Steve Cookson, a well-known Southeast Missouri educator with extensive experience in legislative issues, has announced his candidacy for state representative in the 153rd Legislative District.
Cookson, 51, is retiring after serving nine years as superintendent of the Naylor Schools. He will seek the Republican nomination in the primary election of August 2010. The 153rd District comprises all of Ripley, Carter and Oregon counties and portions of Butler and Wayne counties. Incumbent Rep. Mike Dethrow, an Alton Republican, is retiring because of term limits.
"Throughout my school career in our Southern Missouri Ozarks region, I've always fought for the expansion of opportunities for our students and for fiscally conservative management of our tax dollars," Cookson said. "I've been involved in many legislative issues to help achieve those goals, and, if elected, will continue my efforts to help education, agriculture and small business.
"Excessive government regulations is one of my primary concerns. I want to see ordinary citizens -- our farmers, small businessmen and women and local school officials -- have a bigger role in making common sense decisions for our communities," Cookson said. "I believe this election should be about what is best for the people of the 153rd District."
As a former member of the board of the Missouri Association of Rural Education, Cookson has worked tirelessly to improve public education in the smaller districts.
A member of the Three Rivers Community College Board of Trustees for the past five and a half years, Cookson has been outspoken in striving to keep the college focused on the best interests of the students and patrons of the four-country taxing district. Serving as TRCC board chairman in 2008-2009, Cookson named citizens from all counties of the college district to participate in selecting the new president for Three Rivers.
As veteran teacher and administrator in area schools, Cookson has brought that experience to the TRCC board. He spearheaded the ongoing "Raider Incentive" scholarship program that enables qualifying students in smaller districts to attend Three Rivers with a status similar to the state-sanctioned "A-Plus" program embraced by other schools. Those districts include Doniphan, Van Buren, Naylor and Neelyville.
Over this 30-year career in education, Cookson served as a science teacher and basketball coach at Washburn Puxico, Dyersburg, South Iron and East Carter County and was the high school principal at Naylor, Norwood and Doniphan before returning to Naylor as superintendent eight years ago. Among his many professional memberships and activities, Cookson received the "New Superintendent of the Year" award from the Missouri Association of School Administrators.
An avid outdoorsman, Cookson is member of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and understands the strong cultural traditions of hunting and fishing. He also is a member of the Missouri Farm Bureau. His hobbies include canoeing and kayaking on Ozark streams and building traditional Ozark wooden johnboats and sassafras boat paddles.
Cookson is a graduate of Advance High School, where he played guard on the 1975 State Championship basketball team coached by his father, Carroll Cookson. His mother, Rozelle Cookson also is a retired kindergarten teacher. Both his father and his uncle, Ronnie Cookson, are members of the Missouri's Sports Hall of Fame at Springfield, Mo.
Cookson graduated from Three Rivers Community College in 1978, and was a member of the Raiders basketball team that finished third in the nation that year. His son, Tyler, a graduate of TRCC and missouri State University, currently is a law student at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. The candidate's wife, the former Joy Rice of Naylor, previously was the co-owner of the Poplar Bluff UPS Store. She currently works for Rice Trailers and Manufacturing at Naylor. The couple attend the Palace of Praise Church of God.
A graduate of the College of the Ozarks (known to alumni as "Hard Work U") Cookson also holds masters and specialist degrees in administration from Southeast Missouri State University.
In addition to Ripley, Carter and Oregon counties, the 153rd Legislative District includes the Williamsville/Mill Spring area of Wayne County and two separate portions of Butler County; the area roughly bounded by Beaver Dam and Cane Creeks on the north, Cane Creek Ditch on the east and County Road 352 on the south, as well as the upper Cane Creek area generally north of Highway 60 and west of Highway 67.