Pulaski County progressed significantly during last three years, Ransdall says
By: Darrell Todd Maurina
Presiding Commissioner Bill Ransdall outlines county accomplishments during his term in office.
PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (Nov. 3, 2009) — Bill Ransdall, who won his seat as Pulaski County’s presiding commissioner in 2006 and would have been up for re-election next year, thanked area voters Tuesday morning for repeatedly electing him to a variety of local and state offices for 31 years.
He’ll soon be taking his seat in Jefferson City as a full-time member of the three-member Missouri State Tax Commission, earning a salary of $105,000, and had to resign from the county commission and numerous other posts due to conflicts of interest.
Reflecting on his three years as presiding commissioner, Ransdall cited the creation of the Pulaski County Growth Alliance as one of the county’s “great accomplishments.” Ransdall chaired that organization, which is similar to other groups in Phelps and Laclede counties which promote economic development in those regions, but had to resign as a condition of accepting Gov. Jay Nixon’s appointment to the Missouri State Tax Commission.
Creating an internet presence to market Pulaski County for economic development will be one of the major functions of the Pulaski County Growth Alliance, Ransdall said.
“Pulaski County now has a website; I mean, the kids are just now finishing it over at the Vo-Tech,” Ransdall said. “When I came in here, if you pulled up Pulaski County, the first thing you got was Pulaski County, Arkansas. The second thing you got was the Pulaski County Web site that somebody runs that has all the gossip stuff on it and I took a lot of heat over saying that to the public one day.”
Bringing professionalism to the office of presiding commissioner was also cited by Ransdall as an important accomplishment.
“On the office itself, I think I’ve brought professionalism, open, fair meetings. I haven’t had any problems with members of the press who are all sitting here, four of you out of five. I think we’ve been very open, very blunt, very forward with the operation of the county’s business and if any of you disagree with that, you sure can, but I’ve tried very hard to do that and to do it right,” Ransdall said. “We’ve worked harder with the bidding out of county services, and I think saved the county a lot of money.”
Ransdall said he was also pleased the county was able to purchase a Missouri Department of Transportation road shed for Western District county road workers in Swedeborg that replaces a rented shed with a dirt floor in Crocker.
“Buying that state shed was a major accomplishment. It took those guys out of a dirt floored uninhabitable building and gave them a decent place to work and I think when we bought that shed I think it was definitely worth the money,” Ransdall said.
However, Ransdall acknowledged that the county also faced major challenges over the last three years, some of them caused by natural disasters beyond anyone’s control. Within days of taking office, Ransdall was faced with a major ice storm that shut down most county and city operations in Pulaski County and created serious problems for the county’s Road and Bridge Department budget that cost tens of thousands of dollars on repair work. The ice storm and flooding in subsequent years caused Pulaski County to be declared a federal disaster area on multiple occasions.
“When I took over, the rock budget was $50,000 annually divided between two people. The first budget that I helped make up went to $100,000; the next year it went to $150,000, so we have tripled the rock budget for Road and Bridge,” Ransdall said. “The bad news is ever since I’ve been elected, we’ve had a natural disaster every year… Road and Bridge has not been able to devote the time they should have to normal maintenance and upgrading because they’ve been fighting natural disasters.”
“Maybe I brought the bad luck, but it’s been three in the three years I’ve served and it’s been a big drain on the people in this office doing all the paperwork for the feds, and also we’ve spent a tremendous amount of money, time and energy doing that, so maybe they can get by without a floor or anything,” Ransdall said. “I think had we not had the natural disasters, probably over 50 percent of the gravel roads in the county would be covered with white rock by now.”
Ransdall also credited County Clerk Diana Linnenbringer and her office staff for being “absolutely terrific to work with.”
Linnenbringer is a Republican, as are both of the two associate commissioners, but Ransdall said his Democratic Party affiliation didn’t create a problem.
“In my opinion, political parties have not stood in the way of the growth of Pulaski County or in the association I have had with any of the officeholders,” Ransdall said. “Nothing has ever been drawn on party lines; it’s either been up or down because of its merits.”
“I think Diana would agree that the county budget is in better condition now than it was a year ago,” Ransdall said.
“That’s true — as of today,” Linnenbringer said.
Ransdall acknowledged that he’s had disagreements with other elected county officeholders in the courthouse, but said most of the disagreements have been over money, not partisan politics.
“I’ve been told sometimes that I am more of a fiscal conservative than some of the other people of the other party of this building, and I think some people know what I’m talking about,” Ransdall said.
That doesn’t mean he’s skimped on Pulaski County needs when money was available, he said.
“I’ve often said that while state representative, I brought $53 million to this county in three budget cycles —infrastructure, senior centers, whatever. Tax credits for low to moderate income — I think about $20 million over my stay up there — that has helped out a lot of people in Waynesville and St. Robert,” Ransdall said, citing a project near the old West Elementary School in Waynesville as an example of such housing.
“I can look back and say I think I’ve made a difference,” Ransdall said. “I’ve enjoyed it and I appreciate the people.”
First elected in 1978 to the Waynesville City Council, Ransdall served as mayor pro-tem from 1982 to 1988 and as mayor from 1988 to 1996, when he was elected to fill a vacancy in the Missouri House of Representatives caused by the appointment of Jim Mitchell, a Republican, to a state position. Ransdall served eight years in the legislature, ending his career as the Assistant Minority Floor Leader, until he was forced out by term limits in 2004; he won his seat as Pulaski County’s presiding commissioner two years later.