Election Preview: Mayor of Camdenton

Lake Sun Staff
newsroom@lakesunonline.com

As the April elections draw near, the Lake Sun will be publishing a number of Q&A articles centered around races in the tri-county area.  In this edition, the candidates for the Mayor of Camdenton will discuss their talking points and vision for the city.   Below are the responses from candidates John McNabb (incumbent), Daniel Ousley, Steve Eden, Matt Gray and Kristopher Keeth.

All answers are unedited. Some candidates did not provide an introduction or photo.

---

Mayor John McNabb

John McNabb (incumbent)

INTRODUCTION

B.S. in Education from Missouri State University – 1976

Masters in Education from Drury University – 1988

Educator Camdenton R-III School District – 1976-2007

1. Why are you running for mayor?

I am running for mayor to give back to the community where I have lived my entire adult life. I came here in 1976 to begin a teaching and coaching career. My wife Maurice and I have been married for 43 years and raised our three children here. In 2007 after I retired from Camdenton schools I was appointed to the board of alderman. After five years serving on the  board  I was elected mayor in 2013. I am committed to continue to serve the community. I am a public servant, not a politician. I have no agenda. I have always believed in transparency. If you have questions, come see me at city hall or call me. I love to talk about the city and the great things that are going on in Camdenton. it is my pleasure to support the city staff and all our departments. They do a great job of serving the community. I enjoy working with the board of aldermen, who give their time to make Camdenton a great place to live, work and play. Together we can accomplish more.

2. What do you feel is the single most challenging issue Camdenton is facing?

I believe there are two issues we face that are our greatest challenge. Jobs and housing go hand in hand. We need to work together to create jobs in Camdenton and we need to get people back to work who lost jobs during the pandemic. We must find ways to provide training for displaced workers through our schools, community colleges, and programs offered by the state of Missouri. Our housing needs must also be addressed. We must find a way to encourage builders to create affordable housing in our community. I hope to use some of the money we are receiving from the federal government to provide incentives to builders to build homes in the city. as mayor i was very involved in revising the city's comprehensive plan in 2016. destination Camdenton outlines some of the housing needs and even identifies some of the areas where we should look to create neighborhoods.

3. In your opinion what is the best part of life in Camdenton?

The best part about living in Camdenton is the people. In my 31 years in the school system, I met many wonderful people who were raising their families here. they were supportive of our schools, our community, and each other. Camdenton is the perfect combination of residential, retail, and commercial. We have many areas where people live in neighborhoods where people care about each other. The city police department has been working on a pilot project to create a neighborhood watch group. We hope to expand it throughout the city. Our city is a great place for families to gather. Our parks are well maintained and we are working to create new activities for all ages. We are nearing construction of the community center. I believe that we have listened to the people and have designed a center that will provide something for every one of our citizens. We are also fortunate to have wonderful state parks and other attractions in the area.

4. What do you bring to the city government that other candidates do not?

Experience. experience. experience. I have spent the last thirteen years, first as an alderman, and now as mayor, learning. I have learned so much about how the city works. An understanding of what our city ordinances are and how they are applied is essential. We must work constantly to make sure our ordinances comply with the laws of the state. I have an understanding of the budget. I have learned that not only do we have revenues but that they come into different funds and can only be used for the areas of government they are earmarked for by statute. Working with and for the board of alderman is a key to success, keeping the alderman informed and working with them is a large part of the role of mayor. I have learned it is necessary to work with city staff on a daily basis. I currently devote time to office hours every day. I believe it is my duty to work with city staff and help set the course for the city. there is no substitute for knowing the job and how it needs to be done.

5. Do you feel that the current administration handled the Covid pandemic correctly?

Our staff handled the covid pandemic very well considering we had no history to guide us. The city followed the direction of the federal and state government at all times. We worked for several months to isolate and protect all city employees to keep them safe as we worked our way through the process. I personally contacted every church in the city and supported them as they made their own decisions to best protect their members. We did close the park for a period of time at the suggestion of our parks director and by a 6-0 vote of the alderman. My greatest concern with the park was how we sanitize the playground and park equipment like restrooms, water fountains and pool surfaces to contain the spread of the virus. We have since purchased equipment that we still use today to sanitize in the parks. There was never issued a mask mandate in the city. I, as mayor, put out several communications that encouraged the people to educate themselves and to protect themselves in a way they felt safe.

