little outward change in the bureau, which will still be housed in the Jackson Chamber of Commerce building at 125 E. Main St., Jones said Thursday.

Jones said he will rent space from the chamber just as the foundation did.

The Jackson chamber, which operated the license bureau before the foundation took over, had wanted it back.

But even though the chamber won't be in charge, chamber director Marybeth Williams said she's glad the office will remain in its current location. "It will be pretty much of a seamless transfer," she said.

The foundation will close its operation of the license bureau on April 21, Jones said. The Missouri Department of Revenue will audit the books the next day and turn over the operation to Jones.

The license bureau will reopen for business at 8 a.m. on April 25, Jones said.

Jones said he sought the political patronage job, and his selection is logical because he coordinated the governor's election campaign in Cape Girardeau County and the governor has confidence in him.

The 38-year-old lawyer, who also is involved in real estate development and owns rental property, is the son of Cape Girardeau County Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones.

But Gerry Jones said his father didn't help him get the job.

He said he plans to operate the office with three full-time employees and a part-time employee. At least one of those employees is currently working in the license bureau, he said.

About 20 percent of the 171 fee offices in the state have been awarded to local governments and not-for-profit groups like chambers of commerce, said Missouri Department of Revenue spokeswoman Maura Browning. The rest have gone to individuals.

The Southeast Missouri University Foundation, which will continue to operate the Cape Girardeau license bureau, didn't ask to keep the Jackson office.

"It is just easier for us to operate and focus on one office versus two," said Wayne Smith, vice president of university advancement and executive director of the foundation.

The foundation received a fee from each transaction, adding up to $375,000 to $400,000 a year in revenue from the two license offices combined, Smith said.

The Jackson operation generated about 45 percent of that revenue. The Cape Girardeau office garnered 55 percent of the revenue, he said.

While the foundation will receive less revenue with only one license bureau, it also will have less expense, Smith said.

Rather than paying nine employees to operate two license bureaus, the foundation will operate one office with five employees.

Eliminating positions saves money and should offset the loss in revenue, Smith said.

Norma Wildman, who had managed the two license bureaus, resigned about a month ago and wasn't replaced, foundation officials said.

The other three positions that will be dropped from the foundation payroll are in the Jackson bureau.

Sarabeth Moore of the Cape Girardeau license bureau staff is now heading up that office at 112 S. Spanish St.

The foundation uses license bureau revenue to help fund student scholarships and the Small Business Development Center.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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