It's that time of year again. Soon election signs will be in yards and business windows. Candidates will be out in full force, some even going door to door to meet their constituents. Some got a head start in campaigning on Thursday night.

It's that time of year again. Soon election signs will be in yards and business windows. Candidates will be out in full force, some even going door to door to meet their constituents. Some got a head start in campaigning on Thursday night.

Various local, county and state candidates gathered at the CALO Change Academy for an informal meet and greet forum.

State Representatives Diane Franklin and Rocky Miller along with State Senator Dan Brown were among the dignitaries present. Candidates present included Aaron Koeppen, Matt Hamner, Cole Bradbury, Michael Gilley, Vicky Burns, Brian Keedy, Kris Franken, Greg Hasty, Donnie Snelling and Ronnie Capps.

One of the candidates, Judge Aaron Koeppen, was a part of making the forum happen.

"Representative Diane Franklin had the idea that we get started a little late in helping the public get to know the candidates running for office so we thought we would get started earlier than normal and host an event hosted by the candidates to encourage the public to come out and meet all the different candidates from any race and any party," Koeppen said. "We think the public deserves more face time with the candidates in these local, county and state rep elections."

The goal of the forum was to give the public a chance to sit down and get to know the candidates on a personal level.

"They just get to sit down with candidates. In a normal forum, you have candidates get up to speak for three minutes or something like that and then you can open it up for questions and maybe some people can ask a few questions before they run out of time," Koeppen said. "Well, this is a forum with everyone sitting around tables eating great food and candidates are going around or the public is coming up to them and getting to know them and being able to talk to them one on one. It is much more personable. I think this is a lot healthier for the community as far as getting to know the candidates and who is running for office."

Two of the candidates planning on running for Camden County Presiding Commissioner were at the forum on Thursday night. Cureent Presiding Commissioner Kris Franken and opponent Greg Hasty shared why they both are running for office.

"When you get elected, usually it takes two to three years to fix what you needed to fix when you got in because you don't really know what the situation is until you get in," Franken said. "The county has money to do things with now and what I want to be there to help administer those funds the best way possible. Try to get the most bang for our buck which is what I've been trying to do the last three years."

Hasty has more than 40 years of real estate and surveying experience at the lake which he thinks would allow for a unique perspective in the county commission office.

"My family has been at the Lake of the Ozarks area since the 1820s and we have always had an environment of growth and never had to worry about taxes. This is the first time in 40 years of my time at the lake that we are moving backwards. We used to pave roads, now we don't. We used to open fire stations, now we close them," Hasty said. "There are some things that I know we can do that will help us get back on track. Our county government has to create an environment conducive to growth because if we aren't growing, we are stuck with one or two options. We have to close or reduce services or we have to raise taxes. People on a fixed income cannot afford raising taxes and it's a shame that after all the growth we've had is that we are closing things."

Both were glad they had the chance to meet the public and other candidates.

"I think that this is a large county and its gotten to the point where I used to know everyone in the county but it's impossible now so I just felt like I needed to get out here and meet a lot of people so that I can tell them about why I'm running and why I chose to do this after 40 years of surveying at Lake of the Ozarks," Hasty commented.

"This is the ice-breaking part for the political cycle. Diane put it together and it's a good chance for everyone to walk around, feel each other out and get a chance to see how the mood for the election is going to be," Franken said.

Franken said that Camden County is in the best financial shape it has ever been in and plans to move forward with road and transportation upgrades if re-elected.

If Hasty gets elected, he plans on taking a closer look at Camden County's master plan.

Filings for county positions begin in February. A primary election is set for August with the general election in November.

Another forum is in the works for closer to the school board elections. School board along with county, municipal and state candidates will be invited. School board candidates will get a chance to answer questions from the public.

Lake News will update readers with details of the upcoming forum when information becomes available.