6. Camdenton has a number of new businesses coming to town soon, including a brewery, a new VA clinic and more. How do you plan to help these businesses flourish in Camdenton and how do you plan to encourage more industries to develop in the future?

In my time as mayor we have issued 291 business licenses. Most of them continue to thrive today. The city administrator and I have worked closely to follow any and all leads we receive to attract new businesses to the city. As mayor I am proud to welcome the new VA clinic to camdenton. We worked for over eight months to secure the clinic. They will be breaking ground next week and will be open by early november, 2021. This will bring 26 new jobs to the city, including 5 new doctors. I have worked to make the city business friendly. Our code and fire official does a great job of inspecting businesses and working with owners to make their business safe for everyone. The building inspector is working to be more accessible and helpful to builders while they are in construction. While we must inspect building codes, we can make the process simple for everyone. It is really important that the city works constantly to pursue new business. We emphasize that this is a great place to locate a business and all that we have to offer. We are constantly planning to improve and expand our infrastructure Did you know that the eastern city limit at Cecil Street has the highest traffic count daily of any spot in the entire Lake of the Ozarks?

Daniel Ousley

Daniel Ousley

INTRODUCTION

Two of the most important things in my life are my Christian faith and my family. I am a local small business owner and community activist. You may have seen me waving flags at the town square last summer where I hosted a couple Back the Blue rallies in support of our local law enforcement.  I recently joined an economic development committee and started a community outreach called Neighbors in Need. 

I also raise funds for organizations like Teen Challenge and Kids Harbor. I participate in a BBQ bash cook-off fundraiser put on by Kids Harbor every spring.  I have a passion for helping others and being involved in the betterment of our community.

1. Why are you running for mayor?

We need to have more economic growth and development  in Camdenton. I am an advocate for citizen rights, business rights, less regulations, more year around full time jobs and the elimination of government waste. Our local law enforcement should receive better pay for the job that they do and I would also like to see them more involved with our community in a service roll. We also need more community participation and involvement with city government. The business owners and citizens of Camdenton should have a voice. A couple things I would like to do if I am elected is form a committee to work on making the town square more attractive, our town square is the heart of Camdenton and it needs a facelift. I also plan to have coffee mondays with the mayor so that our citizens and business owners can come and voice their ideas and concerns. I will have an open door policy.

2. What do you feel is the single most challenging issue camdenton is facing?

There are many important issues but one on the top of my list is definitely affordable housing. There are many people moving here seeking freedom and the quiet peaceful lifestyle found in our community. I have been meeting and talking with some local contractors so we can make strides to solve this issue and get more affordable homes in and around Camdenton.

3. In your opinion what is the best part of life in Camdenton?

I love Camdenton and our community. I love going to some of our local small businesses like RJs and Higher Grounds to enjoy conversation with our towns people. It brings joy to my day to be out in the community meeting small business owners and our residents. Camdenton is the type of town where if you are broke down on the side of the road or if one of our neighbors in need asks for help people are there to lend a helping hand. For  me it’s the people that make Camdenton the great city that it is!

4. What do you bring to the city government that other candidates do not?

I will be a bold leader. I won’t shy away from standing up for our citizens rights and our businesses rights. I will put the people of Camdenton first. I will also bring fiduciary responsibility with our citizens tax dollars. My wife and I follow a debt free living program and we have been totally debt free  for years no mortgage, car payments, loans or credit card balances. Living with in our means has enabled us to help those in need around us and I believe I have what it takes to deal with our cities budget and to cut out government waste.

5. Do you feel that the current administration handled the Covid pandemic correctly?

No I do not! The number one thing that upset me was the closing of our churches which is a clear violation of our first amendment rights. I am a strong advocate for our constitutional rights. Many businesses were also forced to close. I believe everyone’s business is essential to their families well being and business owners rights were violated. They have a right to be open and feed their families. They even barricaded our city park and we couldn’t even go to take our kids for a walk on the nature trails and get some well needed fresh air and sunshine. We must have faith in our neighbors ability to manage their own lives. We do not need the government to save us.

