Election Preview: Mayor of Lake Ozark

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 Lake Ozark will discuss their talking points and vision for the city.   Below are the responses from candidates Gerry Murawski (incumbent), John Franzeskos and Dennis Newberry.

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

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Gerry Murawski

Gerry Murawski

1. What can you bring to city government that your opponent cannot?

RESULTS. I bring high-energy, strong positivity, knowledge and understanding of business, the ability to build a team, and my ability to focus on a vision of the city’s future. That vision includes updated infrastructure to allow existing and new businesses to thrive and the creation of new industry, additional housing that allows our workers to live in our city and expanding our water and sewer to service additional residents.

2. There is general consensus that the City of Lake Ozark needs to improve its streets. Do you think using Transportation Development District (TDD) revenue is the best way to pay for improvements?

The 10 person citizen street advisory committee comprised of business owners and residents worked to understand the problem and determine possible solutions. 1. The city should be allowed to borrow up to $6,000,000. 2. The Internet Tax earmarked for roads should be passed. Needed to pay for bonds. 3.  Lastly, the Bagnell Blvd TDD should move forward. On June 2, 2020 the voters passed the first two actions. The TDD should come to vote in August. When passed will provide money from sales tax to repair and maintain Bagnell Dam Blvd. This has an estimated cost of $3 million or half of the total. A petition was circulated and signed by the affected businesses supporting this approach. The TDD commission will be separate from the city government.

3. Do you think the City of Lake Ozark should endorse the development of an industrial park as has been proposed?

A study conducted by the Lake Ozark Regional Economic Development Council in 2018 made the following findings.   -  City of Lake Ozark had no available area for industrial development.   -  The hilly terrain along with it being mostly rock would prohibit development.   -  Creation of needed year around employment opportunities.   -  The City needed to diversify. Remember, 2006-2008 tourism collapsed.   -  Tourism should not be our only source of revenue. This proposed industrial park is a private development that is leveling about 300 acres at no cost to the city, and pay the city sales tax on the rock they sell. This would be a perfect location for an online distribution facility, as an example.

4. What can be done to encourage development (commercial and retail) within the city limits?

My mission as Mayor is to focus on economic development. I am currently working with many developers. Plans totaling in excess of $350 million are being discussed. Areas with focus are the old quarry adjacent to Osage National on Highway 54, our highway 242, the land at Bagnell Damm Blvd and Horseshoe Bend Parkway, Eagles Landing, and the Strip itself. All of these were put on pandemic hold last year. The city makes about 70% of its money on retail and we will continue this focus. We also need hotels and family friendly attractions, like water slides. In addition, the need for workforce housing is critical. Economic Development is inclusive of a myriad of needs and they must all come together to get the job done. Businesses need workers. Workers need housing.

5. Do you think the current administration handled the COVID-19 crisis appropriately?

Yes! We followed the lead of our Governor and our county health departments. Our businesses closed voluntarily in March and April to “flatten the curve”. When they opened, the City coordinated with the health departments to responsibly conduct business. We strongly recommended personal responsibility. We listened to our people, stayed informed, involved and stayed open. Today we are second in states with low positivity rate. We made the correct decision and our people enjoyed the freedom.

6. What is your position on the Lake Ozark term limit question on the ballot?  

I can agree with yes or no. On one hand, it is hard to find people to get involved in city government. The pay for elected officials is $250 per month for alderman and double that for mayor. So we don’t do it for the money. It takes an alderman at least two years to understand how the city works. If we have a good one it would easier to retain with less campaigning. On the other hand, an open alderman position could be filled without a vote choice. That is, only one person decides to run. That person may have their own agenda and not care about the city as a whole. Two years survivable. Four years not so much. For the mayor it should be different. Most mayors have worked in the city, perhaps as alderman and has been vetted. If the mayor is working very hard it is a challenge to take the time to campaign every two years. This was set years ago when a part-time mayor was expected to run the meetings and be in a parade. Today, our citizens expect much more. It is a full-time job promoting, working with developers, and being a true leader.

