EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been changed to correct information about candidate Charles Brawley's background.
A switch to charter government and unionizing county employees were among the issues addressed by Cape Girardeau County Republican presiding commissioner candidates Thursday.
Hosted by the Southeast Missouri Pachyderm Club, the hourlong forum at Dexter Bar-B-Q allowed each candidate to present an opening and closing statement, along with two minutes to answer questions without any candidates who had yet to be questioned present.
Moderator Dave Hitt of Jackson said the forum was conducted in that format to avoid giving an unfair advantage to anyone.
All but one of the six Republican candidates was present at the forum. Doyle Parmer, a town clerk in Dutchtown, said by phone after the meeting that a last-minute family medical emergency prevented him from attending the meeting.
Throughout the forum, candidates tied educational and work experiences into why they felt they were the best for presiding commissioner. The five candidates present at the forum were Charles Brawley, a retired Cape Girardeau Fire Department captain; Jay Purcell, 2nd District commissioner; Clint Tracy, state representative of the 158th District; Stephen Daume, a Daisy farmer; and Chris Hutson, a financial adviser with Edward Jones in Cape Girardeau.
Their reaction was mixed when asked about a switch to a charter form of government.
"We could have a hearing," Tracy said. "We could make sure the pros and cons are laid out."
Brawley pointed out that the majority of other counties with a charter form of government have larger populations than Cape Girardeau County.
Hutson said the issue should be placed on the ballot through a petition if residents feel the switch to charter government is needed.
Daume agreed. "If it happens that way, more people will be required to get informed of charter government because they'll be required to get their name on that dotted line for a petition," he said.
Purcell said he would support placement the issue on the ballot by the commissioners themselves before a public vote on the measure.
When asked about unionization of county employees, Purcell said he is not opposed to the idea of unions.
"It's a divisive issue to say you're anti-union," Purcell said. "What you should be addressing is why somebody wants to go union."
Brawley said he believes the county employees are satisfied enough to not need a union.
Tracy said that in a conservative county like Cape Girardeau County he would be hard-pressed to believe employees would favor a union.
"I would be very skeptical of that," Tracy said. "I don't think that's something the county wants at this time."
Hutson said that while he knows unions try to do a lot for their members, unionizing would not make sense for county workers.
"Right now it seems like the county has great benefits," Hutson said.
Daume gave an example of one time when he, while sales manager at a company, received a written reprimand from the union after his visit to a factory. Because of time constraints, he said, he needed union workers to load the truck but they said they couldn't while they were on break. He then loaded the truck himself.
"I'm honestly not very fond of them," Daume said, receiving applause.
236 S. Broadview St., Cape Girardeau, MO