Miller County voters will see several local races on the Aug. 4 ballot, at least on the Republican ticket.
Of the seven county offices on the primary election ballot, five are contested. All of the local candidates in Miller County are Republicans. The primary winner will face no opposition in the November general election.
The two unopposed candidates are Miller County Assessor Joseph M. Cochran and Surveyor Ricky L. Wilson, both incumbents.
Contested races are set for First District commissioner, Second District commissioner, sheriff, coroner and public administrator.
Candidates are listed in the order they will appear on the Aug. 4 ballot.
First District commissioner
Gary Herigon is a newcomer to political office but said "along with many other residents of the county, I feel there is a need for change." The 64-year-old Marys Home native said he has extensive experience in construction — residential and commercial. Herigon pointed to his background as a small business owner, as well as his experience managing the maintenance shop while working for the Missouri Department of Social Services, in giving him the planning and budgeting experience needed to be an asset as a commissioner.
Herigon said his priorities would include improving road conditions in the county and seeing that needed training for employees is provided. He said he would work with all county departments to ensure all SEMA and FEMA funding is used to the full extent and work to improve the availability of high-speed internet in the county.
John Riley is a certified public accountant and auditor with experience working with the state and with county government. The 60-year-old said he believes the "Miller County government has gotten too complacent."
"I offer the voters of Miller County an energy, enthusiasm and attention to detail that will help county government lead in the creation of new jobs, better maintained roads and a push for better cellphone and internet services," Riley said in an email.
Riley currently works for the Missouri Office of the Public Counsel, which seeks to protect the interests of those using investor-owned utilities. He previously served as court administrator for the 19th Judicial Circuit, working for the court system for 16 years, and has worked as an auditor, tax preparer and small business owner. In a statement announcing his candidacy, Riley said he believes the Miller County Commission has "failed to promote a county that has diverse economic characteristics." He said he would focus on partnering with the state's economic development experts to stimulate an entertainment and industrial base, as well as reach out to communication providers to "find a solution to the spare cell service and poor rural broadband internet."
Darrell Bunch is seeking re-election to the office he's held for three terms. The 75-year-old Eldon native said being commissioner "requires a unique combination of skills and experiences," including making responsible budget decisions, effectively managing a road crew and equipment, and fielding complaints from residents, something Bunch said he considers one of the most important elements of the job.
"I have made myself available to take calls and complaints night and day," Bunch said, adding his past three terms have helped give him the experience needed to continue to work to improve the county.
Bunch has previously served as Bagnell Special Road commissioner and spent 33 years as building construction supervisor at Lake Ozark State Park, where he said he was given valuable project management experience. He said his experience working with state and federal agencies helps ensure money relied upon by the road and bridge department is never in jeopardy.
Bunch said his top accomplishments as commissioner include completion of eight FEMA projects that brought more than $2 million into the county, as well as three other projects that allowed the commission to replace or repair old bridges using 80 percent federal funding.
If elected to another term, Bunch said he hopes to continue to improve the quality of roads and bridges in the county. He noted he is working to find a grant to specifically resurface Hayes and Midway roads.
Dave Schwaller did not participate in the News Tribune's coverage of Miller County races, despite phone calls and messages.
Don Abbett has spent his career in general contracting and farming, now looking to turn toward political office. The 59-year-old Tuscumbia native said he has more than 40 years of experience owning and operating veral contracting and concrete construction. Abbett said he spent 43 years building a farming operation, with the last 22 years focused full time on farming with his wife and family.
Abbett said his experience in money management, as well as employee and equipment management, and planning — in short and long term — will help him serve the county. He also noted his experience in building sites, as well as grade and site preparation.
"I know hard work and long hours," Abbett said.
Second District commissioner
Travis Lawson is running for re-election for the seat he's held for one term. The 33-year-old Iberia native runs a cattle operation, having been in business for himself for most of his adult life.
Lawson said a commissioner must be able to get along with people, something he said he has proven he can do. Lawson said that while in office, he has overseen completion of several FEMA projects and the county has paid off equipment, provided raises for county employees, built three large bridges, and replaced and installed more than $150,000 of culvert pipes.
"I have a great relationship with the people in Miller County, and just as I said when I ran four years ago, I will continue to do the best I can," Lawson said.
Randy Russell hopes to improve the roads in Miller County. The 58-year-old native of Iberia and Brumley said he has extensive knowledge in government construction projects with multi-million-dollar budgets.
Russell said he would be available to meet with county residents to discuss concerns, noting his main concern is Second District roads. He said he believes there are ways to improve the roads by working with area landowners who better know how conditions affect each road.
