Editor’s Note: In addition to answers printed here, videos of candidates providing answers to other questions about themselves are featured.
CLAY COUNTY — Four candidates are up for the new Eastern Seat 2 commission seat on the August ballot as the Clay County Commission prepares to expand to a seven-member commission as designed by passage of the county constitution.
Candidates on the August ballot for the Eastern 2 commissioner seat are Sherry C. Duffett, Jay R. Johnson, Lynn Spalding and Vern Windsor. Voters will select one candidate from these four on the ballot. If a candidate gets 51% or more of the votes cast, he or she will be the winner and no general election in November will be held. If no candidate gets more than half of the total votes, the top two vote-getters will move on to the general election.
The Courier-Tribune asked each candidate biographical and issue questions related to the county and the commission. For fairness to all candidates, responses were limited to 50 words per question. Answers longer than this limit have been edited to the nearest end of a sentence and have an ellipsis (...) in place of missing words. Answers are published in alphabetical order of candidate last name.
What is the biggest issue impacting your district and how will you work to resolve it if elected?
Duffett: “Economic growth is the biggest issue. Improved communication with all the leaders is imperative for Clay County to progress and benefit working-class families. Clay County needs to be more involved in local chambers of commerce, the economic development councils and the Mid-America Regional Council.”
Johnson: “This election will expand the number of commissioners from three to seven. That can drastically change the make-up and operation of county government. We need commissioners who work well together and understand how to run a government and manage taxpayer money. I have a track record of doing so.”
Spalding: “Safety and crime, use resources more wisely so that we are working smarter not harder, enforce the law on the smaller issues so that it detours the larger crimes.”
Windsor: “I believe that growth is and will be the biggest impact in the county. I support redoing the Clay County Master Development Plan that includes the input from all Clay County citizens.”
How will you work to aid and improve transparency of government operations if elected?
Duffett: “My goal as a county commissioner is to guarantee that elected officials, as well as department heads, are honest, ethical and provide accountability, transparency and responsibility with integrity. I would make every effort to be engaged in the future of Clay County as an active participant.”
Johnson: “This is one reason I decided to run, though the current commissioners made great improvements. As (a police) chief, I promised and delivered on accessibility, responsiveness, accountability and transparency. I will push to improve on all aspects of this and always remind the commission they work for the citizens, not the opposite.”
Spalding: “This is why I am running as an independent candidate, I feel that the government has not worked for the average person for a long time. I am not in anybody’s pocket, am not accepting any contributions so I owe no favors. All Clay County citizens should have access to all minutes and decisions that are made. ...”
Windsor: “I will follow the Sunshine Law of the state of Missouri fully. As of the moment, I believe that this county commission is achieving transparency very well. I would support making information on the county website easier to look up.”
Do commissioners provide enough oversight over the county budget and how funds are spent? If not, what will you change if elected?
Duffett: “I believe the commissioners provide enough insight over the county budget. There is a process the commissioners participate in annually that establishes each department’s budget. The commissioners will be an even greater presence with the transition of elected offices to hired personnel.”
Johnson: “Commissioners decide how to spend roughly half a billion dollars of taxpayer money during their term in office. Most candidates have zero experience managing that amount of money. I do, and will ask the tough questions, and make tough financial decisions on every dollar spent, providing proper oversight of your money.”
Spalding: “I personally will review and study every line item, and I have a BS degree in accounting and will expect details from each department. We are facing a time of inflation and the budget should reflect that.”
Windsor: “At this point in time, I believe this commission does a very good job on oversight of the county budget. I plan on being open about the county budget.”
What county services do you feel most need additional resources and why?
Duffett: “Every department would benefit from additional resources. From 2016 until 2020, funds were being ‘allocated’ to unnecessary and frivolous expenditures by the former county commissioners, county administrator and assistant administrators. This collective abuse of funds resulted in a depletion of resources in the general fund for other offices and departments.”
Johnson: “The top priority of government should be public safety. The ‘defunding’ and maligning of police nonsense has taken its toll on hiring, retention and increasing crime rates everywhere. Starting salary for a deputy sheriff is $19.75 an hour. That is insulting. Let’s get serious about making public safety a priority.”
Spalding: “Sheriff’s department to handle more of the policing issues on Clay County and not rely on (Kansas City Police Department).”
Windsor: “I would like to see a little resources in the county park system. We have such great history and wonderful parks, I would like to see a trails system connecting all county and county-operated parks.”
Are county taxes adequate for the needs of Clay County?
Duffett: “Clay County is still in the recovery process of recompense during 2016 to 2020. This effort may possibly continue for a period of years to recuperate. If Clay County continues on a fiscally conservative trajectory of expenditures, it should not be necessary to increase taxes.”
Johnson: “To determine adequacy, we first must ensure taxes are used efficiently. Government should be as effective as possible, using the least amount of tax dollars. I have a track record of ensuring this. My first few months as police chief, I made over $2 million in structural savings while increasing effectiveness.”
Spalding: “This needs to be looked at, and an attempt needs to be made to reduce taxes, or at the very least, no increases.”
Windsor: “At this point, I believe that the county taxes are adequate.”