By James R. Campbell
Nevada Daily Mail
What Vernon County's public administrator does is mystery to most voters that Democratic incumbent Tammy Bond and Republican nominee Clay Lyons Jr. are doing their best to explain.
The one who wins the Nov. 6 election will be designated guardian or conservator of the estates of 105 people with debilitating mental illnesses or developmental limitations, elderly people who have no relatives to help them make decisions, minors with estates that must be managed by someone other than a parent and incapacitated people involved in disputes.
Noting that only 23 of her wards, or clients, are over 65 years old, Bond said, "A lot of people don't understand all the things that go into the public administrator's office, so I'm letting them know about my passion for the job and why I feel like it's my calling."
Having defeated fellow Democrats Judy Stark, Arch Forkner and Kevin Williams when Virginia Habjan retired four years ago after 20 years in the post, Bond said all her audits by the county, state and Social Security Administration have been clean. "I manage the rent, cable TV, electricity and medical and dental appointments," she said.
"I keep them in the least restrictive environment. If they can stay in their homes and be safe, then I keep them in their homes. Social Security makes sure you're being a good shopper when you go around and price items and that you get the best value for the client's money.
"I also handle SSI disability and veterans' benefits, railroad retirements and even some personal income at the clients' homes, care facilities and independent supported living homes in Nevada, El Dorado Springs, Bolivar, Joplin and Spring-field."
Bond keeps looking after the affairs of the disabled when they go to other counties to avoid new guardianship proceedings, she explained. Many of those in ISLs are former Nevada Habilitation Center residents.
Bond graduated from Metz High School in 1977 and worked 22 years at Thornton National Bank, now the Bank of America, as a loan officer and assistant cashier and spent nine years at Bowman's Vernon County Title Co.
Her late father, Jim Bob Handly, had a cerebral hemorrhage when she was 2 years old and he lived until 1981. "I just grew up that way," she said.
"When Virginia retired, it took awhile for the clients to become trusting of me because I was somebody new in their lives. I hope they don't have to go through that again. This is a very personal job and I have worked hard to build strong, therapeutic relationships with all my clients.
"I have worked nights, weekends and been on call 24/7 so they know they can count on me. I have also worked closely beside numerous doctors, lawyers, bankers and family members. All this has not been easy and I have had to make some difficult decisions, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I am a born caregiver."
Bond and her husband Eddy have two sons and two grandsons. Her late mother's name was Mary.
Lyons, 62, is a Navy Vietnam veteran and retired U.S. Postal Service employee who has run his own business, Community TV, in Rich Hill for 35 years. He and his wife Priscilla live in the Four Rivers area of Vernon County southeast of Rich Hill. They have two children and seven grandchildren.
Lyons, too, has a lifelong history of service to "the less fortunate who are overlooked by everybody," he says, noting that he has a music ministry as a pianist who plays while his grandkids sing at nursing homes in Vernon and Bates counties.
"Beginning at age 12, I assisted the elderly and blind, doing bookkeeping, errands and yard care," said Lyons, who took a degree in electronics at Central Technical Institute, now DeVry University, in Kansas City and was a radarman with a security clearance in Vietnam in 1971-'73.
"I realized that the public administrator's job fits with what I normally do, helping people who aren't able to help themselves. It's an opportunity to do what I have done all my life."
Lyons' administrative experience includes postmaster's relief duty while working part-time for 30 years at the Rich Hill Post Office and as a 2010 Census Bureau field operations specialist in charge of eight crew leaders and 120 enumerators in five counties.
"At the post office, I enjoyed interaction with the public, handling questions and complaints on the phone, in the office and on mail routes," he says in campaign literature.
"My work also included payroll processing, supervising other workers, scheduling, transferring records and ordering supplies. Accuracy and discretion were very important and I handled large sums of money."
Lyons has also been a trustee of the Osage River Baptist Association and chairman of the Vernon County Republican Party, "encouraging other volunteers to work for conservative values to better our community and nation and to be a defender of life for all, including the unborn and the elderly," he said.
"Guardianship/conservatorship can be overwhelming for relatives. Sometimes the public administrator is appointed in cases where physical or financial abuse has occurred from family members. The elderly person may have outlived any relatives or the family members themselves may be elderly and unable to serve. A common appointment is for wards with mental illnesses.
"In some situations, family members may have already been involved in trying to help their loved one and it became too difficult. Sometimes a public administrator will handle the estate of a deceased person, appointed to serve as personal representative in situations where there is no will and no heir available or suitable to serve.
"More often than not, these estates end up being settled by the public administrator because family members cannot agree on which one is to serve or in which one of them has been accused by the others of taking some of the estate's assets.
"Sometimes the probate court appoints the public administrator to be a conservator for a minor. This might happen if the parents have been killed."
Lyons cited Proverbs 31:8-9 as his motivation: "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor."