County politicians weighing options for 2018 filings

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

3 ‘unofficially’ considering run for presiding commissioner

The primary election for county offices is little more than a year away, but the thought of candidacy has begun circulating among principals considering a run for office.

One contest sure to generate significant interest is the race for Barry County presiding commissioner, where Cherry Warren is a six-term incumbent. Warren hung on to a 141-vote margin to edge out a win in the August 2014 Republican primary in a three-way race.

Warren, now 78 and long considered the leader of the Republican Party in Barry County, said he hasn’t decided if he will run again. He doesn’t plan to make that decision until next spring.

In the meantime, six-term county clerk Gary Youngblood has undertaken a word-of-mouth effort, exploring his chances at running for presiding commissioner. Youngblood said it’s too early to make an official announcement, but he is considering declaring his bid by year’s end.

“Cherry knows my plans,” Youngblood said. “Cherry hasn’t announced his plans, and I don’t want to step on his toes. You have to make plans if you’re going to try.”

Youngblood, who hasn’t had an opponent since 2006, has been one of the most popular elected officials in the county. He has, nonetheless, been in the middle of potentially controversial financing decisions by helping to prepare the county budget each year.

“I’ve always had the idea that you can’t make everybody happy, but you can try,” Youngblood said.

The current political climate has also contributed to Youngblood’s decision to withhold his announcement.

“People are kind of sick of politics,” he said. “It’s like rubbing salt in wounds.”

Warren’s decision will also play a part in whether businessman and contractor John Hendricks chooses to run. Hendricks, 59, former owner of the Luck “E” Strike fishing lure company and a prolific contractor, sold the Jerseys restaurant last year and presently works as a consultant for the Marck Enterprises recycling firm in Cassville.

“I would be in a position to work on the government level, federal, state or local, to bring more jobs to the county,” Hendricks said. “I’ve seen over the past few years, especially in the south part of the county, we’ve been losing manufacturing jobs.

“I was Exporter of the Year in 1992. I’ve stayed up with government regulations. I feel like I’m up on what is out there, what’s coming and how to help the county.”

Hendricks praised the way the county commission has done its work, and hoped to continue in the same manner. He also had ideas on how to expand community involvement to help law enforcement.

“If Mr. Warren decides he’s going to run, I’d have a meeting with him, explain why I think he should step down, and make my decision from there,” Hendricks said.

County Collector Janice Varner, who has served in her position since 2002, has also not ruled out a run for presiding commissioner, but will also wait for Warren to make his decision.

“I will not run against Cherry Warren,” Varner said. “I have been approached [to run] by several people.”

Varner has not had an opponent since her initial election, emerging out of a bruising three-way primary. At 71, Varner has not tired of campaigning and was one the first party regulars seen wearing a Trump T-shirt in the 2016 presidential season.

“I like politics, and I love serving the people in Barry County,” she said. “There’s not a better bunch of people anywhere.”

Also up in 2018 will be the offices of county prosecutor, clerk, circuit court clerk, treasurer and collector. Except for prosecutor, won by Amy Boxx of Monett in a three-way race in 2014, none of those positions have changed since 2002.

“I plan to run [again for treasurer],” said Lois Lowe, who has served as county treasurer since 1995.

Lowe, who is 80, said she will continue in office as long as the public will elect her.

“I’ve been blessed with good health,” Lowe said. “I enjoy keeping busy. I’d like to think experience amounts to something. I’ll do my very best for the people of the county, and those moving into the county.”

Filings for the August 2018 primary run Feb. 27 to March 27.

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