OREGON COUNTY -- Reporter's note: Following are answers to questions presented to Oregon County Presiding Commissioner candidates Leo Warren and Stacey Wiggs. Candidate Wiggs said he answered Questions #1 and #2 in his first answer.
Question #1: Why do you want to be presiding commissioner of Oregon County?
WIGGS: Over the past few years while working with the National Federation of Independent Business, an organization dedicated to preserving free enterprise and small business, I have been privileged to talk to thousands of farmers in over a fifth of rural counties in Missouri, Arkansas and Kansas, including Oregon County. In doing so I found that the challenges, concerns, no matter where located, are much the same. Rural counties are being hard pressed by over taxation, over regulation and a slow economy. While talking to my friends and neighbors here in Oregon County many voiced their concerns that we need strong leadership in the county to be sure our best interests are being addressed, that our tax dollars are being spent fairly and wisely and asked if I would run for presiding commissioner. Upon accepting, I have worked hard to talk to as many citizens in Oregon County as possible and learn more about the duties and responsibilities of the presiding commissioner. As your presiding commissioner I will work full time to ensure that all counties needs are given the attention they deserve.
WARREN: I want to become or remain presiding commissioner of Oregon County because I enjoy meeting, working and serving the residents of Oregon County. Opportunities arise from time to time to make decisions that make Oregon County a better place to live, work, play and raise our families. Being able to do this gives one a sense of satisfaction. Also Oregon County is a small county located in the southern most part of Missouri, on the outer fringe, along with other small fringe counties referred to as "Out-State Missouri." Because we are referred to as "Out-State Missouri" our voice is not heard as loud as it should be. These past few years I have gained experience and knowledge and have made many contacts and have a good working relation with those that Oregon County has to deal with. Because of this Oregon County's voice is as louder or even louder than most.
QUESTION #2: How does our county compare with counties of similar population and size?
WARREN: Many counties our size and even larger counties have financial problems. Oregon County's financial status is probably as good or better than most counties our size and even larger counties. Strict management by the county commissioners and help from all elected officials have kept Oregon County financially strong. Oregon County's tax levy is only 8 cents on $100 assessed valuation. If a person would notice on their tax statement the amount of money that goes to the county from the 8 cent levy, they would find that very little of the total tax paid goes to county government.
QUESTION #3: Is an economic developer needed in the county?
WIGGS: The question of Oregon County employing a full time economic developer as it has in the past has become a concern for many in the county. I called the South Central Ozark Council of Governments (SCOCOG), of which we are members, and they informed me that grant writing as well as other economic development programs are part of their services to the county therefore serving the same purpose as an economic developer. Any decision to pay extra taxpayer monies to hire any person to assist in economic development would have to be weighed against the benefits to the taxpayers.
WARREN: While I've been presiding commissioner and involved with other counties and cities, I've noticed the ones that are progressing and moving forward are the ones that have an economic developer, but let's take a look at Oregon County while Heather Wakefield Fisher was economic developer. Because an economic developer can dedicate all their efforts and time to the 'world' of economic development and they make many contacts in their field they can be very effective for a county. This is the reason that Heather was able to find and acquire the grants that she did. In her short three years tenure with the city of Thayer and Oregon County she brought in over a million dollars of new money or outside money to Oregon County. Recently there have been representatives from other cities visiting the city of Thayer and observing what Thayer has been able to do with the grants that the economic developer had gotten for them. They were in hopes of being able to do the same for their cities.
Question #4: What challenges does the county face in the future?
WIGGS: With the events that have occurred recently who can really say what challenges we will face in the future? What can we do to prepare for those challenges by developing a responsible, effective and well-maintained county government to ensure that our way of life will be preserved.
WARREN: In the future Oregon County may be faced with the probability of the state and federal governments having budget problems. If and when this happens there is strong possibility of countless losing revenues and services. This could certainly put a strain on the county's budget and economy. Another thing facing Oregon County in the future is the 911 situation. At the present time the Federal Communications Commission is requiring the telephone companies to route 911 calls, in counties without 911, to a central location in the county. Some telephone companies are passing these routing charges on to the counties. There are pressures on counties to develop 911, but before a county can have 911 it would have to be voted in by the voters of the county. 911 has its pros and cons; of course 911 would be good for any kind of emergency. We wouldn't have to remember the sheriffs, ambulance, fire departments or any other kind of emergency phone numbers, just 911. But we would have a fee tacked on to our telephone bill or some kind of tax to pay for the service. also our addresses would have to be changed for 911 purposes.