Local News

Ozark County’s fifth case of COVID-19 was reported shortly after noon Tuesday, July 28. In a post  on her personal Facebook page, Ozark County Health Department administrator Rhonda Suter, said the person does not work in Ozark County and has not been out in the community. The fourth case of the...

LAYNE NANCE Personal: I’m a lifetime resident of Ozark County, the son of the late Brandt and Nola Sue Nance. My fiancee is Tammie Loftis. I’m an avid fisherman, and I especially love to get youth involved in fishing. Employment: I’ve been employed for 7 1/2 years as a grader operator with the Ozark County Road and Bridge Department. Previously, I worked at Bryant Plastics for 20 years in trucking, freight and truck maintenance. Education: I’m a graduate of Gainesville High school. Biggest challenges, new ideas: The biggest challenge as commissioner will be keeping the roads in the best shape while staying within the budget and working around the weather. As commissioner, I will work with the Road and Bridge crew and help out during weather-related incidents.  How will you keep roads in good repair and citizens happy? I will be checking trouble spots, determining which roads need focus and attention. I want to be available to the people so I can help come up with solutions for any problems they may encounter. If elected, that is the job I will do. I will work for the people. What distinguishes you from your opponents? My years of experience working with the Road and Bridge Department sets me apart from my opponents, along with my many years’ experience with trucking and trucking equipment. I am experienced in maintaining and purchasing parts for all types of equipment, and I also have experience in managing a small business and budgeting. Goal you hope to accomplish? My goal will be to keep the roads in the best shape possible with the budget we have. I will also work closely with the other departments to help with anything I can do to help the county. I will do my best to always help bring in business for the county and new opportunities for our youth. I will always have the county’s best interests at heart. 

GARY LEE COLLINS Personal information: My wife, Nancy, and I (celebrating 48 years in August) operate a farm in Dora where I’ve lived most of my life. Our daughters, Renee and Lindsay, live nearby. We attend Needmore Church of God. Employment: I am the current Eastern District Commissioner. I have served our county for 26 years, including four years as presiding commissioner. With the presiding and western commissioners, I am responsible for building and maintaining the county budget. I also supervise 10-11 Road and Bridge Department employees, monitor upkeep on graders, trucks and equipment, maintain funds to keep our recycling center open, and serve on several advisory boards that support the county.  Education: I am a Dora High School graduate and have 520 hours of required training through the Missouri Association of Counties with additional training provided at annual conferences.  Biggest challenges, new ideas: Our biggest challenges are budget funds, FEMA paperwork and keeping our recycling center open. We have been fortunate to receive FEMA funds after numerous weather-related disaster declarations in recent years, but applying for those funds and working with FEMA is challenging and time-consuming. I have worked diligently to keep our recycling center open. The good Lord has helped us through difficult times; I couldn’t do anything without Him.  How will you keep roads in good shape and citizens happy? I am very thankful to have a dedicated Road and Bridge crew that takes great pride in their work. Whether it’s a holiday, the middle of the night, or in pouring rain, they are always there to help keep our county roads passable. They do their best to keep up with grading routes, hauling gravel, repairing roads and managing maintenance. We continue to improve and build up county roads by hauling in extra base rock. It’s impossible to please everyone, but I have an open-door policy and always listen to citizens’ comments and concerns. Even when we differ, we can work together to accomplish good things for the county.  What distinguishes you from your opponent? I have 26 years of experience working in county government in addition to a lifetime of operating a family farm. I know how to build roads, write and maintain a budget, purchase equipment and parts, and employ a dedicated crew. I know how to protect the tax dollars that fund our county’s general revenue and Road and Bridge budgets. Serving God first, I do this job as I live my life: with respect, morals and integrity. I try to treat people as I want to be treated, honestly and fairly. Goal you hope to accomplish? Without changing the natural beauty and values of our way of life, if re-elected, I will continue to seek any available opportunities that help businesses grow and move into Ozark County so we will be even more appealing to our younger generations to keep our workforce here. 

