The following six candidates are running for the position of 1st (Commissioner Bev Thomas and James Gohagen) and 2nd (Commissioner Don Williams, Patrick Cochran, Nathan Rinne and Jimmy Adams) District Commissioner in Camden County. They will be present on the August 4 ballot.

The following six candidates are running for the position of 1st (Commissioner Bev Thomas and James Gohagen) and 2nd (Commissioner Don Williams, Patrick Cochran, Nathan Rinne and Jimmy Adams) District Commissioner in Camden County. They will be present on the August 4 ballot.

Note: Adams and Rinne did not submit answers to these Q&As. To hear Rinne’s answers to these questions, find our video of the candidate live forum on our Facebook page. Adams was not present at the forums.

Commissioner Bev Thomas

Beverly Thomas. First District Commissioner. B.S. in Accounting, Missouri State University. Previous positions include Real Estate Broker/Sunset Shores Realty; Owner /Lyon Home Care; Vice President/Belle State Bank; Owner/Thomas Accounting. Board of Directors: Missouri Ozarks Community Action; Lake Area Industries; Missouri Association of Counties. Member: School Board/School of the Osage; Lake Ozark Rotary; Lake Area Chamber of Commerce; Camdenton Chamber of Commerce; Camdenton Lions Club; Elks Lodge #2517. Graduate; Academy for Leadership in Local Governance University of Missouri. DECA Advisory Board, DECA Judge - District and State Competitions. Completed NIMS training, Agro-Terrorism Planning, Energize Missouri Planning - Residential/Commercial. Member Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society; Recognized in Who's Who / America's Colleges and Universities and in America's Outstanding Names and Faces. Lived in Camden County 40 years.

1) If elected, what one new idea would you like to see implemented as a Camden County commissioner?

In County government, each Elected Official manages their own office, therefore each office is independent. Each office develops their own budget, separate expenses, etc. I would like to see a committee of all Elected Officials and employees from each office work together to develop the County budget. If all offices worked to combine expenses and personnel, it would seem that some costs could be reduced. Cross training personnel between offices would allow for work to be uninterrupted when employees are off sick or on vacation and maximize the availability of employees in each office during busy times, i.e. the Clerk’s office during elections, and the Collector’s office during tax season. In the same vein, expenses, if combined, could allow for maximum use of equipment and supplies. For example, each office now has printers, computers, fax machines, etc. If this equipment could be utilized in multiple offices, that would certainly reduce acquisition costs as well as maintenance expenses.

2) How can you, if elected commissioner, ensure transparency and improve communication with the public?

This Commission has made every effort to be as transparent as possible. For the first time, all financial statements have been posted on-line, including the budget and the external audit. This Commission REQUESTED a State Audit to identify any weaknesses or deficiencies that needed to be addressed in the way County government was operating. . There are only three reasons a Commission meeting can be closed, legal issues, employee maters and/or real estate. These are all issues that cannot be discussed in open meetings due to the nature of the business. These are the only reasons the Commission closes meetings. The public is always welcome at any open Commission meeting and all Commissioners have open door policies. Any resident can come in at any time, or make an appointment at their convenience.

3) Are you in favor of increasing taxes to support infrastructure, economic development projects or other initiatives in the county? Why or Why Not?

The basic answer is no. The average salary in Camden County is very modest. Additional taxes would only burden the average family. However, the number of tourists that are attracted to our area unreasonably burdens the infrastructure of the County. The base population of Camden County is approximately 45,000 residents. On a holiday weekend, the population could be upwards of 1,000,000. That means additional traffic on roads including boat trailers with extremely large boats, motor homes, travel trailers and an abundance of semi-trailers for supplies of all types for businesses. Water and sewer districts are all over utilized. Trash becomes a hazard and a nuisance. We all appreciate the revenues the tourists bring to our area and certainly welcome them, but it may be time for them to contribute to our infrastructure if a fair and reasonable means can be determined.

4) COVID-19 has impacted our county as it has the entire country-small business have struggled, recruiting and retaining employees, etc. If elected, what will you do to see economic development continues to happen here in Camden County?

