Cass County Presiding Commissioner Jeff Cox says boondoggle projects of the past will put a pinch in the county’s finances for the next two decades.
If it had been up to him, he never would have gotten the county into the sticky spot it’s in with a failed broadband project and a dysfunctional biomass generator.
Cox said it during the August primary election campaign — and he’s saying it again now as he runs against former Belton Mayor Phil Duncan for Cass County’s top elected post.
Cox doesn’t do flashy.
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Since taking office nearly two years ago, he’s put the brakes on broadband, turned off the generator and created a long-term plan to pay back the debts that accumulated as a result of the unfinished work.
“The new commission, in 2013, came into a pretty challenging situation, financially,” Cox said. “I think we’ve done a good job trying to refocus the county’s priorities on the basic services — focusing on things county government should actually be involved in.”
Duncan, the Democratic challenger, isn’t ready to give up on broadband.
“It is vital in today’s economy that high-speed Internet is available to carry on day-to-day activities for all residents,” Duncan said. “There are funding sources available at the state and federal level to make this a reality. I will explore all opportunities to provide these services to Cass Countians in a way that will not be a financial burden.”
Duncan says the infrastructure is needed in the rural areas to open more doors for business.
“It’s common sense. ... We can’t move forward with I-49 projects, industries, economic development and education, unless we have this high-speed Internet,” Duncan said. “We’ll get some investors together.”
If elected, Duncan also wants to further pursue the county’s relationship with the Metropolitan Community College.
“Several years ago, Cass County was instrumental in developing a working relationship with MCC to secure a presence in Cass County,” Duncan said. “It is vital that this relationship be expanded upon as it becomes necessary to upgrade workers in skills required for the jobs of today.”
Duncan ran unsuccessfully for an associate county commissioner seat against Jimmy Odom in 2012.
If he’s given four more years, Cox wants to better maintain roads, improve law enforcement and increase governmental transparency through a more user-friendly website and weekly video broadcasts of commission meetings.
“We’ll continue to do the things that may not be flashy — but are the things we’re supposed to be doing,” Cox said.
Overall, he wants to rebuild the people’s trust.
Being presiding commissioner “is probably one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done, but one of most fulfilling,” Cox said. “I think we’ve worked to get the county back on track and would like to continue to take the county in that direction.”
Libertarian candidate Lora Young did not respond to a request for an interview.
Address: 723 Seminole Court, Raymore
Occupation: Incumbent presiding commissioner, attorney
Education: Bachelor’s in political science and philosophy, University of Missouri; law degree, University of Missouri-Kansas City
Previous public service: Cass County presiding commissioner; Raymore City Council, 2007-2012; Little Blue Valley Sewer District Board of Trustees; Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect Review Board
Address: 8200 E. 189th St., Belton
Occupation: Retired, KCP&L operations foreman
Education: High school
Previous public experience: Belton alderman, 1995-1997; Belton mayor, 1997-2001
Address: 17100 E. State Rt. 2, Harrisonville
Young did not respond to interview requests.