6. Camdenton has a number of new businesses coming to town soon, including a brewery, a new VA clinic and more. How do you plan to help these businesses flourish in Camdenton and how do you plan to encourage more industries to develop in the future?

Economic growth and development is one of my top priorities. I have been meeting with many business owners and have advocated through social media for local small business and for our citizens to shop local. I have also joined an economic development committee in an effort to reach out to businesses and encouraging them to locate here. I have personally already been working with an investment group that wants to bring a medical marijuana grow facility which would bring 100 or more full time year-round jobs to the city of Camdenton. I took a tour of their facility and listened to their plans. And will support them in their endeavor. Unfortunately they have met some resistance from local government and the current Mayor John McNabb even declined to take a tour. He continues to show a lack of concern for job growth in Camdenton. Even if he doesn’t  like the idea of a medical marijuana grow facility, the citizens of Missouri voted for it and he owes it to the citizens of Camdenton to at least take them up on their offer of the tour of their facility. We need these jobs!

Steve Eden

Steve Eden

INTRODUCTION

I first came to the lake area in the spring of 1986 as a paramedic for the ambulance district in Sunrise Beach.  I was hired by the City of Camdenton as a police officer in the fall of 1986.  I moved into the city in 1987. I became a volunteer member of the Camdenton Fire Dept., which I served in the positions of firefighter to Fire Chief over 23 years.  In 1994, I was the first full time Fire Marshal/Building Inspector for the city.  

In 1996, I went to work at the Camden Co. Sheriff’s Office, where I am still employed. In 1997, I was elected to my first term as a City Alderman. My first wife and oldest daughter passed away due to cancer. I am the Vice Chairman of the CITCAT Board, which works with the Mo. Dept. of Natural Resources in providing input on solving the TCE contamination issue. I am currently married to my second wife and we have a beautiful teenage daughter.

1. Why am I running for Mayor of Camdenton?

I feel that with my time on the city council, having been a city employee, and my experiences in emergency services, I have some unique perspectives that the current mayor may not have.

2. What do I feel is the single most challenging issue Camdenton is facing?

Year round employment. So many present jobs are seasonal. We lost many year round jobs when Sundstrand left and Electovert downsized. We need to try to get other companies to look at locating here to replace those lost year round jobs. In 2015, the Lake of the Ozarks Region Economic Development Council commissioned a study which looked at employment trends in the lake area. Camden County showed to have more people, who lived in the area, was working outside the area compared to the number of people who live AND work in the area. If Eldon can get the Quaker Window company, we need to seek out companies looking for a new place to locate.

3. What is the best part of life in Camdenton?

The people that are here are so friendly, the fun things to do, and the lovely scenery. This area felt like home right after I moved here. The support I received from the community after the death of my first wife and then the death of my oldest daughter made me know that this is where I wanted to be. I haven’t changed my mind over the years I have been here.

4. What do I bring to city government that other candidates do not?

With the exception of the current mayor, I have served several terms on the city council. I have several decades of experience in emergency services (law enforcement, Fire service, and EMS), which requires you to gather facts, evaluate situations, and make decisions. I have worked successfully to obtain state and federal grants to improve local services. I have experience in hiring and supervising employees. I’m the Vice Chairman of the CITCAT board and I’ve been involved in working on the TCE contamination issue and working with Mo DNR in working toward a successful solution. Just like Mr. Keeth, I was a city employee and can understand the issues they have working for the city and understand why they would leave and go elsewhere.

5. Do I believe the current administration handled the COVID pandemic correctly?

Yes and no. I appreciated that we didn’t have a mask mandate in the city and left it to citizens and businesses to decide for themselves. I didn’t agree with closing the park. I could see closing the restrooms and the pavilions, but not the entire park. I remember being told by my doctor when you have a virus, to take Tylenol for fever, drink plenty of fluids, and get fresh air and sunshine. UV light has been a proven method of disinfecting spaces. There is a great source of UV light that comes from our sun and it is very easy to social distance ourselves when we are outside.