John Franzeskos

John Franzeskos

INTRODUCTION

As a lifelong resident of Missouri, I believe in traditional family values, personal responsibility and self discipline.  The citizens of Lake Ozark deserve to have a strong independent voice of integrity. My wife Courtney and I have been together for 40 yrs. I have served the public for over 50 yrs,. I am an Air Force Veteran, retiring as a Captain on the KCFD after 32 ½ yrs., one yr as Alderman, and 12 yrs as Mayor for the City of Lake Ozark. If elected I will continue to work hard to properly represent the people of the City of Lake Ozark.  

1. What can you bring to city government that your opponent cannot?

I have 12 yrs of experience being Mayor of the City of Lake Ozark, that I actually got things done. Financial stability, work force housing and senior housing off Fish Haven Rd., storm sirens, State Route 242 completion, Eagles Landing, improved sewer and water systems, new businesses on the strip, a new early childhood center, 12 million dollars in new construction in 2018 alone, new City Hall and Police station, new public works bldg. I haven’t seen anything new the last two yrs.

2. There is general consensus that the City of Lake Ozark needs to improve its streets. Do you think using Transportation Development District (TDD) revenue is the best way to pay for improvements?

Yes the streets need to be fixed. That is something I started working on while I was Mayor. The street study was started on my watch. It has yet to be completed by the current administration. That is one thing I will work tirelessly on when If elected. The TDD is for Bagnell Dam strip only. The City passed a resolution to support the TDD. They have no say so as to how and what the money is used for. The TDD has it own board and they can decide to do what ever they want with the money. It doesn’t necessarily mean the money will go for the Bagnell Dam strip. It could go for transportation related items, or whatever else they want to use it for.  

3. Do you think the City of Lake Ozark should endorse the development of an industrial park as has been proposed?

There again an industrial park where the new quarry is will take yrs to develop. While I fully support economic development I think we would best be served to develop businesses and an industrial park along 242. That was the original plan to develop 242.  

4. What can be done to encourage development (commercial and retail) within the city limits?

We have to continue working with developers so that they would want to bring businesses and attractions throughout the city, also kid friendly attractions. Not having kid friendly attractions on the strip seems to be the biggest complaint of the citizens and tourists that come to our City. Its our responsibility as elected officials to listen and find solutions to make our City better.

5. Do you think the current administration handled the COVID-19 crisis appropriately?

I think the present Mayor got lucky. He said we had thousands of visitors that came to the city for entertainment, etc. Luckily we didn’t have hundreds of cases of the Covid here. But you have to remember the tourists went home so we have no way of knowing how bad it spread after they left here. I think as small a community the businesses had the right to require masks or not. We should all say a prayer that we were blessed here. As a Mayor it also depends on the situation. Social distancing is really important and still is, get your shots and wear a mask as appropriate to protect you and others.

6. What is your position on the Lake Ozark term limit question on the ballot?  

I am totally against it. if you don’t think your elected official is representing the citizens of the City you have to wait for 4 more yrs. before you can elect someone else.  We have been doing two yr terms for many years and it is working just fine.

Dennis Newberry

Dennis Newberry (Write-in)

1. What can you bring to city government that your opponent cannot?

New ideas and enthusiasm! I will be researching and studying the different avenues we can employ that will create a strong city government, a strong business community and improve our INFRASTRUCTURE. I am motivated to become Mayor for several reasons: We have a current mayor that has admitted to prostitution with a 16 year old according to a Missouri State Hwy Patrol report dated 7/19/2019 with an incident #190414697. There are many other nefarious allegations in the same report that give our community a bad image. The admittance of prostitution is an unlawful act, as a community we should expect more from our leaders. Perception is Reality for many people. My personal disdain for this caused me to enter this race. Separate from that I know this city well and I have built my businesses here. I have a keen knowledge of this side and I will always keep it in the forefront for all our businesses here. 