"I think I can bring knowledge of road construction and bring the concerns of the citizens of the Second District to help them get answers," Russell said.
Louis Gregoire is seeking re-election to his second term as Miller County sheriff. The lifelong county resident has worked for the sheriff's office for 21 years and said he has worked to learn every aspect of the job.
"I know what needs to change to make law enforcement services better for Miller County," Gregoire said. "I'm not a person that makes empty promises, and I believe change can and will happen with the understanding and knowledge of how a budget works and by building relationships."
Gregoire said even though pay for Miller County deputies is one of the lowest in the region, his administration has seen the lowest turnover rate the office has had in many years. He said 62 percent of the office's budget is used for payroll, leaving just 38 percent to operate the office and jail. He pointed to his success bringing in more than $500,000 in state and federal grant money to increase employee pay and advance the office technology as accomplishments during his term.
Gregoire said he also has been successful in helping develop neighborhood watch programs and made better training a priority for all staff, including having all officers trained in crisis intervention.
"It takes a lot of knowledge and money to operate a jail and provide law enforcement services for roughly 600 square miles," Gregoire said.
Dave Stark has spent 26 years in law enforcement in Mid-Missouri and hopes to use that experience as Miller County sheriff. The Eldon native has worked in the Miller County and Ozark County sheriff's departments, but more recently worked with the Linn Creek Police Department and the Missouri State Park Rangers, spending eight of his 10 years with the rangers at Lake of the Ozarks State Park.
"What has kept me going in law enforcement all these years is every morning when I get out of bed, I know there is a real possibility that I will have a positive influence on somebody's life," Stark said. "That has never changed, and I hope it never does."
If elected, Stark said, he plans to establish a citizen review/oversight board to provide more transparency in the office, as well as establish a cold case squad. Stark said he would work to provide timely responses to all calls, improved training and education for deputies and support staff, body cameras and dash cameras for all deputies, mandatory and random drug testing for all employees, and improved coverage and patrols of the county.
"My family, my friends and all Miller County residents deserve a sheriff's department they can rely on and be proud of," Stark said. "Through my proven leadership, I will deliver this."
Tim Bradley is seeking re-election to his second term as coroner. The 47-year-old Eldon native is a paramedic with 30 years of experience in emergency medical services. Bradley is also a volunteer firefighter and reserve police officer in Eldon.
During his first term, Bradley said, he has expanded the office to include a deputy coroner and doubled the budget for autopsies to meet the demand for services. Bradley said he purchased a pharmaceutical grade freezer to keep blood and tissue samples.
If re-elected, Bradley said, he would update the office's filing system from paper to electronic. He also would like to increase the amount of required training and "get better quality training" through the Missouri Coroners' and Medical Examiners' Association.
Davey Foley is seeking the coroner's office for the first time. The 50-year-old Eldon native said he does not have the experience Bradley does, but he noted the office does not require any formal experience. If elected, he said, he would take a medicolegal death investigation course, which is not required in Missouri but is a nationally recognized program.
Foley said communication is ultimately the most important aspect of being coroner, adding he would be the best candidate because he cares about families and wants to bring closure to what is always a difficult situation for loved ones.
If elected, Foley said, he plans "to investigate the situation accurately and bring a quick resolve to facts I've discovered." He also noted a desire to work closely with law enforcement.
Debra June Nichols is citing her experience with the Miller County court system as vital in her first bid for public administrator.
The duty of a public administrator is to take into charge and custody the estates of all deceased people and the person and estates of all minors and incapacitated people when circumstances demand it.
Nichols, a 58-year-old Iberia native, said she has more than 24 years of experience in the Miller County court system, with 18 years serving in the Associate Court and Probate Office. Nichols said her mother suffered a stroke last year and the event changed her own life, but they have been able to get through it and learned to enjoy their time together.
If elected, Nichols said she would seek to be there for the family and loved ones appointed to her care, doing her best to keep them informed of the person's health and welfare.
"This position requires you to be available 24/7, and I intend to do that," Nichols said. "I just want to give my clients the respect, love and welfare they deserve."
Theresa I. Lupardus is seeking re-election to her third term as public administrator. The 41-year-old Tuscumbia native said the job requires someone who is optimistic and self-reliant in order to get things done for the clients.
In her first two terms, Lupardus said she has been able to serve the residents of Miller County with compassion and a willingness to work the long hours needed to meet the needs of those she serves. If given another term, Lupardus said, she would continue to seek education on the best and most effective ways to serve clients.
"I have developed a close and personal relationship with the individuals under my care, and giving them the best lives they can have," Lupardus said. "I hope to continue serving the county's most vulnerable individuals to the best of my ability."