6. How do I plan to help new businesses flourish and encourage more industries to develop in the future?

We can try to get the new businesses as much exposure as possible. We can profile them in our city newsletter. We can work in cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce, not only for our new businesses, but for all businesses. Assist our businesses if possible to get grants to help them grow. I can remember during my time I was on the city council, the city did this exact thing for Central Ozarks Medical Center to help them get money to build the building they are in now. We should be constantly looking for opportunities to bring exposure to all of our businesses.

One of the constant issues given as to why new companies didn’t locate here was the lack of good roads in and out of the area. They would say it was too hard to get supplies in and products out. Those issues have been improved with new state roads. There have been improvements in the infrastructure of the area. Internet access has been improved over the years. The runway at the airport has been lengthened to allow use by larger aircraft. We need to try to leverage these improvements to draw more industry here.

Matt Gray

1. Why are you running for Mayor of Camdenton?

I am not happy with the current state of the city or the direction the Mayor has taken over past 8 years. I believe the Mayor is taking the socialist approach to governing our city rather than promoting capitalism (local business success). This is evident through his mindset of expanding the government into private enterprise. The Mayor proposed $4,850,000 community center is a loser for our City in every way. First, it takes much need funds from all areas of the city budget. Second, it will hurt numerous business in the city that will be forced to pay for it, un-American. It will continue to cost taxpayers every month not being able to sustain its enormous cost of upkeep and operation. I will not only be a good steward of the city funds, but I strongly believe in limited Government.

2. What do you feel is the single most challenging issue Camdenton is facing?

The City of Camdenton continues to lose business and growth opportunities to the surrounding cities i.e. Ozark international Raceway in Gravois Mills, Quakers Windows in Eldon, Hobby Lobby and many shopping and dining options to Osage Beach. Our City need revitalization starting in the square and then moving throughout the business district. This will help attract business to the area. When local business are thriving the community also thrives.

3. In your opinion, what is the best part about life in Camdenton?

The citizens are by far the best part of living and working in Camdenton. I currently own and operate Central Fitness and thoroughly enjoy working and interacting with many of them on a daily basis.

4. What do you bring to the city government that other candidates do not?

I am a unique candidate in that I represent not only the citizens but also local business owners and our public service employees in that I have served in all three capacities. For over 10 years, I was a police officer, and for the last 15 years I have been a business owner. I currently own three Central Fitness locations and Jetz Trampoline Park. Finally, in addition to back work experience and background, I have strong servant leadership style that enables me to bring people together to get things accomplished.

5. Do you believe that the current administration handled the COVID pandemic correctly?

I believe the Mayor errored on the side of caution, and I have no complaints about his handling of the pandemic. I know that this is an opportunity to “Monday Morning Quarterback” how the pandemic was handled, but looking back at that period of time no one in the world really knew what we were facing.

6. Camdenton has a number of new businesses coming to town soon, including a brewery, a new VA clinic and more. How do you plan to help these businesses flourish in Camdenton, and how do you plan to encourage more industries to develop in the future?

As a business owner for the past 15 years, I am in the unique position of understanding the steps business owners must take to not only open for business, but also developing into a successful business. (20% of business close within 1 year. 50% close within the first 5 years.)

As Mayor, I would make it a priority to not only talk with potential new business owners to see what we can do to draw them to our city, but I would also work with current business owners to establish a forum for sharing best practices and exchange ideas. I would leverage my knowledge and the knowledge gained from these interactions to review and update current city policies and regulations to ensure Camdenton becomes competitive with other local cities.

Kristopher Keeth

BIO

Hello, my name is Kristopher Keeth and I have been married to my wife Janelle for 2 years and we have been together for 9 years. We have one daughter and recently became foster parents to two boys. I am a third generation Camdenton Resident and graduated from Camdenton High School in 1998. I have been serving the Camdenton and Camden County community since 1995. In 1995 at the age of 15 I joined Mid-County Fire Protection District as a junior firefighter. Over the years I earned my Fire Fighter 1&2 certifications. Getting these certifications gave me the opportunity to go work overseas supporting our troops on a military base. When I returned from working overseas, I completed Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighter (ARFF) in South Carolina to give myself more opportunities in the fire service. I took an opportunity to work at Camden County Sheriff’s Office in 2010 as a corrections officer in the jail. While working in the jail I was given the opportunity to attend Missouri Sheriffs Association Training Academy. In 2012 I completed the course work and past my Missouri post certification test to become a certified Law Enforcement Officer in Missouri. In July 2012 I accepted a job with Camdenton Police Department as a patrol officer. While with Camdenton Police Department I made PO2 and worked as a School Resource Officer for Camdenton Schools as well as working patrol. In 2020 I left Camdenton Police Department and went back to work for Camden County Sheriff’s Office, where I now serve as the Macks Creek Community Resource Officer.