2. There is general consensus that the City of Lake Ozark needs to improve its streets. Do you think using Transportation Development District (TDD) revenue is the best way to pay for improvements?

I am in favor of the TDD. Here's a very brief assessment on the activity: The current TDD activity that is in place led by Community advocates and the business community advocates to improve the roads is already in the works. The city can help by petitioning the courts to allow the business districts to set up boundaries and a board to manage it. The funds can only be used to benefit the districts to set up the boundaries. The city is not going to be making any decisions on how the TDD money will be spent. Once the court approves the boundaries,the people living in the TDD boundaries will vote on it. I will help to get the court petitioned. We have to improve our streets, Bagnell Dam Boulevard is one of the most traveled roads in our lake area and it's current condition is one of the worst. The Boulevard is not alone either so an emphasis has to be put on road improvement. Those of you that know me will agree, I'll be in Jefferson City digging and digging and when needed I will extend my research to Washington to find help. This will get done. It's something we need that will help us attract growth.

3. Do you think the City of Lake Ozark should endorse the development of an industrial park as has been proposed?

I’m all for growth and accomplishments but I will not approach this on a “Build It And They Will Come” basis. We will have the right organizations and commitments before we spend one dime. I also want to say a top priority of mine would be to add much needed parking to the Bagnell Dam Strip. I’m not talking a few parking spaces, I have ideas that would significantly increase public access to more than just one area of the Strip. These ideas will not cost millions of dollars and can be implemented in my first term as Mayor should the community get behind them. Know that I was raised on a farm in Rolla, MO as a youth my sister and I woke before daylight and did our chores before going to school. Ive lead my entire life with this type of discipline. It’s the same discipline I will provide you as Mayor.

4. What can be done to encourage development (commercial and retail) within the city limits?

I will implement my existing plans that includes making contact after contact. The time for this is ripe. I work every day with real estate investors, families buying property here and people selling commercial and residential properties and land. This is my world. My plans include creating the environment for business to come here. Direct Information and direct communications with business leaders can and does create results. Once they understand their benefits to move to our community, we have a wonderful chance to do some good but not until we do the work needed so they understand their gain. I always like  “Win“-Win results. Keep in mind as Mayor of Lake Ozark my role is an extension of what I already do on a daily basis which is “sell our community”.

5. Do you think the current administration handled the COVID-19 crisis appropriately?

To be fair, this is a yes and a no answer. Protecting our economy and business was important for everyone but we must also have an emphasis on health.  Once Governor Parson announced his plan I completely understood and agreed with his steps. As they say, the proof is in the pudding, Governor Parson delivered one of the best results in the nation. That brief lockdown was good as it allowed all of us to understand the gravity of the pandemic. A shock at first, it at least allowed us all the time to reflect on just how quickly our lives had to adjust. By reopening quickly our image suffered as National media created a story of the Lake Ozark Mayor being the most “irresponsible Mayor” in the US. The facts are I would not have supported any further business shutdowns than what happened, however I feel I could have done it in a more sensitive and professional manner so as not to be labeled in a negative way.

6. What is your position on the Lake Ozark term limit question on the ballot?  

I oppose extending term limits. I always thought power, once obtained by some people is difficult to give up so term limits help eliminate that. I am not a politician and I don't aspire to be a politician. I recently read the reason given for term limits is because it takes 2 years to become good at the job. I do not agree. I do agree it takes time but I don't think it’s really all that complex. The people that work at it, ask Questions, make a PLAN, Seek Honest HELP, LISTEN and accept good ideas make for good leaders. If elected Mayor and as my term expires whether it be 1 term or many I see it as my responsibility to groom my replacement as an integral part of the job. The decisions I will be making will only come after I learn the right information and it will not take me 2 years to be good at the job. Also, I am going to decline the Mayors salary and make sure that money gets put toward our police officers salaries. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to reply to your questions, Lake Ozark residents If you elect me as your Mayor I will be working for YOU.