CURTIS DOBBS Personal information: I grew up on a small farm between West Plains and Dora. My wife, Shelia, and I have been married 34 years; I’m a father and grandfather. We built our home in Pontiac. I’m a pro-life Christian and a Constitutional Conservative Republican. Employment and experience: I joined the Ozark County Sheriff’s Office six years ago as a deputy. Currently, I’m a corporal with duties ranging from patrol and shift supervisor to crime scene investigator. I’m also a Missouri state certified fire investigator. I have five additional years of law enforcement experience as a full-time and part-time patrol officer with West Plains Police, Howell County Sheriff and Mountain View Police. Education: I’m a graduate of West Plains High School, MU law enforcement training and the Missouri Sheriff’s Academy with MSU.   What is one thing you would like to change in the department? I want to ensure our deputies understand our U.S. and Missouri Constitutions. With the current turmoil and states’ rights being questioned, our staff needs to understand the importance of citizens’ rights and how to protect them. What is the biggest challenge you see in this position? With some portraying our office, and law enforcement generally, in a negative light, it’s been a new challenge to keep OCSO staff from being affected by it. OCSO team members aren’t perfect, but they put their lives on the line every day for their community. Letting them know we appreciate and believe in them is vital.  What distinguishes you from your opponent? I’m an experienced, full-time deputy for Ozark County. Working here is how a sheriff gets familiar with his community, his staff and the problems we face. It’s equally important for a sheriff to be a “hands-on,” experienced Crime Scene Investigator who can teach what to do and what not to do when working serious cases in preparation for years of court proceedings.  Given the department’s limited staff and resources, how will you provide a county-wide presence and timely response? A deputy working even the simplest case may spend half his shift on a single arrest and writing reports at the office. It’s not a proactive or reactive issue; a good department like ours is both. It’s a technical issue. I will be outfitting our vehicles with computer systems that sync with our current system, providing access to information currently available only through the office. This will allow a deputy to make an arrest and do the basic processing then work on his reports and more while away from the office. He will also get GPS coordinates to calls to reduce response time.

TRAVIS SMITH Personal information: I was born and raised in Southern Missouri. My wife and I now live in Douglas County on land my father purchased over 40 years ago. We have four grown children and one new grandson. I’ve been a small business owner and a real estate developer for over 30 years. I’ve also coached high school football and track for the last 17 years.  I am a Christian and a conservative Republican who will always fight for the unborn, disabled and elderly. I will always protect property and privacy rights. I am committed to always being accessible. Experience and education: I have a B.A. from Mizzou and an MBA from William Woods. I have served on many civic and community boards, including the Ozarks Medical Center board.  Thoughts about legislation that replaces local control with state control on issues related to such things as concentrated animal feeding operations and when school districts can start their year: I am a firm believer in local control. Not giving that control to county commissioners was a huge mistake in regard to CAFOs. Most land south of the Missouri River is geological karst, underlain with limestone, so a CAFO here would easily allow animal waste to enter our water supply. Schools should also have local control. What is good for some areas isn’t necessarily good in others.  What new ideas do you have for bringing new jobs to this area, especially Ozark County? As an Ozarks Medical Center board member, I supported the hospital’s current expansion, which now needs a bigger staff. We are currently recruiting employees from Ozark County. Agriculture is important to Ozark County’s economy. People move here because of economical land prices, but many have no land-management experience, and soon their land becomes overgrown with invasive vegetation. What I call “cowboy consultants” may show new landowners how to manage their property or, better yet, provide services such as brush hogging, bulldozing, fertilizing, livestock management, etc. People from urban areas are used to paying a good price for services.  What new goal or project do you hope to accomplish? Some people in Ozark County have to commute an hour or more to jobs they could do at home with proper internet. During the COVID shutdown, many students had to pick up hard copies of schoolwork due to lack of internet at home. Medicine is becoming telemedicine. Everything has changed due to COVID, and high-speed internet is imperative if communities want to move forward. Federal and state grants are available, but a representative and local leadership are needed to get those grants.  What distinguishes you from your opponent? I really want this job. I’ve put over 35,000 miles on my truck traveling the 1,900 square miles of the 155th District. I’ve gone to all the candidate forums and talked with those in county and city government and everywhere else because all opinions in this district are important to me. I look for what I can do for people, and I respectfully ask voters to consider who they have seen working hard to earn their vote. 

