Vernon County Presiding Commissioner and County Clerk candidates answer questions ahead of Tuesday primary

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Editor's Note: A questionnaire was sent to all Vernon County Presiding Commissioner and County Clerk candidates who were running for a contested seat in the upcoming Tuesday, Aug. 2, election.

Nevada Daily Mail reached out to candidates who were running for a contested seat in Vernon County. These two offices are Presiding County Commissioner and County Clerk.

The Vernon County Commission has mainly administrative duties in setting tax levies, appropriating county funds, appointing board members and trustees of special services, accounting for county property, maintaining county bridges, and performing miscellaneous duties not handled by other county officials.

The County Clerk can assist with local voter information, voter registration, accounts payable, payroll, birth and death records, and also serves as clerk to the County Commission.

The Presiding Commissioner candidates include incumbent Joe Hardin and Joe Wilson.

The County Clerk candidates include Sheree Gayman and Adrienne Lee.

Polling locations open at 6 a.m., Tuesday, and are open until 7 p.m.

All candidates running for a contested seat were asked to fill out a questionnaire and return to the Nevada Daily Mail to help voters better know each candidate ahead of the election.

The following listed below are the questions along with their responses:

Vernon County Presiding Commissioner candidates

Joe Hardin

Give us your brief background (occupation, education, family, etc.)

I was born and raised in Vernon County and except for a few years, have lived here my entire life. Following my graduation from Nevada High School in 2001, I attended Central Methodist University where I was obtained degrees in Business Management and Accounting and later obtained a certificate in Human Resource Management. While in college I met my wife Kelly, who is a Kindergarten teacher in Nevada. Following graduation, I took a job in the Kansas City area as a loan officer, quickly moving up to a management position. Kelly and I decided in 2006 that we wanted to begin a family and that Vernon County was the best place, so we moved back to what we both now call home. We have four daughters ages, 14 to 7 who are all active in numerous extra-curricular activities. We are members of LifeWalk church where we enjoy serving as greeters, nursery workers, and help manage our transitional housing program called Second Story. I am a 13-year small business owner and have been Presiding Commissioner for the last 8 years.

Why do you want to be Presiding Commissioner?

I want to remain your Presiding Commissioner for numerous reasons but the main one is because I have a deep passion for this community and want my children to not only grow up here but to choose to stay or come back to Vernon County as they become young adults. Decisions we make now, truly effect the future of this community and I want to do my part to ensure it remains a great place to raise a family. I enjoy meeting and working with people and working through problems to find solutions. We have a lot of things moving in the right direction right now for this community and I want to be a part of the next 4 years where big things will happen if we keep the momentum and working relationships that have been formed over the last 8 years. My campaign moto always has been and always will be, “Running for my Family and yours”

What expertise or experience do you have that would be beneficial to the county government?

My formerly mentioned education, my successful own business experience, and my 8-year experience in this position are an unmeasurable benefit to the Commission office and are used daily. My business management and human resource background are used to help support our elected officials manage their operations and employees and my accounting degree is frequently leaned upon for budget setting, monitoring, and amending. We have had no negative audits over my tenure, and we received an A+ financial rating during both reissuance of county bonds (which reduced county debt payments by over $1,000,000). The other commissioners and I have a very impressive resume of accomplishments over this period and have built lasting partnerships that are not easy to build and are imperative to the success of our community. I am a Christian, a father, a husband, a vernon countyian, and then a republican and I promise to continue to refuse to let political party prevent progress in our county.

What changes would you like to see and be a part of within the county? How would you help facilitate these?

With the ARPA funds that have been allocated to Vernon County I would love to be a part of some of the current identified needs that we have already began working on. As you may or may not know, we now have a full-time economic developer and a funding source that will ensure that program continue for years to come. Development doesn’t happen overnight, but we are quickly moving in the proper direction, and I want to continue to be a part of that progress to see our community grow and improve. I would like to ensure that investments are made into volunteer fire departments, rural sewer and water improvements and have met with many individuals on how we can help. We have plans to invest in broadband internet. We have had several discussions with providers and were recently informed that one large expansion is coming very soon that will provide access to affordable internet to several hundreds of residents and we plan to invest in their efforts. Plans and partnerships are being developed so that Vernon County can invest in similar projects in other under served areas of our community until all residents have access. We want to continue to increase the aid we give our townships. Currently we provide some funding for each township to be used for road surface material, do brush cutting and mowing in road right of ways and purchase, install, and maintain culverts 36 inches and larger. With operation cost increasing and tax revenues staying the same, we have offered to expand our culvert assistance to include down to 24-inch culverts and would like to be a part of ensuring this service carried out.

Joe Wilson

Give us your brief background (occupation, education, family, etc.)

I was raised on a small cattle and pecan farm in the Metz/Horton area, first attending Metz Schools and later graduating from Nevada R-V. At the young age of twenty, I married my high school sweetheart. This coming January, Ronnette and I will celebrate forty years of marriage. We have raised two wonderful children that make their home in the Kansas City area. Ronnette and I both worked full time to pay my tuition through Missouri State University where I received a degree in Marketing & Business.

In my professional career, I have 12 years’ experience in finance and 16 years in sales of commercial insurance. I have continued to operate the family farm and have added to it. In 2000, I and six other local farmers started Missouri Northern Pecan Growers. This business has steadily grown over the past 22 years, I have been the manager since 2016.

Why do you want to be Presiding Commissioner?

I see Presiding Commissioner as a rewarding new challenge and believe I can do better for our county. Elected positions should never be viewed as a career, but as an opportunity to serve. For me this position is an opportunity to return some of the blessings I have received through my life.

