There are two candidates running for Franklin County presiding commissioner in Tuesday’s general election.
Independent candidate Tim Baker of Robertsville is challenging Republican incumbent John Griesheimer of Washington.
Below is a breakdown of the candidates’ views.
Baker, 44, said communication with the citizens is a huge issue.
“People are just not happy in the fact that nobody’s out and about to see them,” Baker said, adding, “I’m willing to step up and actually be part of a solution, not a problem.”
He said he would be willing to go throughout the county and hold regular night meetings with constituents.
“Why don’t we ask our commissioners now why they aren’t doing that?” Baker said. “Even if you get one or two more people there at a meeting that has never been there before, that’s engaging with the citizens . . .”
The county commission needs to remember that the people come first, he said.
“The flow chart for the county as well as any government is the constituents are on top, and then it’s the elected officials, and somehow we’ve lost that,” Baker said. “And that’s something I’m not going to do.”
His background working for his family’s business, Baker’s Ice, would help in the administrative role of being on the county commission, Baker said.
“I’ve had over 30 years of experience in our family business,” Baker said. “I’ve had 15 years of actually running our family business. I believe that brings me to a different level than what we currently have right now.”
He also worked for his dad’s Standard Oil business and for Wal-Mart.
Through his experience hiring people, he said he can recognize the difference between a person who wants to do a job versus a person who is in it for a paycheck.
“I believe that right now our current commissioners have just that need to have a paycheck and not the fire to do what’s right for the citizens of Franklin County,” Baker asserted.
He also said he thinks it’s time for a new generation to take over the leadership and move the county forward.
“I would bring a new voice to the county,” Baker said. “That has been our slogan through the whole campaign.”
Baker added that he wants the county to thrive so his daughters will stay here.
The county’s more than $49 million in debt is another issue that needs to be addressed, he said. This could be helped by encouraging more county residents to shop locally so those sales tax dollars stay here, Baker said.
He said he would like to work with Chambers of Commerce throughout the county to bring more shopping. For instance, he said it is too easy for people in Pacific and Sullivan to go to neighboring counties to shop.
“How can we get those people to continue to shop in Franklin County?” Baker asked. “That will increase our sales tax dollars, which will help every entity.”
Another issue facing the county is the possibility of consolidating the county’s four 911 dispatch centers into one, he said. Some officials have said consolidation can possibly save tax dollars and improve service.
Baker is a Pacific High School graduate, has an associate’s degree in business from East Central College and a bachelor’s in speech communication from Missouri Southern State College.
Baker served a year and a half on the Franklin County Planning and Zoning Commission. He resigned from the commission, saying he did not think it would be appropriate for him to vote on issues that may come back to him for another vote as a county commissioner if he is elected.
Griesheimer, 62, says there are several challenges facing the county, including the completion of the Bend Road bridge near Pacific and fixing problems with the Brush Creek Sewer District.
But he said the economy is improving, noting that the unemployment rate was around 12 percent when he took office and is about 6 percent now. Part of the improvement in the job outlook can be attributed to the implementation of Enhanced Enterprise Zones, which, he said, he helped create when he served in the state Legislature.
“I feel like we’re moving on a steady course,” Griesheimer said, adding that he wants to keep working with the cities on economic development.
A big goal is to get people working so they can pay sales tax to help the county’s bottom line, he said.
Finding money for pay raises to keep good employees, cutting expenditures and finding new sources of revenue are other goals.
Griesheimer said he would also like to work with the sheriff’s office to find a compromise with the entities the county dispatches for so additional dispatchers can be hired.
And working with the Franklin County Children and Families Community Resource Board to fund a school safety director is another objective, he said. The director would coordinate efforts between school districts and law enforcement agencies to make area schools safer.
Griesheimer said he thinks he’s qualified for the position because of his experience working for the county and his 18 years with the state Legislature.
“I think my legislative experience really makes the difference in this race,” said Griesheimer, who has served in the state House and Senate.
He added, “Franklin County is totally governed by state statute. We can’t do anything unless the law allows us to do it.”
If people don’t know the statutes, then they can “get the county in real big trouble real quick,” he said.
Commissioners Tim Brinker and Mike Schatz are still new and learning the process, Griesheimer said, adding, “It takes at least two years to learn how the county government works.”
The past several years have been tough, Griesheimer said, pointing out the controversial coal ash landfill in Labadie and “critics” who have been outspoken against some of the county’s actions.
Griesheimer called the critics “the enemies of the county,” saying they “try to destroy county government as a whole.”
These citizens continually sue the county, and they are an “impediment to get things done,” Griesheimer added.
Griesheimer said he opened up the commission meetings for more public comments when he took office, but the critics have disrupted the meetings and “ruined it for everybody.”
There are now rules in place for the public to speak at county commission meetings.
Other than having the knowledge and experience, Griesheimer said people know him. People may not agree with him, but he will tell the truth, he added.
“I’ve got a proven track record,” he said. “You’re not buying a pig in poke.”
Griesheimer graduated from St. Clair High School, has a one-year certificate in auto mechanics and a business degree from East Central College.
He worked as an automobile salesman “on and off” for 25 years, he said, adding that this helped him learn to listen to people and compromise.
He got involved in government to give back to the community, serving on the Washington City Council from 1982-1988; first district Franklin County commissioner, 1989-1992; state representative, District 109, 1993-2002; state senator, District 26, 2003-2010; and Franklin County presiding commissioner, 2010-present.