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Retired Waynesville police chief seeks county presiding commissioner post
Retired Waynesville police chief seeks county presiding commissioner post

Don McCulloch
PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (Nov. 5, 2009) — The central committees for the Pulaski County Democratic Party and Pulaski County Republican Party both meet tonight in Waynesville to select their nominees to replace Bill Ransdall, who resigned Tuesday morning as the county’s presiding commissioner to accept Gov. Jay Nixon’s appointment to the Missouri State Tax Commission.

So far there’s only one announced candidate: Don McCulloch, who confirmed Tuesday that he’s seeking the Democratic nomination for Pulaski Presiding Commissioner.

McCulloch currently serves as the Waynesville municipal judge after retiring as the city’s police chief, a position in which he served while Ransdall was mayor of Waynesville. Many years ago, McCulloch also served as the county sheriff.

The Democrats will meet at 5 p.m. in Bruce Warren’s office at 315 North Street; their meeting is open to all area Democrats though they should register in advance, according to Democratic Central Committee Chairwoman Clara Ichord. Republicans will meet at 7 p.m. in closed session at the county courthouse. Closed sessions are both legal and common for political parties, which are not subject to the Missouri Sunshine Law.

The people nominated by the two political parties will have their names forwarded to Gov. Nixon’s office, who can choose either candidate or potentially could choose a person not officially nominated by either party.

McCulloch, who was present at Ransdall’s swearing-in ceremony for the Missouri State Tax Commission and also attended Monday’s county commission meeting, said he’s a lifelong Democrat but has mostly avoided partisan politics.

“Bill and I are friends; I just came today to see him sworn in. He’s earned the position,” McCulloch said.

McCulloch’s last elected partisan office was in the county sheriff’s post, where he served as a Democrat and was defeated in the Democratic Party primary by J.T. Roberts for the sheriff’s job. However, he also worked for many years as a barber and owner of City Barber Shop, and during those years filled a Democratic Party slot on the state’s barber board.

McCulloch said his work as a county sheriff, as a city police chief, and as a member of the state’s barber board gave him considerable experience with financial duties, which is a major part of the role of the county commission.

“I had a Democratic appointment as chairman of the barber board under Gov. Holden, which pertains to a lot of this with budgets and matters like that,” McCulloch said.

Republicans had originally planned to meet on Wednesday night to select their candidate, but Republican Central Committee Chairman Mike Rouse said the meeting had to be postponed to Thursday due to schedule conflicts.

“We are going to be meeting … to decide what our course of action will be,” Rouse said. “We are not ready to release any names of individuals yet at this point.”

The two central committees have had to meet repeatedly in recent weeks to nominate replacements for County Treasurer Barbara Thomas and now for the presiding commissioner. Nixon replaced Thomas, a Republican, with a Democratic candidate for treasurer, and Rouse said he hopes Republicans will get fair consideration from Nixon despite their party affiliation.

“I would like the governor to consider any Republican name submitted just like he would for the Democratic position; I would ask him to look at any name with the same kind of non-partisan look,” Rouse said. “Any of the candidates who are qualified should be looked at, and he should look at candidates rather than party.”

Ransdall said whoever the governor appoints will serve 14 months as presiding commissioner until the end of 2010 when his own term would have ended.

Republican and Democratic candidates for the position will file to run for their respective party’s nomination in the August primary next year, and the winning candidate in the November general election will take office in January 2010.

Responding to media inquiries at Tuesday’s press conference at the courthouse, Ransdall said it’s not correct that an agreement has already been made to appoint McCulloch.

“There are a number of people that are interested, I assume, and Don probably is one of those. He’s been here a couple of days observing,” Ransdall said. “But the (political party) committees have not met yet and could not meet until I resigned, so all the rumors are incorrect.”

Ransdall also said he’s not endorsing any candidate to replace him.

“I don’t think it would be right for me to state that; I guess as of about three minutes ago I’m now a state employee so I will stay out of partisan politics,” Ransdall said.

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