General Municipal Election is Tuesday for school boards, municipal boards, use tax

Voters in Ozark County will take to the polls next Tuesday, April 2, for the General Municipal Election, where ballots will offer contested races for Bakersfield and Gainesville School Boards, a county “use tax” measure and other items. A sample ballot is available on page B6 in this week’s edition. 


School boards, issue

For voters who reside in the Bakersfield School District, ballots will ask voters to choose two candidates to serve three-year terms each on the Bakersfield Board of Education. There are three candidates: Chris Bales, Andrea Russell and Justin Turner. 

Bales is an incumbent. The other board member whose position is up, Johnathan Lashley decided not to run for re-election. Russell and Turner are new candidates. See page B2 for profiles of Bakersfield’s three school board candidates. 

For voters who reside in the Gainesville School District, ballots will also ask voters to choose two candidates to serve three-year terms each on the Gainesville Board of Education. There are four candidates: incumbents Mason Eslinger and Jabet Wade, along with new candidates Nick Jones and Seth Miller. See page B1 for profiles for Gainesville’s four candidates. 

A small margin of Ozark County residents reside in either the Ava or Bradleyville School Districts and will see that school board election on their ballots. 

In Bradleyville, voters will choose two candidates. Only one candidate, Rodney Swift, filed to run. 

In the Ava School District, voters will choose two board members to serve on its school board. Seth Thompson and Chance Dry are candidates. Ava district voters will also vote on a levy increase measure for that school.


County “use tax”

Voters across the county will vote on Ozark County’s “use tax” measure, asking to impose a local use tax at the same rate as the total local sales tax rate, and that if the local sales tax rate is reduced or raised by voter approval, the local use tax rate shall also be reduced or raised by the same action.

The county sales tax in Ozark County is 2%, which is collected on goods purchased at brick-and-mortar businesses inside Ozark County. For instance, a $10 package of toilet paper purchased at Town & Country in Gainesville (or any other Ozark County Store) would have 20 cents in county sales tax added in addition to state sales tax, city sales tax and/or other sales taxes applicable at the location of the store. The county receives that 20 cents to use for its general revenue, road and bridge funds and Ozark County Sheriff’s Department. 

Currently, the county is unable to receive sales tax for goods and services purchased online or in catalogs because a “use tax” measure has not been passed. So, while the county would receive 20 cents in tax for the  $10 package of toilet paper purchased at Town & Country, it would receive no sales tax revenue for the online purchase of the same product at the same price. 

So does that mean that local residents aren’t paying the tax? Not necessarily. When local Ozark Countians have broken down their sales tax receipts for online purchases, they show that some retailers are only charging the 4.225% Missouri state sales tax. While others are being charged 6.225% (which would include the state’s 4.225% plus the county’s 2%). There have been differing reports on how often the full 6.225% is bring charged online, with some saying most of their receipts include it and others saying they mostly only see the state’s 4.225% charged. It likely depends on the retailers where residents frequently shop. To calculate your own receipts from online purchases to determine the percentage of tax, take the amount of sales tax and divide it by the total purchase before tax. Then multiply by 100. (For example: $3.68 in tax divided by the a $86.98 pre-tax total = .00423 X 100 = 4.23%).  

While the tax is thought to be collected, at least sometimes, maybe frequently, there is no way of knowing how much money is being brought in. County officials say the money remains in a state account until three years passes and it’s considered unclaimed property and absorbed by the state. They’ve asked state officials numerous times how much money is in the account, but they say they can’t get a clear answer. If the “use tax” measure is passed, that money would go back to Ozark County. 

The county has put the use tax on the ballot two other times, once in 2020 and again in 2022. It failed both times. 


Municipal boards

A few municipal board elections are on the ballot as well, although none are contested. 

Gainesville city limit residents will vote on mayor and board of aldermen. Incumbent Mayor Gail Reich is running, and no one filed against her. Incumbent Aldermen Lana Bushong (east) and Renee Schmucker (center) have refiled with no competition. New candidate Teri Edades filed for center ward alderman, replacing currently serving alderman Ken Crawford, who chose not to run for another term. 

The city has also placed a question on the ballot asking to forgo annual elections in the future if the number of candidates match the number of open positions. The city says the measure would allow the city to save money on an election and is in line with how other entities operate elections. 

