The people of Jackson County are enjoying a time of relative calm at their courthouse, once the site of silly day-to-day political dramas played out for the public to see.
Meanwhile, in fast-growing Clay County, residents too often still see a dysfunctional government in action because of a few officeholders with political scores to settle.
On Nov. 4, voters have the opportunities to keep steady leadership in place in Jackson County and select a new leader for Clay County government. Meanwhile, there are no contested races in Platte County because no Democrat filed for any open office.
The Star’s recommendations in selected races in Jackson and Clay counties:
County Executive: Running for his third term, Democrat Mike Sanders has built an impressive list of accomplishments over eight years. He brought in a professional management team, worked with the county Legislature to reduce needless public bickering and pushed through a new ethics code. Financially, the county is in strong shape after years of tight budget controls.
Looking ahead, Sanders pledges to pursue a transit plan that could improve the county’s trail system and, eventually, develop a commuter rail line. He also properly wants to help rein in wasteful incentives that damage the tax bases of cities in the county competing with each other. Finally, Sanders must keep a closer eye than he did in the past on the long-troubled assessment department.
Other candidates are Republican Brice Stewart and Libertarian Richard Tolbert.
1st District at large: As a former Kansas City Royals All-Star player, Frank White enjoys the name recognition to easily win this race. But White, a Democrat, also appears to have the energy and desire to be a solid member of the Legislature. He has been active in many charities and talks about his desire to become a quick learner about the county’s budget and how he can help improve public services. White has the potential to be a solid legislator. His opponent is Republican Weldon Wray Woodward.
2nd District at large: In four years, Democrat Crystal Williams has kept her promise to help restore trust in the Legislature. Williams’ work on controlling the spread of payday loan shops benefited the community. And she has had a special commitment to make sure the county wisely uses its funds to improve social services. Her opponents are Republican Robert Stringfield and Libertarian Cisse Spragins.
3rd District: As a 28-year member of the Legislature, Dennis Waits brings strong historical knowledge of the challenges facing the county. He pushed to build a new regional animal shelter in Independence and has worked well with Sanders and others on many issues. His opponents are Republican Raymond Wilson and Richard McKie of the Constitution Party.
Presiding commissioner: In the Republican primary, voters narrowly but properly ousted incumbent Pam Mason. On Nov. 4, voters can choose from Democrat Jay Swearingen or Republican Jerry Nolte. Either would be a big improvement over Mason, who in her four years played divisive games that made it difficult for professional government to operate in the county.
Swearingen is our choice. He has a diverse background that includes four years in the Missouri House of Representatives and a master of public administration degree. He has strong experience in economic development, which will be a key to attracting businesses to Clay County.
Nolte has strengths, too. He served eight years in the Missouri House and had a reputation for working well with legislators on both sides of the aisle.
The winner of this race should try over the coming months to wipe out the harmful vestiges of the Mason years and try to reduce the unproductive friction that exists among some other elected officials.
Auditor: Incumbent Sheila Ernzen, a Democrat, is the clear choice over Republican Carol McCaslin. Ernzen is focused on providing professional services to Clay County residents. That has made her a target of the old guard at the courthouse. In the Democratic primary, Ernzen defeated Dale McCaslin, Carol’s husband. Ernzen has earned re-election.