Jeff Cox doesn’t do flashy.
The incumbent presiding commissioner of Cass County says flashy is what got the county into a mess that will take years to resolve. He’s talking about a failed broadband Internet service and a bio-generation power plant.
Both were county projects that ran into money and legal problems, and Cox killed them both shortly after taking office in January 2013. He said the county is now back to basics: law enforcement, zoning, codes, and roads and bridges.
“Those may not be flashy, but they are things the county ought to be involved with,” Cox said.
His opponent in the Aug. 5 Republican primary takes a different view, particularly about the broadband project, which was designed to provide high-speed Internet service to rural areas of the county.
“I wish Jeff would have worked harder on broadband,” Dave Morris said. “I think he should have hired a project manager to try to make the project work. It’s just a big mess.”
Morris said people came to him earlier this year asking him to challenge Cox. Reluctant at first, now he’s all in and quite willing to criticize the incumbent’s job performance.
Cox has been endorsed by the Cass County Republican Central Committee.
The broadband project is now dead and in litigation. The Tri-Gen generator, intended to provide power for the Cass Justice Center, is now costing the county $175,000 in debt service annually for the next 20 years.
Cox, an attorney from Raymore, said the current commissioners inherited a mess when they came into office.
“We are clawing back from mistakes made in the past,” Cox said.
As achievements, he points to the School Road construction project and efforts to improve county government transparency with a new webpage and commission meetings on video.
Economic development is a constant priority, and the recent designation of Interstate 49 provides great opportunity, Cox said.
“The interstate puts us on the map of a lot of large companies,” he said.
Morris also talks about the great opportunity offered by I-49 as it pushes development south from Kansas City. But he said Cox lacks the leadership ability to take advantage of the sprawl. The presiding commissioner needs to work closely with mayors and chambers throughout the county, he said.
“Jeff is doing nothing to promote Cass County,” said Morris, who lives in Peculiar and owns a car dealership in Belton.
He also says Cox’s busy law practice prevents him from spending enough time at the courthouse to take care of county business.
“I think Jeff is probably a good guy, and I assume he’s in court representing people who are in trouble,” Morris said.
Cox chuckled to hear that.
“He’s not seen me lock the door at 10 p.m.,” Cox said. “The commissioner job is a full-time job, and I am a full-time commissioner. I do practice law, but the county comes first.”
The winner will face Democrat Phil Duncan, a former Belton mayor, in November. Duncan is unopposed in the primary.
To reach Donald Bradley, call 816-234-4182 or send email to email@example.com.
Address: 11606 E. 246th St., Peculiar
Occupation: Owner of Morris Auto Sales Inc. in Belton
Education: Some college
Previous public service: Treasurer, West Peculiar Fire Protection District
Website: Facebook, Dave Morris for Cass County Presiding Commissioner
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; Little Blue Valley Sewer District Board of Trustees; Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect Review Board