The residents who reside in Theodosia’s city limits will also see on their ballots questions for the Village Board of Trustees. The questions ask voters to choose two trustees to serve two-years each. Robert Metzger and Jonathan Humbert filed for those positions. Another question asks voters to pick three candidates to serve one year each. John Maglione, Julie Rothenberg and Kimberly Homer filed for those positions. 

Like Gainesville, the Village of Theodosia, is also asking permission to forgo elections in the future when the number of candidates match the number of open positions. 


When and where to vote

Voters can vote absentee “no excuse,” (meaning they do not have to provide an excuse as to why they cannot come on Election Day), now through Monday, April 1, the day before the election, at the Ozark County Clerk’s office in the courthouse on the Gainesville square. The clerk’s office is open regular hours of 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. It will also be open extended hours from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, March 30, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, April 1. 

On Election Day, voters should go to their respective polls, which will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 2. 

Polling places in Ozark County by precinct are as follows: Barren Fork precinct residents vote at Wasola Volunteer Fire Department, Bayou precinct residents vote at Bakersfield School FEMA building, Big Creek precinct residents vote at Theodosia Village Hall, Bridges Creek precinct residents vote at the Ozark County Courthouse, Dawt precinct residents vote at Tecumseh Volunteer Fire Department, Lick Creek precinct residents vote at Lick Creek Volunteer Fire Department, Pontiac precinct residents vote at Frontier Baptist Church, Richland precinct residents vote at Dora Volunteer Fire Department and Thornfield precinct residents vote at Thornfield General Baptist Church. 

To determine which precinct you reside in, to ask further questions or for more information, call the Ozark County Clerk’s office at 417-679-3516.





Mason Eslinger

Personal information: I’m 39 years old, a follower of Jesus Christ, husband to elementary school teacher Misti Eslinger and father to Payton and Tate. I’m a board member of the Ozark County Chamber, member of the Ministerial Alliance and have been a volunteer coach for both boys and girls summer league ball teams for the past seven years. I have served on the Gainesville School Board for the past six years. I love the outdoors. My hobbies include farming, fishing and hunting with the occasional jog or hike with my family.

Employment information: I currently serve as branch manager for Stockmens Bank of Gainesville, a position I’ve held for five and a half years. It’s given me a great opportunity to get to know people by learning about their goals and helping them build a strategic plan to achieve them. That’s exactly what a school board does. I’ve had the privilege of helping many in our community do this exact thing every day, along with developing budgets and managing finances.

I’ve served as pastor at First Baptist Church of Gainesville for five years. I get to see many struggles physically, mentally and financially. But through God’s power and design, I also get to see unity, love on levels you can only imagine and breakthroughs from addictions, poverty, psychological struggles and physical healings. 

Educational background: I graduated from GHS in 2003. After high school I attended college for a short time. I am just short of an associate degree in business administration. My college career was cut short by a family emergency. 

Biggest challenges facing the school, and new ways to handle them? The constant battles are keeping a hardworking and knowledgeable administration and keeping caring and hardworking teachers in the classroom. The Gainesville School District has the best administrative team, teachers and support staff around. Our district is blessed to have local, active, caring people seeking the best possible education and solutions for our kids, parents and community. We really have unique opportunities in our district, but we must constantly be diligently seeking out those who will seek the best for our kids.

Greatest strengths of the school, in your opinion: Our greatest strengths lie in our administration team, our teachers and our support staff. Without them, we would have nothing. It’s amazing to see them working together, seeking improvement. We are academically top 5% in the state for high school and top 10% in the state as a whole district. We’ve made huge improvements in multiple facets including new roofing district-wide, new greenhouse, renovated gym, new library, 1-to-1 with chromebooks, new lockers for junior and senior hallways, almost completed ball fields, soon-to-come outdoor classroom, etc. All of this starts with great people, and Gainesville School District has the best.

What distinguishes you from your opponents? I don’t have much to say about this. I know all the candidates well and know that they’re running for the same reasons that I am. We are parents, community members and we care about our school. We’re lucky to have such great people running to serve on our school board. I will give full support to the district and the board, even if I am not on it.



Seth Miller

Personal information: I was born and raised in Gainesville, and my family has ties to Ozark County since 1866. I attended Gainesville School K-12, graduating in 2007. I’m married to Whitney Miller, who is currently a third grade teacher at Gainesville elementary where our two daughters attend. Rorie is 9 and attending third grade, and Ella is 5 and attending pre-k. 