We have a lot to be proud of as rural Americans and as Vernon Countians. However, there are many areas where we can do better. We should never settle for ‘getting by’ or ‘that’s the way it has always been.’ I am a team builder and never expect more from others than I am willing to give. I will not settle for getting by and I will never spend the county’s money without applying the same scrutiny as I would my own money. If elected, it is my sincere plan to bring substantial improvements to Vernon County.

What expertise or experience do you have that would be beneficial to the county government?

I’m a business owner, I know how to make payroll and budget funds in good times and in lean times. In my 12 years in finance, I analyzed financial statements, prepared budgets, wrote credit proposals and spent two years in auditing. While with Zurich Insurance, I sold insurance to equipment and heavy truck dealers. Several of my clients had several hundred employees and 20+ locations. They required much more than a specialized policy; it was critical that I assist them with safety training, risk analysis, regulatory compliance, security and claims resolution. These are all skills that apply to running the county. Vernon County was non-renewed this year for adverse claims and losses. I look forward to applying my experience to assist the county in reducing losses and also working with our new agent to make certain our policy offers all the coverages and adequate limits necessary for our unique exposures.

What changes would you like to see and be a part of within the county? How would you help facilitate these?

Many Vernon County bridges have been replaced, but many of the roads leading to those bridges require a 4x4 truck. Many people, including our commissioners, suggest a county road system. This has been discussed for decades and we are no closer today than we were then. I will work cooperatively with our townships and Road & Bridge to identify priorities and appropriate funding to improve our county roads. With new leadership, we can have good roads under the current system.

Vernon County is lacking in applying for and receiving grants. The State of Missouri was awarded $2.7 billion in ARPA funds and is distributing much of that money through grants (moarpa.mo.gov). There has never been a time when so much money has been available to small communities. While serving six years on a water quality board, I gained extensive experience writing and administering both federal and state grants. I want to lead Vernon County in maximizing these opportunities.

Vernon County Clerk candidates

Sheree Gayman

Give us your brief background (occupation, education, family, etc.)

I come from a large family, being one of eight kids. After high school, I put myself through college waiting tables at a locally family-owned restaurant. I graduated in 1996 with honors and a degree in Business Administration.

• 2000 joined the Marriott family as a catering sales assistant; moving to Event Manager within 6 months.

• 2005 I began serving as the Director of Operations for the West Virginia Governor’s Mansion. With pride I served the Governor and First Lady and all the citizens across the state.

• 2011, the Marriott offered me the Senior Catering Sales Executive position. In this roll, I served on many boards and was an active member in the Charleston Area Alliance, Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, to name a few.

• 2014 was the best year, because that is the year I became a mom. Although the adoption through foster care was not final until 2015, Madeline and Mason (twins) were instantly a part of the family.

• 2016 gave us the opportunity to move and join the N/VC Chamber of Commerce as the Executive Director. We have 9 acres and love the life we have made in Vernon County.

Why do you want to be County Clerk?

I have a passion for helping people, public service and bettering my community. I feel I have the experience and qualifications to be successful as your County Clerk. There is a Christian song by Casting Crowns that has the lyrics “It’s time for us to more than just survive, we were made to thrive.” I want to see Vernon County not just succeed or survive, I want to see us thrive. I want to take part in making our county a place that my kiddos and others want to raise their kiddos!

What expertise or experience do you have that would be beneficial to the county government, this role in particular?

In my current position as the Executive Director of your Chamber of Commerce, I have established a working relationship with areas businesses, city and county officials, and Vernon County residents. I have not just been a part of budget meetings…I have worked and managed budgets from $90k to $4.5 million. I can bring the same generous, friendly and hospitable treatment of others from the Chamber to the County Clerk’s Office.

What changes would you like to see and be a part of within the county / this office? How would you help facilitate these?

I feel that growth and improvement are important in any position or office, elected or not. I would like the opportunity to look deeper into the concerns and questions of our citizens. During campaigning I have had several people ask me specific questions about polling locations, mail-in ballot process, and voting accessibility for everyone. I want our citizens to feel that the County Clerk’s office will hear, welcome and respond to their questions and concerns in a timely fashion.

Adrienne Lee

Give us your brief background (occupation, education, family, etc.)

I grew up in Iowa with my sister and parents, Bob and Monica Henderson. My parents are both retired law enforcement. I came to Nevada in August of 2000 to attend Cottey College. While at Cottey, I met my husband, Justin. I decided to stay in Nevada and attended cosmetology school. I was self-employed as a Cosmetologist for 18 years, seven of which I owned my own salon here in Nevada. I decided to take a position in the County Clerks as the Elections clerk and sold my business in early 2021. My husband and I have been married for 15 years and we have two children as well as two dogs.

Why do you want to be County Clerk?

I have enjoyed my time in the County Clerks office as the Elections clerk. Mike Buehler has taught me so much in my time here. I am sad he is leaving as he has been a fantastic mentor and I would like to continue the improvements and transparency he has brought to the office.

What expertise or experience do you have that would be beneficial to the county government, this role in particular?

I feel this office is one that is hard to just walk into. There are so many things that run though the office and having worked in the County Clerk’s office I have experience with all we do and the deadlines we need to meet. Being a business owner, I understand the importance of budgets and customer service. I am a detail-oriented person, and it is important to pay attention to detail in the Clerk’s office.

What changes would you like to see and be a part of within the county / this office? How would you help facilitate these?

If elected, I would like to keep up with the improvements we are making to the elections process. Vernon County has secure elections, but there is always room for improvement and keeping up with the new laws is extremely important. We recently received $12,166.57 for our elections from the Help America Vote Act Fund (HAVA). We plan to use the money for new voting booths at many of our polling locations. There are many things I have noticed that could be more user friendly for our election workers and I feel it is important to help them as they are extremely important to us.

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