So far, in Camden County a significant number of businesses are thriving during this pandemic. Sales tax numbers are up over this same time last year and the quantity of tourists has increased. All of these are very good signs for our local economy. Nearly all of the businesses that I talk to, discuss the difficulty in hiring employees. Also a good sign of the unemployment in Camden County. That being said, there are certainly some businesses that have not recovered from the initial onset of the pandemic. Many of the retail closings that have occurred are large, “box stores” that have closed nationally, not due to local distress. We are working to reduce over regulation in the Planning and Zoning area. Encourage the use of Community Improvement Districts and Transportation Development Districts to allow businesses to acquire additional funds that may be necessary to improve infrastructure expenses that they cannot now cover. We work with the Lake of the Ozarks Regional Economic Development Council and all the Chambers of Commerce to attract and encourage businesses in our area.

5) Social media has a significant presence in our lives today. How, if at all would you use social media to achieve the objectives of the position of Commissioner?

The Commission is already using social media very successfully in three of the departments we oversee. Road and Bridge just established their Facebook page recently. Currently road closings, work areas and low water crossings are posted as needed to keep the public up to date with work being done in their area or problems they may encounter. They have also used their page to promote useful information in County government. The Health Department has had a Facebook page for some time. They continually post useful information for the community. Some of their information includes health fairs, well baby clinics, location and time of the mammogram van, availability of flu shots etc. Recently their page has had some of the most up to date information on the COVID virus. This has included symptoms, quarantine information, active testing results and much more. And lastly, the Emergency Management Office has used their page significantly for COVID information. They have provided information regarding the availability of supplies, location of services, and how to get delivery of needed items. Prior to COVID, their page provided information regarding weather conditions, storm advisories, flooding information and much, much more.

James Gohagan

My name is James Gohagan and I want to be your next first district commissioner. I've lived at the lake my entire life, I come from a working class background and family. I live in Camdenton with my wife Andrea and our three children. I've always advocated for the people of our area. When the city allowed a company to dump a million pounds of waste into the ground I showed up, when the freedom from religion group wanted to take down a painting I showed up, when private industry wanted your tax dollars to go their pet projects I showed up. I will continue to show up for you as I always have unlike my opponent.

1) If elected, what one new idea would you like to see implemented as a Camden County commissioner?

If elected I would like our local government to be more transparent, live-streamed meetings have become a regular occurrence in many forms of government except ours locally, I would like to see our officers get more than 13 dollars an hour because we spend thousands training them only to have them leave, go somewhere else and make a livable wage. Same thing with road and bridge they could go work for a private company and make more than they do here. In 16 years it has yet to be addressed.

2) How can you, if elected commissioner, ensure transparency and improve communication with the public?

I would be interested in having live-streamed meetings for the public to view. Those that are working can't know what is going on and some don't trust minutes being kept and closed sessions. I talk with everyone as I have in this campaign to the road and bridge the sheriff's department and even the other candidates. The public would be no different.

3) Are you in favor of increasing taxes to support infrastructure, economic development projects or other initiatives in the county? Why or Why Not?

No, we need to work within the bounds of our budget as it is, we have been targeted by our tax dollars to fund private industry. However, that budget is often copied and pasted from the previous year as evidenced by a lack of funding for road and bridge and our officers still stuck on grants and 13 dollars an hour.

4) COVID-19 has impacted our county as it has the entire country-small business have struggled, recruiting and retaining employees, etc. If elected, what will you do to see economic development continues to happen here in Camden County?

We have yet to see an action plan from the commission as to what they will be doing with the 5million received in cares funds. I would be more than happy to check on the small business around the county to see which ones are hurting from the shutdown and listen to how it impacted them and try to help.

5) Social media has a significant presence in our lives today. How, if at all would you use social media to achieve the objectives of the position of Commissioner?

I would try to be mindful of the things I say. I only assume since the commission is a lockstep voting block that when one speaks they all do. Telling an entire group of business owners that a lodging tax is a good idea to fund road and bridge would be something I would avoid. I've been more transparent than my opponent in this campaign and that would only continue.