Employment information: I’m currently employed with the Ozark County Sheriff’s Department and have taught through MSU-West Plains and Drury University through their law enforcement programs. At the sheriff’s department, I am patrol sergeant and investigator. Along with those duties, I work closely with schools in Ozark County, handling calls for service, training in active school shooter response. I’ve obtained several grants for the department bettering the facility and offering patrol deputies more pay. Furthermore, I’ve negotiated funds through the city of Gainesville for equipment relevant for patrol deputies. I believe bringing the ability to help with grants, negotiating with the city the school is in and being able to be fair and impartial in decision making as my job requires will be beneficial for the schools well being. 

Educational background: I graduated from Gainesville in 2007. From there I attended Missouri State University-West Plains majoring in criminal justice. In 2010, I obtained a class A law enforcement license from the Missouri Sheriff’s Academy. During my employment with the sheriff’s department, I have attended hundreds of hours of training in various fields including everything from grant writing and financial investigations to advanced interviewing and everything in between. 

Biggest challenges facing the school, and new ways to handle them? The biggest challenge I see the school facing is transparency and compromise for the students and parents. Far too long have failed businesses and organizations said, “This is the way we’ve always done it.” I believe in trying and testing new ideas. Also, compromising with two differing ideas versus an absolute approach. 

Greatest strengths of the school, in your opinion: The strongest part of the school is our dedicated educators. I had the privilege of having some of the best people the area has to offer educate me as a student of Gainesville. I still see it today when my peers came to take their place after they retired or moved on. When I enter the school as a parent or as a deputy sheriff, I feel comforted knowing the teachers have all of our children in their best interest.

What distinguishes you from your opponents? I have the experience in negotiating with everyone from local city governments and agencies, all the way to the state level and federal level. My roles as a supervisor and deputy sheriff have given me the ability to assess a situation and think about the long-term impacts of the decision made versus the quick fix. I also have a fair and impartial stance on all issues until all information is made available. 


Jabet Wade

Personal, employment and educational background: I’m a 1998 Gainesville graduate with a journalism degree from the University of Missouri. I’ve been married to my husband, Matt, for 20 years. We have two children who attend school at Gainesville. Lola is in seventh grade, and Finn is in fifth grade. I have past experience in newspaper and magazine writing and editing in Sarasota, Florida, and at 417 Magazine in Springfield. We moved home to Pontiac in 2006, where I manage our family business: Pontiac Cove Marina, Campground and Resort. Each year I organize multiple events to raise money for the Pontiac Fireworks. Matt is a professional land surveyor in Ozark County. We attend Frontier Baptist Church in Pontiac. I’m involved in Gainesville PTO, am a Booster Club member and have served on scholarship committees. I’m the Ozark County Chamber president, P.E.O. International member and served on the Ozark County Health Coalition that helped organize the new trail and resurface the tennis/pickleball courts adjacent to the Gainesville City Park. 

Biggest challenges facing the school, and new ways to handle them? One of the biggest challenges facing our district is sustainable funding. Gainesville is one of only around 20 school districts in Missouri with a minimum tax levy of 2.75%. Gainesville also has no debt service levy. Fortunately, we’ve received donations from generous patrons, and we have staff who are skilled at writing grants. We’ve been blessed to receive nearly $4 million in grants over the past six years, allowing us to complete numerous projects including a FEMA shelter that benefits the entire community, a greenhouse, new school buses, improved library and learning lab, science lab upgrades and new textbooks. We’ve also increased base teacher salary through a renewable grant from the state, and we used ESSER funds to purchase school supplies for all students, pay for our Vo-Tech program and install new roofing and HVAC controls. I’m proud to have been on the board when those improvements were made, and I’d like to see our district continue to find creative ways to secure funding.

Greatest strengths of the school, in your opinion: Academics and teacher retention are two of our greatest strengths. Last year’s Annual Performance Report showed that Gainesville ranks in the top 10% of all districts in the state academically, and our high school in the top 5%. That is so impressive and something to be very proud of! We have dedicated, highly qualified teachers, administrators and staff who genuinely want to be here and care about the success of our students while they’re in school and post-graduation.

