Kyle Troutman: Productive race ahead (we hope)

After 20 years of the same person holding the position of sheriff, Barry County in August will have its third contested election for the post, to be settled in the Aug. 6 Republican Primary Election.

One of the largest projects I have ever taken on was that 2016 election, where seven individuals — six Republicans and one Democrat — filed to replace Mick Epperly, sheriff since 1996.

The victor, Republican Gary Davis, won the Republican nomination by 65 votes among 6,538, then went on to landslide through the General Election with a count of 10,218 to his Democratic challenger’s 4,195, a 71-29% margin.

Fast-forward four more years to 2020 and results for Davis went the other way. In that three-man race in the Republican Primary, current Sheriff Danny Boyd took the win by 278 votes among 6,809. Davis finished last in that race, and coincidentally, the runner up in the 2016 and 2020 primaries was former Missouri State Highway Patrol Trooper Travis Hilburn.

With election season heating up in 2024, this year’s slate of sheriff candidates number four, again all Republican. In order of filing, they include: Mike McGuire, current Cassville Police Department officer; Randy Kalbaugh, current Stone County deputy; James Morgan, current task force officer with the US Marshals Fugitive Task Force; and Boyd, current sheriff elected in 2020 while a detective at the Cassville Police Department.

Interest in this race has been explosive, so much so that I expect the vote count to easily climb above 7,000 in this Republican Primary. A significant fraction of the interest can be credited to the Citizens For Justice — Barry County group that formed last year to address crime trends. The impact of a group of residents coming together in such fashion, holding community meetings and becoming more educated on local topics of concern, cannot be understated.

However, with more interest has come more division. How have I come to this conclusion? The simple answer is: people love to talk.

I hear from all kinds of residents what their thoughts are so far on this election, and on the outset, it’s not pretty.

In 2016 and 2020, the amount of mud-slinging behind the curtain was minimal. This election does not appear to hold the trend.

That may present a challenge for me, and I hope to make clear how we plan to approach this election as a community newspaper — as accurately and as factually as possible.

I do not intend to entertain any stories from candidates, or their supporters, based on singular accusations.

For example, sign theft or sign vandalism is a topic I have no interest in reporting, other than to say it is a Class Four Election offense and, according to state law, conviction for stealing or vandalizing signs is punishable “by imprisonment of not more than one year or by a fine of not more than two thousand five hundred dollars or by both such imprisonment and fine.

That said, sign theft and vandalism are but a small part of the mud-slinging going on recently.

I don’t care about any of that hardly as much as what I see the eventual winner being able to do while in office.

To that end, I am planning to cover this election much the same way I covered 2016’s. I intend to offer candidates multiple questionnaires with fair, informative questions.

Community watch groups have been a frequent topic of conversation in the last year. What are the candidates’ plans to implement them?

What knowledge of the budget do candidates have? Would they look to keep it consistent to the current line items or make major changes?

What can be done to stop the rise in overdoses in the area due to fentanyl?

If elected, will you run for reelection in four years if the goals you set in this campaign are not met or deemed a failure?

We are workshopping more questions and invite you to be part of the conversation by sending us fair and informative questions to ktroutman@cassville-

As the election gets closer, hopefully mid-July, I also intend to invite the candidates to a forum free to residents to meet, hear and assess candidates for themselves. We also conducted a scientific poll in the 2016 race, which I hope to do again around the same time as the forum.

We have just over three months until the primary, and residents of this county deserve a productive and purposeful race where each voter can make an informed decision on the candidate of their choosing.

That’s the goal toward which I hope to contribute.

Kyle Troutman has served as the editor of the Cassville Democrat since 2014 and became Publisher in 2023. He was named William E. James/Missouri Outstanding Young Journalist for daily newspapers in 2017, and he won a Golden Dozen Award from ISWINE in 2022. He may be reached at 417-847-2610 or ktroutman@cassville-