Dr. Erwin Burke, of Burke Chiropractic in Alton, sponsored the event. Burke said, "We have a lot of patients come in our office that ask us questions about politics and candidates running for the different positions. We decided to do something about it. This is the first time a town hall meeting has been held like this," said Burke.
Candidates were allowed two minutes for their opening statements. Any questions from the audience had to be asked in 20 seconds.
David Bailey, Mike Barton, and Kevin Jotz, three of the five candidates for Oregon County Sheriff, were present for the event. Candidates for Southern Commissioner of Oregon County were Alonzo Bradwell, Jason Kemper, and Nathan Roberts.
Not present for the event were Sheriff candidate Mike Bunting and Sheriff George Underwood, and current Southern Commissioner "Big" John Wrenfrow. Underwood and Wrenfrow had a previously scheduled meeting with the Alton City Council
David Bailey, current Chief of Police for the city of Thayer, said he was fortunate to spend most of his career in law enforcement as a Missouri State Trooper. I spent 30 years doing that. I worked my way through promotions and retired a Lieutenant with the patrol," Bailey explained . "I'm not running for Sheriff for the money. I'm doing it because I'm tired of standing on the sidelines -- seeing things done, that shouldn't be done, and not seeing things done that should. I'm ready for a change. I decided to get involved and that's why I'm running for Sheriff," said Bailey.
When asked how he was going to solve the meth problem if elected, Bailey said he would utilize agencies available within the state, and work to improve communication and trust with them. When asked the number one responsibility of being the Sheriff, Bailey replied, "To uphold the Constitution of the United States, but to also maintain physical responsibilities such as maintain a budget." replied Bailey when asked.
Mike Barton, who has been in law enforcement for 20 years, began his career as an Oregon County Deputy. He eventually became the Alton Police Chief, a position he left to join a task force created by the government to stop meth crimes. After joining the task force, he was assigned to work for the Ripley County Sheriff's Department. "I want to continue doing those investigations to help Oregon County. I serve you. I will work for you and the community. I go to schools. I give seminars to the children," said Barton on what he would do as Sheriff of Oregon County.
Barton said he would solve the meth problem in Oregon County through teamwork. The drug task force he has been a part of taught him to work together with other peers, locally and statewide. "I will always have an open door policy, at anytime. You are the people, and I want to hear the problems you have," said Barton.
Kevin Jotz said in his opening statement, "The reason I'm running is because of my five daughters. We moved here from Los Angeles in 2002, and there is no better place, I feel, we could have moved than Oregon County. But I feel there are changes that need to be made here in Oregon County as far as law enforcement," said Jotz. Jotz said he wants the changes to be a community effort, and he will work to build better communication between law enforcement agencies. "We have to use our assets to the best that we can. I believe I can do that," said Jotz. Jotz is retired from the Los Angeles Police Department, and is a former Alton Police Chief.
Utilizing the drug task force would be a key element in Jotz's approach to solving Oregon County's meth problem. "If I'm lucky enough to become Sheriff, that drug task force resource would be used," said Jotz. "As Sheriff, my number one responsibility would be to uphold the Constitution of the United States," said Jotz.
Alonzo Bradwell wants to bring Oregon County "back to life." as Southern Commissioner. Bradwell stated citizens are misinformed by the county government about all of the duties of the Southern Commissioner. "I want to jumpstart Oregon County's progress. You guys are the jumper cables, I'm the battery -- hook me up with Oregon County," Bradwell told the audience. "I'm running for my kids. I want my kids, when they are my age, to have some progress in the place where they grew up in. If they don't want to go away, I want them to have an opportunity here in Oregon County," said Bradwell.
His top priority to improve Oregon County? Bradwell said, "Increase in jobs would help to get us out of the deficit we are in. We also need to stay in touch with our citizens." Bradwell said the number one responsibility of the Southern Commissioner is, "To be a strong, transparent, vocal leader." "The community needs to be heard, I promise you that I will keep my kids in my mind through every decision I make. I will not make a decision that will ever hurt my children."
Jason Kemper expressed his lifelong desire to stay in Oregon County and to see the county progress. "I was employed with the road district in the Southern end for nine years. I know firsthand what it takes to maintain the roads and the budget," said Kemper. He credits his "know how" of budgets to running a farm and his current job. "I have been through emergency situations; drought, floods, ice. These are things that come with the job," said Kemper. He feels as though he works well with the public and would strive to solve any issue that the community is concerned about.
Kemper said, to improve Oregon County, he would, "Review the current budget in the courthouse to make sure it is in good shape, and make sure is going with how times are currently." Kemper said the most important responsibilities are, "One, definitely planning in the courthouse and the other, make sure the roads are being maintained. It all comes back to the budget. I will work the budget over, and do a better job at maintaining the roads,"
Nathan Roberts, a lifelong resident of Myrtle, said he is running because it is time for a change. "Oregon County is spending a lot of our tax payers' money and we don't know where it is going. I'm here to change that," said Roberts. He plans to listen to the input from the residents of Oregon County and allow them a public forum to voice their concerns. "I have concerns. I have been here all my life. Things are getting worse. The roads are getting worse. Our budget is getting worse. It's time for change," said Roberts.
If elected, Roberts said he would, "Have public meetings quarterly to show the budget, and listen to what the people have to say. I'm not going to promise you anything. All I can do is voice my opinion and stand up for Oregon County," said Roberts.