What distinguishes you from your opponents? I was elected to the board in 2018 and have served six consecutive years. I currently serve as the board vice president and have experience conducting meetings in the absence of the president. I understand the role of a school board member and have a history of being fair, thoughtful and unbiased in my decision-making. I take my role on the board seriously and am dedicated to the continued success of our district. I believe the experience and knowledge I’ve gained over the past two terms will help me better serve the district for another term. 


Nick Jones

Personal information: I am a lifelong resident of the Gainesville school district. My wife Christina and I both graduated from Gainesville, and our children, Timber and Tanner, currently attend Gainesville school.

Employment information: I am self-employed operating Reclaim Outdoors LLC. Previously I was a conductor for BNSF Railway and a deputy sheriff for Ozark County. 

Educational background: I am a Gainesville graduate and a graduate of Missouri State University. I attended and completed law enforcement training at the Missouri Sheriff’s Association Training Academy in West Plains.

Biggest challenges facing the school, and new ways to handle them? I believe funding will be a continuous hurdle. With that comes salary gaps between our school and surrounding schools. We must remain competitive so we can hire and retain long-term quality employees. We also need ample support staff to cover our full-time staff when they need days off. It’s important our employees are able to use their days when needed and be provided coverage without difficulty. Increasing substitute daily pay rates will make Gainesville competitive with other schools bringing more assistance when needed. We also need a boost in public relations in the wake of covid. Those restrictions have closed the school for too long and those who want to be more involved with the school should have increased opportunity where it’s available. The stronger the support from the community, the better the school will be. A challenge facing the students and ultimately the school is student preparation for life after graduation. The school should provide increased awareness for students to be knowledgeable in as many career paths as possible. Better informed students with knowledge of careers are extremely important. This will allow students who want to attend college to be more efficient in their study selection and prevent those who don’t need or want to attend college from accruing unnecessary debt from student loans.

Greatest strengths of the school, in your opinion: It’s people. We have great people working and volunteering in our school. I think many of them don’t receive enough credit for all they do. There are so many people working together to make this school function. Teachers, administration, bus drivers and the bus barn mechanic who keeps them running. The kitchen staff, grounds keepers, IT, maintenance employees, office staff, support staff and so many of those people are filling multiple roles. It’s all of you who make the impossible possible. Thank you for all you do.

What distinguishes you from your opponents? I don’t see us as opponents, we’re applicants. This school is the people’s school. The people select who they want to represent them on the board, I am simply applying for that job. Sometimes what we need is a change, new people, new ideas, new resolve. I go into this knowing I don’t have the answer to everything question or a solution to every problem. However, I’m willing to listen to the people and their words will not fall on deaf ears or idle hands.






Chris Bales

Personal information: I have been around Bakersfield my whole life. I went to school here at Bakersfield from kindergarten through graduation. I was involved in sports, FFA, honor society, and student council to mention a few. I have three children that attend Bakersfield. One of which is in elementary, one in middle school, and one in high school. I am married. My wife, also a lifelong Bakersfield Alumni, is a substitute at the school as well as a certified personal trainer. We are rooted deep in this town. We own a collection of family cattle farms, own a couple commercial buildings, and own and operate The Gym of Bakersfield. All of which are in the school district. 

Employment information: I have been around and operated cattle farms my entire life. I have been in the Boilermakers since 2007. In the trade, I have been around all building trades, welded, and been in construction management. I am currently an independent contractor that works inside of Phillips66 - Wood River Refining. I am an AWS-CWI in which I have been certified since 2014. In this profession you are forced to learn all types of management. Time, employee, construction, finance, just to say a few. The biggest thing that you learn is safety.  Without safety we have nothing. I think that fits in well with overviewing the day to day activities of our school.

Educational background: I graduated high school. I also attended MSU-WP but did not complete a degree, rather moved into the Local 69 Boilermakers National Apprenticeship and completed that in 4 years near the top of my class. I trained with the American Welding Society and am a AWS-CWI (certified welding inspector).

Biggest challenges facing the school, and new ways to handle them? In my opinion, Bakersfield R4 is running smoothly right now. We are paying the right people to do the jobs they are currently performing. So as far as challenges for the school, there isn’t anything I can honestly say that needs to be addressed at the moment or any ideas that need to immediately be addressed.  

Greatest strengths of the school, in your opinion: As far as strengths, we have several.  Attendance, academics, safety, transportation, facilities, extra curriculars including our sports which has been on an upward turn for the last several years.  