1.Why are you running for Mayor of Camdenton?

I am running for Mayor of Camdenton because as a citizen of the community and former employee I believe change is needed for the City to move forward into the future. I do not believe the City administration has the citizens best interests and safety in mind with a lot of their decisions. I believe common sense, honesty, morals, and ethics needs to be brought back to the position of Mayor. I believe the current Mayor has done what he believes is good for the community but does not listen to the people he represents in his position. I believe he has done some positive things, but I also think he has done some things that could affect the future of Camdenton as whole. Camdenton needs someone in the Mayor position that will listen to the community but not be swayed from outside influence and instead do what is best for our city and community.

2.What do you feel is the single most challenging issue Camdenton is facing?

Growth is the single most challenging issue facing Camdenton. Be it population growth, infrastructure, housing, or jobs. The population growth is coming, and we need the housing, infrastructure, and jobs to support it. This last year has showed that more people are being allowed to work from home and they have chosen the lake area as the place to do that from. It is nearly impossible to find an affordable house to purchase and while we do have rentals around the lake, most rentals have a waiting list. Also, with people coming to the area to work from home they will bring families and will travel the area so infrastructure will need to be expanded to support this, including sidewalks from all four city limits to the square, finishing the community center and not in 5, 10, or 15 more years. As more children come to the area and graduate more jobs will be needed and these things will grow the City’s Budget better than any kind of tax increase.

3.In your opinion, what is the best part about life in Camdenton?

Small town charm with access to most everything you want from a big city within 20 minutes. You can get to the lake and enjoy a day out on or in the water. If you want night life, there are many venues close by. The Amphitheater is just outside of town for concerts or there are several places to go in Osage Beach, Lake Ozark, or even the west side of the lake for family fun during the day. The school, library, city parks are all within walking distance for children, be a little easier for them if they had sidewalks to use. One of my favorite things is a lot of people can walk out their front door and be in town or walk out their back door and enjoy nature. When the Community center gets finished it will give people somewhere to go during the colder months.

4.What do you bring to the city government that other candidates do not?

As a recent former employee and longtime resident, I bring an inside perspective about the daily activities of the City of Camdenton. I believe I will be unbiased and listen to the citizens to make the improvements they want and not the ones I think they need.

5.Do you believe that the current administration handled the COVID pandemic correctly?

I believe the City Park being barricaded was a reach. I do believe the playground equipment should have been blocked of for a short time while equipment was purchased to sanitize it, but the full-on barricading of the Park made a huge safety issue as law enforcement, Ambulance, Fire service had no easy access to the park should something happen. Being able to use the park may have helped people get out and not be cooped up at home bettering the mental health. The Mayor basically banned the police officers from being at the Police Department for more than 15 minutes. Which put the officers in more danger as we had to type our reports in the patrol car. If an officer had to fix someone else’s computer so they could do reports, the Mayor would have the Chief right you up because you were too close to each other. I do not believe the mayor had the right or authority to shut down businesses. I believe he should have made a recommendation as to the possibilities and allowed businesses to make the decision to be open and given the citizens the opportunity to frequent those businesses if they chose.

6.Camdenton has several new businesses coming to town soon, including a brewery, a new VA clinic and more. How do you plan to help these businesses flourish in Camdenton, and how do you plan to encourage more industries to develop in the future?

Make them feel welcome to our City. Promote those businesses along with the ones that are already here. Build infrastructure to support them and frequent them to show the City cares. I plan to show how well we support our current businesses stay alive and flourish and work with those that chose to join our community in the future by compromising without changing our small-town charm.