The two candidates running for Jackson County Commission from the Northern District will be familiar to voters.
Tony Boggs is finishing his second term as Jackson County Sheriff, while Mitch Morrison is serving his first term as County Commissioner.
Boggs, a Democrat, and Morrison, a Republican, have run a clean campaign, without denigrating the other. At the same time, each believes that he brings unique qualifications to the position.
“I’d like to see the Commission be more progressive,” Boggs said. “Often it seems as if they’re reacting to situations, rather than looking for new ways to do things.”
The 50-year old Boggs, a resident of Millwood, hopes he can bring that progressive spirit to the Commission.
“I’ve been to many of the meetings,” he said. “I hope I can bring more discussion to the agenda topics. I think our citizens would like to know more details.”
Boggs would also like to see more people attend the Commission meetings.
“I can promise that I will learn everything I can about an issue to make the best possible decision I can,” Boggs said. “But I also bring the ability to say no if I think that’s the right answer.”
Morrison, 69, said that there have been many accomplishments in his six-year term on the Commission.
“We three Commissioners work well as a team,” the Sandyville resident said. “And that’s key to any progress we’ve made.”
Morrison points to several projects that have either been completed or are in the process.
“A number of improvements have been made throughout the county,” he said. “We’ve received a lot of grants. In the Kenna area, the Greene Center was brought about by teamwork with the Board of Education, the County Commission, and local citizens. We also put a much-needed EMS station at Kenna. The Southern Jackson Water Project and the activity building at the fairground are two important additions.”
Boggs said that he has seen many areas of the county that still have no access to city water.
“I know some progress has been made,” he said. “But some people have been waiting 10 or 20 years and it’s devastating to hear this. We can’t ever give up in our efforts to take care of these situations.”
With the advent of COVID-19 and the impact on education, the need for broadband access has become critical.
The newly installed cell tower at Sandyville is something that Morrison says is “a promise made, a promise kept.”
“We’re getting very close to getting people connected,” he said. “We have T-Mobile on there and AT&T will come in 2021. I promised this when I ran in 2014.”
The COVID-19 response brought some concern to Boggs.
“We didn’t get direction on how to handle our offices as quickly as I thought we should have,” he said. “I had made the decision to close my tax office to the public. We finally had a meeting of all the elected officials and the Commission. The response just seemed to be lagging.”
Communication and unity among the county’s elected officials is one of Boggs’s goals.
“There needs to be more accessibility with each other and with the County Commission,” he said. “Commissioners need to know the needs of the offices and respond to that. If the budget allows, I’d like to see raises that exceed the 2.5-percent normally granted across the board.”
Cost of living raises for county employees has Morrison’s support.
“We’ve been fiscally conservative and have been able to give this each year,” he said. “And we’ve funded our first responders when requests have been made.”
Attending meetings of the agencies, he’s assigned as Commissioner, is important as well, said Boggs.
“I’m on several boards now as sheriff and do my very best to attend or keep in touch,” he said. “Again, that comes back to be being accessible and accountable.”
The county’s budget is under the direction of the County Commission. Each elected official presents requests to be approved or not allowed.
Boggs says being the treasurer for the county gives him a unique skill to bring to the commission.
“My office runs the biggest budget of all county agencies,” he said. “We’ve passed every audit with flying colors due to the good work of the people in my department. As sheriff, I oversee the money we collect from our citizens. I can bring insight and knowledge to the budget process.”
While Morrison references the fact that in 2019 Jackson County was named the fastest-growing small county in the United States by the US Department of Labor, Boggs says more businesses need to be established here.
“I have so many contacts,” he said. “I have experience reaching out to people, not hesitating to pick up that phone, and making people aware of all we have to offer here.”
Morrison said that an award received in 2019 illustrates the hard work and achievement of the Jackson County Commission. The state auditor’s office gave the Thelma J. Stone Memorial Achievement Award which recognizes the outstanding County Commission for that year.
Boggs says his focus will be to keep Jackson County moving forward.
“I want my two sons to be able to have a future here,” he said. “One thing I can guarantee is that I’ll treat this County Commission position like a full-time job, and I will be accessible and approachable. And I want to address issues, such as dilapidated buildings in the county, that have not been taken care of before now. There’s a lot of work to do.”
Morrison feels his job is not finished.
“There are many projects that still need completed,” he said. “I want the chance to see them through. My ties are to this county. My wife, Cindy, and I have been married 45 years and have children and grandchildren here. I want to make it the best that it can be, to see Jackson County doing well.”
One message finds Boggs and Morrison in total agreement.
“No matter who you choose, just get out and vote, either by mail, early, or in person,” Boggs said.