2nd District

Commissioner Don Williams

Serving the people of Camden County has been a great honor for me. When I took office, there were many things I wanted to accomplish. Working together - the commission, the other county officials, the department administrators, the county employees and all sorts of community leaders – we have been able to accomplish far more than I even hoped for. Through cooperation, mutual respect and hard work, we have done great things for Camden County. We are currently saving approximately $500,000 per year over the day I took office. With no new taxes and only small annual increases in revenue, this allowed us to deliver the largest R&B budget in Camden County history and put down a record-setting amount of gravel on our county roads. One accomplishment after another has been achieved by the entire county government, all of us working together.

1) If elected, what one new idea would you like to see implemented as a Camden County commissioner?

We need more funding for R&B and for deputy salaries. Our local people cannot afford more taxes, so this must come from elsewhere. We have the fourth or fifth lowest tax rate in the entire state but more miles of road than every other county except two. Our phenomenal growth during the 60s through the early 2000s allowed us to maintain our roads, because county revenue during that time would always increase by 12-18% every year. Our population would approximately double every ten years. But since the recession of 2008, that has changed. Revenue is only increasing by 2-3% but prices for gravel, asphalt and equipment has tripled. The result is that our R&B budget is only one third of the average that other 1st class counties spend. Similarly, our deputies are not making the kind of money they should be making. The result is that we hire, train and equip them only to soon lose them to higher paying positions elsewhere. We must find a new source of revenue that doesn’t involve raising taxes on our residents. I am currently working with the University of Missouri on this problem, gathering data and searching for a solution.

2) How can you, if elected commissioner, ensure transparency and improve communication with the public?

I am committed to transparency and, in the last four years, this commission has provided an extreme level of transparency for the public, something I am very proud of. For the first time in Camden County history, and one of only a handful of times in the history of the entire state of Missouri, a sitting commission actually requested that they be audited by the state - and by a State Auditor of the opposing party. During my previous election, a group of residents of both parties asked if I would be in favor of a state audit. After giving it some thought and realizing it had been over 20 years since the last state audit – which occurred when Camden County moved from third to first class – I agreed. I promised to push for a state audit. I kept that promise and, though it was expensive and very difficult for the whole county government, we got it done, providing an almost unheard of level of transparency. Also, when I took office, I directed that commission meeting minutes be posted on the county website again. In the future, among other measures, I would like to see commission meetings video taped.

3) Are you in favor of increasing taxes to support infrastructure, economic development projects or other initiatives in the county? Why or Why Not?

As I explained above, I am NOT in favor of increasing taxes on local residents at all. However, I believe our tourism industry represents a vast, largely untapped source of revenue. We have 3-4 million visitors every summer. They stress our infrastructure and our law enforcement. It’s not fair or realistic to expect our 45,000 residents to pay for maintaining a system that is used by millions of people. In 2018, Camden County could only fund its roads at about $3,600 per lane-mile, while the other 1st class counties are averaging about $11,000 per lane-mile. We cannot continue to fund our R&B at a rate that is 70% below that of other counties. If we can develop a revenue source that collects just 2 dollars from each visitor, we could almost double our R&B budget. I am currently working with the University of Missouri to gather data for this purpose – to find a source of revenue that will both save our roads but not increase taxes on our residents. They worked on this problem this summer and we have a group of graduate students who will study the issue during both semesters this coming winter. We will solve this problem.

4) COVID-19 has impacted our county as it has the entire country-small business have struggled, recruiting and retaining employees, etc. If elected, what will you do to see economic development continues to happen here in Camden County?

I have heard that the scariest sentence in the English language is “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”. The truth is that there is very little county government can do to impact the local economy. And that is as it should be. If you are a conservative, you know that, in general, government should stay out of the way of business. The proper role of government is to keep taxes as low as possible, pass the minimum level of regulation needed to maintain public health and safety, and not interfere with business. That said, county government can give tax relief in the form of tifs, cids, tdd, etc. This can be helpful for large projects that are trying to get off the ground. But, with Camden County already having the fourth or fifth lowest tax rate in the entire state of Missouri, even tax relief does not have a huge impact. Sunrise Beach has an Opportunity Zone that encourages the growth of business in that area. We need to set up similar zones throughout the county, promote business districts, and keep local taxes and regulation as low as possible.

