A Paid Education: Thoughts from The Editor
This job, as I knew it would, is providing me with a paid education. Among many things, I’m learning more about the workings of county government, an area, I confess, in which I’ve been somewhat ignorant.
With the position of coroner up for vote on next week’s ballot, I was faced with the task of coming up with some questions for the candidates. It’s then I realized that I wasn’t really sure of what the coroner’s job entailed. Yes, I knew they went to accident scenes and pronounced the victims deceased, but beyond that, I was a bit foggy.
Enter Google. My research has proven to be rather eye-opening. The coroner’s position, I’ve discovered, carries with it the latent power of the sheriff, should it ever become necessary for someone to fill his shoes. It’s a situation we hope never to see enacted, since the sheriff would have to be incapacitated, deceased, or have a personal interest in the outcome of a criminal investigation for that need to arise. However, according to Missouri law, the coroner is next in line to investigate criminal activity or perform any other responsibilities of the sheriff, in a worst-case scenario, which makes the coroner’s job weightier than I knew. It sounds thankless enough as it is, since pronouncing deaths at accident scenes and at bedsides isn’t your run-of-the-mill kind of work.
While at Cassville’s Chili & Salsa Cook-Off Saturday, I also had a chance to learn a bit more about the county commission’s role in government. Incumbent, three-term southern commissioner, Wayne Hendrix (D) was happy to make a few comments about his job.
“A lot of people think the county commission takes care of the roads in Barry County,” said Hendrix, “but that’s not the case. Barry County has 25 special road districts and one common road district. The special road districts have jurisdiction over their area’s roads.
“We county commissioners are responsible for the maintenance of the one common road district - Liberty Road District - which contains about seven miles of road down in Star Hollow, west of Washburn. The 25 other special road districts consist of three commissioners, with one of them up for re-election every election cycle.
“It’s the main job of the County Commission,” he continued, “to take care of the overall budget for Barry County, including the oversight of funds that come into the county, and their dispersal for various county projects, including, for example, the upcoming jail renovation.
“The county commission, which includes the presiding commissioner, and a northern and southern commissioner, is also responsible for the maintenance of 30 bridges in Barry County,” he said.
“One thing the commission is thankful for,” said Hendrix, “is that the county now has an emergency fund built up, something that we didn’t have in years past.”
Hendrix is up for re-election on November 3. His opponent, Gene Robbins, running on the Republican ticket, was also present at the cook-off. Robbins, a Barry County resident and business owner for over 30 years, views the southern commissioner position as an opportunity to repay the residents of Barry County for what they have done for him and his family.
“Barry County has been good to us,” he said, “and I look forward to being able to serve them in return.”
County government, I’m also learning, is every bit as partisan (at least, in name) as government on a broader scale. However, in Barry County - where we all know each other - mutual respect for each other as individuals seems to blur and soften those party lines. I like that.