VAN KELLY Personal information: I was born in Mountain Grove and raised with four brothers on a beef and dairy farm in Douglas County. My parents instilled in me strong Christian morals and an appreciation for hard work. I’m the music director at Liberty Faith, where my family has attended for years, and I serve as director for Camp Joy Bible Youth Group.  Experience and education: After graduating from Norwood High School and attending Drury University, I graduated from the Springfield Police Academy and spent 16 years in Douglas County law enforcement, serving in communications, as a jailer, deputy and bailiff for the courts. I served in the Missouri House 2000-2008 representing the 144th District (Wright, Douglas and eastern Ozark counties). During that time, I was a member of Missouri State University Chancellor’s Advisory Board for West Plains and president of Wright County’s Association of Republicans Getting Everyone Together. I am a 20-plus year member of the Missouri Farm Bureau. After eight years as a state representative, I turned a passion for wood carving into a small business. Today, I see the good people of this district suffering from the lack of family-supporting jobs and a government that thinks removing freedoms and taxing paychecks is the answer. Government has become the problem. That’s why I’m running for Missouri Senate.  Thoughts about legislation that replaces local control with state control on issues related to such things as concentrated animal feeding operations and when school districts can start their year: Local farmers and educators better understand local needs. To have the state work against establishing higher standards makes no sense if it better serves the community. If I feel state legislation is more beneficial, I will meet with the citizens, make my case and work to achieve an agreeable result. We represent the people. They must be included in the process. Ideas for bringing new jobs to this area, especially Ozark County? We must support existing small businesses, encourage local entrepreneurs and drive a stable local economy. Small business owners are hurting due to COVID. We must stabilize those first and demonstrate that this area supports local business and affords the freedom to pursue your dreams. What new goal or project do you hope to accomplish? On my first day in office, I will introduce legislation to repeal Missouri’s state income tax – because government needs to keep its hands off our paychecks. If it works for Texas, Florida and Tennessee, it will work for Missouri. What distinguishes you from your opponents? There is agreement when it comes to issues such as supporting the Second Amendment, supporting the rule of law and being pro-life. My distinguishing focus is on eliminating Missouri’s state income tax and improving rural broadband access, which is essential to families and small businesses, especially now, with many being home-schooled and working from home. 

Election judge Sue Orf heads into the new polling place where Bayou Precinct voters will cast their votes in the Aug. 4 primary election. After using the Bakersfield Masonic Hall as a polling site for years, the Bayou Precinct will move to the FEMA shelter building at the Bakersfield School. Bakersfield superintendent Amy Britt said voters who need handicap access may park in the marked spaces on the southwest side of the FEMA building and enter the door nearest the gym entrance. Another access with steps on the FEMA building’s north side adjoins the gravel parking lot.
This week the Times is publishing “profiles” of 12 candidates running in five of the six locally contested races Ozark Countians will vote on in the Aug. 4 primary election. In next week’s Times, we plan to publish profiles of the three candidates running for Ozark County assessor. All candidates...
  As summer begins to wind down, many parents are wondering what the new year will look like for students amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Lutie is the first of Ozark County’s five school districts to release its pandemic-responsive plans for the upcoming school year. The following guidelines were...

Tecumseh resident Robin Mustion grew up making wonderful memories helping tend and harvest large gardens that her grandparents, parents and other family members grew over the years. She’s carried the torch to develop her own gardens. Mustion said she’s tried a variety of planting methods, but her straw bale garden this year has been exceptionally successful. She says the humble planting medium is perfect for those looking for easy tending, and the bales elevate the plants a few feet off the ground, making them easily accessible to gardeners who may struggle to squat, hoe, till and bend. “You can do it from a chair!” she says.
Editor’s note: Square bale gardeners use a 10- to 12-day “conditioning process” to apply high-nitrogen fertilizer to straw bales, which helps decompose the interior of the bale, creating a rich planting compost medium. Details about the best type of fertilizer  and conditioning schedule to use are...
Ozark County Health Department administrator Rhonda Suter said Monday that a third case of the COVID-19 virus has been confirmed here. The person is quarantined, and close contacts have been notified, Suter said, adding that the individual had visited two Gainesville businesses during the week...

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