Bob Mitchell: Democrats in county offices

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Given the one-party political make-up of Barry County, some might not believe there have been some long-term office holders who were elected under the emblem of the Donkey. Not many, it must be admitted, but those who have held office in the courthouse have done so admirably and some long-term as a result of their abilities.


Given the fact that this is the final issue of the Cassville Democrat before next Tuesday's trip to the polls by the citizens of the county, here are the ones that come to my memory, and perhaps a point or two about their service, or the disservice they experienced.

A lady assumed office

Mrs. Edith Cox, of Cassville, was the first that comes to memory. She assumed the office of treasurer at the death of her husband. Her sons were Dorsey and J.D. (Chick), and she had several daughters who served important positions as civilians in Washington, D.C., after the entire family moved there. The boys rose to department heads in the F.B.I.

Early sheriff

Long before my time, Barry County had its first Democratic sheriff in Evan Shore. This was in prohibition days, and his claim to fame was around the number of stills he discovered, brought to Cassville and destroyed at the public square. Shore later served a long career as Cassville mayor, was Roaring River concessionaire and served on the Missouri Park Board.

Later, when I was just a boy, Troy Wilson was elected sheriff of Barry County. His campaign was boosted by his wife Maud, whose accordion pupils often accompanied him on campaign stops providing entertainment. His term didn't end well. Mrs. Wilson frequently performed some of the duties of the office.

In modern times, Ralph Hendrix of Washburn came out of the countryside, gathered all his relatives and acquaintances to win an upset victory. During his two terms, he often received help from Mrs. Hendrix in his office.

Lloyd Dilbeck's terms

The history of Lloyd Dilbeck in Democratic politics is about as long as any might be, as he served in two different offices for the county. His first election, and longest tenure in office, was as county treasurer. During his years in office, he actually became a "thorn in the side of the majority" resulting in the county court (now commission), which was comprised of three Republicans, of retaliating against his constant popularity at the polls by removing the telephone from his office. Public outcry, also from the GOP, resulted in him getting his phone service restored.

Dilbeck returned to the political arena to be later elected presiding judge, standing firm on county sales tax issues until the funding of county government was saved. Another Democrat, Lige Frost, served one term with him, also holding fast on the sales tax issue. Chester Stever also served on the court.

Coon-fox hunter

Indicating the success of Democrats might hinge on their being successful fox or coon hunters might have put Louis Hudson in the office of circuit clerk and recorder of deeds for his number of terms. His service was always in the cramped quarters provided in the old courthouse, before the judicial facilities were constructed.

Dynamic county court

One of what might be called the most dynamic of the past county courts had a pair of Democrats installed. Lester Loftin, auctioneer who came out of the Owens Bend country after Table Rock filled, and Boone Royer of Wheaton, who was active in the Masonic Lodge, serving in many high offices, were very highly respected court members. Theirs might well have been credited with putting the court in service for all, regardless of political thinking.

Court and state rep

Nolan McNeill of Cassville served as presiding judge of the county court and went on to win the state representative race two years later. McNeill never received recognition for his part in obtaining Roaring River projects. Neither did he receive senatorial support for a governor's appointment as commissioner of agriculture for Missouri. His district's senatorial endorsement was necessary before an appearance before the appointment commission. It never came. The one-party system got him.

Cleaned-up absentees

Rex Stumpff was the first Democratic county clerk, serving two terms in the office. He instigated the team absentee voting concept.

Judge John Baty

A governor's appointment brought attorney John Baty from the Kansas City area to fill the term of probate-magistrate judge. There was no GOP lawyer that wanted the position. He won two terms and served until his health failed.

Now, Wayne Hendrix

Holding the position as southern commissioner for a number of years has been Wayne Hendrix of Cassville, the local businessman has been in the post several terms. His opposition this year withdrew from the race about halfway through the campaign, citing business opportunities as his decision not to run. His name will still remain on the ballot, but he has not actively campaigned for the office.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.

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