What distinguishes you from your opponents? We have three good candidates running for two spots, two of which have not ever served. I feel like each brings something different to the table. Learning the ins and outs of being a good board member takes months if not years. I feel like with 6 years of experience behind me that I will bring a level of expertise directly to the table. Electing two new board members at the same time could bring about the possibility of mismanagement or incorrect actions.


Andrea Russell

Personal information: I’m a strong Christian, have been married to my husband, Brian, for almost 15 years and currently have two boys in Bakersfield School, Logan in 6th and Levi in 2nd. We purchased land close to the family 7 years ago where we’ve resided since. When we moved here, I told my husband I wanted to be on the school board and serve the community for many years. My mom graduated from Bakersfield and has continued to live here, but growing up I lived mostly with my dad and attended West Plains High School. When I started a family, I knew I wanted to raise them in Bakersfield School. I love the teachers and how the school feels like a family. The passion captures you, and you just want to be a part of it.

Employment information: I’m a supervisor for AirMedCare Network, the membership program for AirEvac, where I’ve worked for 15 years. I oversee budgeting, reporting, negotiating and managing teams in charge of maintaining and processing corporate and business accounts.

Educational background: I have an associate’s degree in business through MSU-West Plains.

Biggest challenges facing the school, and new ways to handle them? The challenges have the same root issues: funding for newer/better things, government restrictions etc... I want to find resources to provide the best experiences possible to educate, assist and help students who are struggling.The staff works hard to keep drugs out of the school. I want to encourage them to be the person who can turn someone’s life in the right direction. I want alumni to say, “That school did so much for me. It was because of everything they did that I am where I am today.” That starts with the school board.

Greatest strengths of the school, in your opinion: The biggest strength is the teachers and staff. I’ve never been around a school where they were as available and willing to help. Bakersfield sticks to fundamental roots that other schools have let go. Some people feel their school never helped them with future plans. Others feel like they were just filling an empty seat. Our kids can’t say that, and I’m proud of that. From teachers paying for things out-of-pocket, providing clothes/food and spending their free time working to keep kids from falling behind; you don’t see that a lot anymore. The school board has been very supportive. I want to be a part of that. I think I can contribute. Anyone who knows me, knows my heart has always been about helping others succeed and become better versions of themselves. School is where children are forming into adults. School is the perfect place to help them become better versions of themselves.

What distinguishes you from your opponents? The community is blessed to have this group running. Each candidate has their own strengths. I’m compassionate and know things aren’t always black-and-white. I know tough decisions have to be made, but keeping core values needs to remain front and center. With the skills I’ve acquired and decisions I’ve been involved in working with large and small businesses, I believe those attributes can only add to what the school board currently has.


Justin Wayne Turner

Personal information: I’ve been married to Andrea Turner for 17 years, and we have a daughter, Scarlett Ruby, age 6. Andrea is the owner of Style 101, which is also located in the Bakersfield School District. My parents are John and Karla Turner, both whom worked at Bakersfield School. My mom Karla worked there for 27 years, and my dad John for 32 years. 

Employment information: I’ve been the owner of Turner’s Welding and Fencing for 7 years, a company that has eight employees. Before that, I worked for Coca-Cola for 6 years, as a railroad conductor for 1 year, for Mountain Home Concrete as a general manager for 9 years and a welder/fabricator for Newberry Sales for 1 year. 

Educational background: I attended Bakersfield School from kindergarten through 12th grade, graduating in 2000.

Biggest challenges facing the school, and new ways to handle them? One of the biggest challenges of the school in my opinion is safety. Safety is crucial and can be achieved by working closely with our local law enforcement and training staff to identify potential incidents before they occur. Another challenge is education in which the school prepares students for adulthood whether it be college, vocational school or work based learning.

Greatest strengths of the school, in your opinion: One of the biggest strengths of a school needs to be that it is a place of safety, a starting point to make a strong community, not just a place to work but somewhere to make a career. It should be setting up students for success after high school. It is a reflection of the community. 

What distinguishes you from your opponents? I have an open mind to new ideas while still holding on to the knowledge and wisdom that made our community what it is.

Ozark County Times

504 Third Steet
PO Box 188
Gainesville, MO 65655

Phone: (417) 679-4641
Fax: (417) 679-3423