Republicans ask governor to put Dennis Thornsberry back on commission
By: Darrell Todd Maurina
Posted: Tuesday, November 10, 2009 4:05 pm
Dennis Thornsberry listens during a December 2008 county commission meeting.
PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (Nov. 10, 2009) — Former Western District Commissioner Dennis Thornsberry of Crocker could be back on the county commission if Gov. Jay Nixon decides to pick the Republican nominee to fill Bill Ransdall’s post as Pulaski County Presiding Commissioner.
Democrats have already selected retired Waynesville Police Chief Don McCulloch as their candidate.
Meeting Sunday afternoon, members of the Pulaski County Republican Central Committee chose Thornsberry over another candidate, Saint Robert Alderman Gene Newkirk, as their nominee for the vacancy caused by Ransdall’s appointment by Nixon to a $106,000 job as a member of the Missouri State Tax Commission. While the county commission seats are part-time and most county commissioners throughout Missouri have other jobs outside county government, the State Tax Commission post is required by state law to be full-time and members must resign from all other positions which could present a conflict of interest. Ransdall resigned from the county commission and four other public and private positions last week to accept the state appointment.
Ransdall’s appointment is subject to State Senate confirmation, but the Senate won’t meet until next year. The confirmation isn’t expected to be controversial, local political leaders say.
Thornsberry, a cattle rancher who lives near Crocker, comes from one of the county’s oldest Republican families. He was elected in 2000 and re-elected in 2004, but chose not to run for re-election in 2008. His Western District seat is now filled by Ricky Zweerink, who is also a Republican from the Crocker area involved in agriculture as owner of a fertilizer application business.
Republican Central Committee Chairman Mike Rouse said Republicans had originally planned to meet last week Wednesday — one day before the Democrats met, and just one day after Ransdall resigned — but had to cancel their meeting because a number of people on the central committee couldn’t attend. Republicans discussed the situation repeatedly by conference call during the following days, Rouse said, and after several other candidates withdrew, finally settled on nominating Thornsberry rather than Newkirk.
Whoever the governor picks will serve until the end of 2010 and will be eligible for re-election.
“The feeling is, once again, we want somebody who has some experience in there, at least to finish out the term,” Rouse said. “Dennis put his name forward to be considered in this and try to lend a hand at least on a short-term basis.”
Political party central committee meetings are not governed by the Missouri Sunshine Law. While Pulaski County Democrats chose to invite the media to their interviews with their two candidates for presiding commissioner, McCulloch and retired Waynesville teacher and coach Al D. Parsons, before going into closed session and selecting McCulloch as their nominee, that’s not required.
Key parts of the Democrats’ interviews with McCulloch and Parsons included statements by both men that they would support building a new jail for Pulaski County so the county won’t have to continue to pay to send prisoners out of the county to other jails; both also said they would support countywide dog control. Thornsberry is on record during his two terms in office opposing building a new jail for the county on the grounds that the county can’t afford a new jail, and he’s stated repeatedly that the county doesn’t have the financial ability to handle dog control.
Rouse said Thornsberry’s experience with county budgets will be valuable as the county heads into its budget hearings in less than two months.
“Dennis put his name forward to be considered in this and try to lend a hand at least on a short-term basis,” Rouse said. “We have some issues coming up with all budgets, not the county budget, and it will be difficult.”
Under Missouri state law, governors are responsible for filling vacancies in most county elected offices, except for the office of sheriff, until the next election can be held. Nixon, a Democrat, replaced County Treasurer Barbara Thomas, who was elected twice as a Republican, with a Democrat, Morris Roam.
Rouse said he hoped Thornsberry’s affiliation with the Republican Party wouldn’t be a barrier to appointment by a Democratic governor.
“Hopefully he will consider what’s best for the county,” Rouse said.