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County commissioner, judge candidates square off at Republican Women’s meeting

Republican candidates for Cape County presiding commissioner and associate circuit judge, Division III, were invited to speak to the Republican Women’s Club June 1. Each gave a 10-minute talk followed by a question-and-answer period.

The first to speak were the  candidates for presiding commissioner.

Challenger J.W. Strack, a lifelong resident of this county, said the main issue the County is facing is providing qualified help for businesses.

He described some of his work experience, from farming to working for Bob Drury, to owning Strack Construction, to owning rock quarries. “I know everything from the ground up,” he said. He did the “dirt work” for this side of the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge when it was built across the Mississippi River.

Strack said he ran two rock quarries in Cape Girardeau so successfully that when he sold them, he had six people wanting to buy them.

To help build up a qualified work force, Strack suggested getting input from the Career & Technology Center and schools in Southeast Missouri. “If we’re wanting to get our county to go, we need more qualified people in the work force. Have experienced people teach our young people. Not everybody needs to go to college.”

He also suggested improving roads and bridges, etc. “We need to invest in our infrastructure in our cities,” he said.

He wants to keep supporting the University of Missouri Extension program. “For every dollar we spend on University Extension, it brings us back $11 to the county,” he said.

Strack said his single greatest strength is “being able to talk and communicate with people.” He added, “I’ll be in my office and you can always call me.”

When asked what was a good-paying job, he responded, “$12 and above.”

Incumbent Clint Tracy said it was important for a commissioner to  be “learning to listen, to build a team and to build trust with the people you work with.”

He spoke about his record as presiding commissioner.

When Blue Cross offered double-digit percentage increases to insurance premiums to county employees, he and the Commission chose to become self-insured. “We saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in premiums,” he said.

The County has begun a prescription drug monitoring program at the county level that “piggy-backs on the St. Louis program,” Tracy said. Doctors can check new patients to see how many times they have filled a prescription and check with the sheriff’s office to see if there have been previous cases of “doctor shopping” to get extra prescriptions for drugs.

The county has outsourced its payroll, freeing up office staff for other duties.

“We own our own facilities. Part of our job is to take care of our facilities,” he continued. For awhile, the County was “hamstring” by a law that said Cape Girardeau County shall have two courthouses. This forced the county to maintain the County Courthouse in Jackson and the Common Pleas Courthouse in Cape. One word in the law was changed: “must” was changed to “may” and the County was free to combine the two old buildings into one new Justice Center to be built in Jackson.

The new courthouse will be built next to the jail, eliminating the “huge liability” the County now has of walking jailed suspects from the jail to the courtroom a block away, Tracy said.

Bonds used to build the jail were refinanced, freeing up capital funds for additional projects.

The County Road and Bridge Advisory Committee now has a policy on how county roads are to be paved. In the past, work was done like patch work, here a little and there a little. Now there is a submitted list of projects so “everybody knows what’s going on,” Tracy said.

“We’ve got two-way discussion on how to do things,” Tracy said. “I have two great commissioners to work with. This county is rich in leadership.”

Tracy believes in local controlled limited government that gives power to the people and keeps taxes low. His single greatest strength is “my listening skills when you’ve got a problem,” he said. “I try to find a solution.”

Circuit Judge Division III candidate Brendan Cooper said he is a “product of Cape Girardeau by way of North Stoddard County.” He moved to Cape Girardeau when he was kindergarten age and graduated from Cape Central High School.

“You go to school to learn what you’re supposed to know, and then  you go to work and put it into practice,” he said.

He is unmarried but in a “serious  relationship” with Morgan Wessell, a teacher at Jackson’s West Lane Elementary School.

In 2014, Cooper want to work for Allen Moss and for a period of time he has had the experience of helping run a small business, the law firm of Moss and Cooper.

Cooper said he would like to be judge to become more proactive in the legal system. He is a pro Second-Amendment person and is concerned about efforts that are “chipping away at our gun rights.” Instead of gun laws that restrict gun ownership, he supports programs that “motivate a person to make the right decision the first time, before the bad act is committed.”

He said what makes a good judge is:
• Experience and integrity;
• Being able to effectively communicate with the attorneys; and
• Respecting every person who walks into the courtroom.

Cooper said his greatest strength is “accountability —  right or wrong, if I made a decision, I’ll own up to it.”

When asked about his jury trial experience, he said he had one case in March 2016, which he lost. “I was 29 at the time. It was a gun/drug charge. I couldn’t work out a plea. The jury didn’t think my client was innocent.”

Frank Miller was an aide to U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson before becoming an assistant prosecuting attorney for Cape Girardeau County eight years ago.

“When I was 10 years old, my late father told me, ‘When you talk the talk, make sure you walk the walk,’” Miller said. He is an eighth generation Cape County resident. “That’s why I do a lot of the things I do.”

A lot of his duties as prosecutor are similar to that of a judge, he added. “The role of a prosecutor is to seek justice, not to win or lose.”

As a prosecutor, Miller has been involved in 29 jury trials ranging from speeding tickets to murder charges. He has prosecuted more than 75 bench trials (which are decided by a judge instead of a jury) and has held more than 400 hearings.

“I’m in court all the time,” he said. He felt people should vote for him “because experience matters.”

Miller has been selected to serve as a special prosecutor in Bollinger and Perry counties and has received one of three awards given out to top trial attorneys in Missouri, recognizing his professionalism and high ethical conduct.

Miller says it is important to him to “be prepared.” He added, “I always go into the courtroom prepared. I don’t always win but I always give it my all.”

The Division III case load is 90 percent criminal, Miller said. “I do almost 100 percent criminal cases. I do some civil action. I have taken over $70,000 from local drug dealers and have given it to school and law enforcement.”

Miller promised to be “a tough but fair judge. I will follow the law as it is written. I promise to be fair and impartial to all the individuals who come before me.”

Gregory Dullum has worked for The Cash-Book Journal for more than 25 years. Prior to becoming the editor in May 2017, he was production manager, circulation manager and reporter. Before moving to Cape Girardeau in 1988, he was editor of the Saint Louis Park Sailor, a weekly community newspaper in suburban Minneapolis, MN. A native of Minnesota, he returned there after graduating with distinction in 1978 from Ambassador College in Pasadena, CA, with a degree in mass communications. His wife, Marie, whom he met in college, is a native of Zalma, a small town in southeast Missouri. They have two grown daughters and five grandchildren. Gregory may be reached at

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