Cape County public administrator job draws three more hopefuls
Friday, February 17, 2012
The race for Cape Girardeau County public administrator got crowded Thursday, with three more candidates -- two Republicans and a Democrat -- saying they hope to replace the outgoing Phyllis Schwab.
That brings the total to four, with all the candidates saying they know of a handful of others with their eye on the job of taking care of the county's 150 or so residents deemed unable to care for themselves.
Jackson Manor admissions director Kenny Loos was the first to declare last week. The three newest to declare are Mary Cotner, a physical therapist's assistant at Southeast Health; Linda Nash, the executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates of Southeast Missouri, or CASA; and Scott Schnurbusch, a deputy at the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's Department.
Cotner is the lone Democrat so far to declare her candidacy with less than two weeks before the filing period is set to begin. Cotner has been a physical therapist at Southeast Health for 24 years, but she believes her experience raising a daughter with mental challenges makes her well suited for the job.
By statute, the public administrator is charged with taking care of "wards" after being court-appointed to do so. That makes the public administrator -- who makes $72,000 a year -- responsible for the care, treatment, habilitation and support of the county's incapacitated.
Cotner's daughter was born with cerebral palsy, leaving her confined to a wheelchair. Her daughter died at 39, and Cotner took care of her until she had to put her into a nursing home toward the end.
Cotner had to make medical and financial decisions for her daughter's care, which is what the job of public administrator would call for her to do.
"I want voters to know I am trustworthy and capable of serving and protecting the challenging individuals that are entrusted through the public administrator's office," she said.
The Republicans who intend to be on the ticket each intend to have something to say about that.
Nash taught at Jackson High School for 31 years before retiring. Now, for the past 2 1/2 years she's worked as executive director of CASA, where she oversees volunteers who represent the needs of children in court cases involving abuse and neglect in the 32nd Judicial Circuit.
CASA volunteers gather information about the child and the family and then make recommendations to the judge regarding what is in the child's best interest.
Her job at CASA involves case management and working with children.
"There are a lot of parallels with what we do and what the public administrator does," she said. "These children are to a great extent victims of parents with substance abuse or mental health issues. Those two things make up the biggest amount of the caseload of the public administrator."
Schnurbusch, a lifelong Jackson resident, has been involved in law enforcement for much of his professional career. He worked for the Jackson Police Department for eight years and for the last seven years he's been a deputy at the sheriff's department.
Schnurbusch, a member of the county's Republican Central Committee, considered the run for public administrator after he was encouraged to run by some friends.
He enjoys law enforcement, he said, because it gives him an opportunity to serve the public. For example, when he catches a burglar, puts him in jail and sometimes returns the stolen goods, people are grateful.
"Knowing you helped that person," he said, "that's the best feeling."
He thinks being a good cop would make him a good public administrator, especially when dealing with family members.
"You're going to be a bad guy to somebody," Schnurbusch said. "But you have to get them to understand that, in the long run, this is going to work out in the best interest of the person the public administrator is representing. They have to have an advocate on their side."
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