5) Social media has a significant presence in our lives today. How, if at all would you use social media to achieve the objectives of the position of Commissioner?

I do believe there is a limited role for social media in government administration. But, in general, government needs to communicate with the public in the form of official press releases. Off-the-cuff, informal communication only tends to be confusing and ends up spreading mixed messages. The problem seems to stem from the fact that social media communication feels like an informal private conversation, in which government officials will brainstorm, speculate and toss around various ideas. But these conversations, when seen by the general public, are often taken as fact or official announcements. But there is a place for social media in government. For example, this commission created the R&B face book page so that the public would get quicker information regarding which roads might be temporarily closed, which roads are being resurfaced and when and to let the public know the details about flooding- associated problems, snow plowing, etc. This page is a good example of how social media can have a positive role in government communication.

6) Closing Statement

Serving as Associate Commissioner has been a great honor. The reason is the quality of the people I represent. We don’t protest our police. We respect them. We don’t tear down statues of our founding fathers. We revere them. We don’t stomp on the American flag. We fly it proudly. We don’t think a border wall is racist. We know that a secure country needs secure borders. We don’t shout black lives matter. We know that all lives matter – none more so than the lives of the unborn. In these times of trouble, when it seems that our country is coming apart at the seams, here in this place, in the heartland of our great nation; traditional, conservative, patriotic America still stands. America is still going strong in Camden County, Missouri It is serving all of you that has been such a great honor. For that, I thank you.

Patrick Cochran

Hi, I am Patrick Cochran and I am running for 2nd District Commissioner. I am a lifelong resident of Camden County and a fifth-generation family resident. I have been a business owner for over 17 years and a law enforcement officer since 2010. I have a 14 year old son in Camdenton Schools and pride myself on small town values. If elected I plan to bring transparency to our commission, bring in business and economic success to the lake. When I was a Camden county deputy, I drove around the county and saw a huge need as it pertained to our roads and bridges. It was then when I decided I needed to run for office and effect positive change.

1) If elected, what one new idea would you like to see implemented as a Camden County commissioner?

If elected I would like to bring family businesses and attractions to the lake. We need to stand behind family fun atmosphere at the lake and help bring a new business here. I believe we also need to bring transparency to our commission. We should be around and available to the public.

2) How can you, if elected commissioner, ensure transparency and improve communication with the public?

I believe being a former deputy at the sheriff’s office, it has helped me become a better communicator. Being available to the public is key to the solution. Also, bringing transparency is allowing the public to see what we do on a day to day basis. Giving the public access to our meetings and having a “buy-in” on our decisions.

3) Are you in favor of increasing taxes to support infrastructure, economic development projects or other initiatives in the county? Why or Why Not?

I am not in favor increasing taxes to support these initiatives in the county. I believe we need to be working on the manufacturing side of Camden County. Bringing in jobs and resources will help us bring economic change to the area. Its raising money here and keeping money here.

4) COVID-19 has impacted our county as it has the entire country-small business have struggled, recruiting and retaining employees, etc. If elected, what will you do to see economic development continues to happen here in Camden County?

The COVID-19 has made a huge economic impact at the lake. I do not agree with shutting everything down because it puts a huge economic burden on the small businesses here. I will continue to support keeping the lake open and to take safety measures to ensure the lake stays open safely.

5) Social media has a significant presence in our lives today. How, if at all would you use social media to achieve the objectives of the position of Commissioner?

I am not much of a computer guy because I like talking to people face to face. However, you can use a social media to push out pertinent information to the community. You could also use it to live stream meetings and events at the county.

6) Closing Statement

I believe August 4th everyone needs to get out and vote. It is the deciding factor for our lake. I would like to ask for everyone’s support when voting. I believe this is a 40 hour a week job. It is a place where I will live my life and retire. I want to bring economic development and family business to the lake. Thank You