Decisions looming for Schulte heading into county’s top job

By Buck Collier, Special Correspondent
Posted 8/10/22

HERMANN — The outcome was never in doubt.

Tim Schulte’s lead in the Gasconade County presiding commissioner’s race on Primary Election night started shortly after 7 with the …

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Decisions looming for Schulte heading into county’s top job

Posted

HERMANN — The outcome was never in doubt.

Tim Schulte’s lead in the Gasconade County presiding commissioner’s race on Primary Election night started shortly after 7 with the reporting of the absentee ballots and only grew until the final vote tally was announced at 8:37: A better-than-2-to-1 win over second-place challenger David Slater and a 3-to-1 win over third-place finisher Jerry Spurgeon.

Still, it was only after the final numbers were posted by the County Clerk’s Office on the tote board in the courthouse rotunda that Schulte, of Hermann, could relax and savor the moment.

“I’m tired,” he told the Gasconade County Republican. “After the campaign, after the fair, I’m tired,” he said, stepping away to join family members for photos capturing the smiles, hugs and laughter moments after capturing county government’s top job. As the GOP winner and with no Democrat filing for the office, Schulte becomes the presumptive winner of the presiding commissioner’s office. He can’t officially claim the office until after the November General Election.

His 4-year term will begin Jan. 1, even though the oath of office might be given before New Year’s Day, which is on a Sunday. Before he moves into the middle chair behind the bench in the Commission Chamber, Schulte will have to make several decisions affecting his public-service life.

In April, Schulte began his second 3-year term as a director of the Gasconade County R-1 School District. He could stay in that position until he begins as presiding commissioner, or he could vacate that seat in order to spend time getting familiar with the issues in front of the County Commission he likely will be dealing with after the first of the year — none larger than deciding what to do with the bulk of the $2.8-million American Rescue Plan Act money that will remain after the second round of funding requests are dealt with.

There’s also the issue of his private employment with Peoples Savings Bank. Schulte is in a key position with the banking company’s facilities and maintenance department. PSB is in a growth mode, which means significant activity in property development and maintenance. Schulte might be able to develop a schedule that allows him to remain on the job, but he’ll soon learn — if he doesn’t beforehand — that being presiding commissioner, even in a 3rd-Class county,  no longer is a part-time job.

Retiring Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel, R-Hermann, officially is retired, but his calendar contains many days that includes work as the county’s top administrator. Over the years, county government administration has become busier and busier and what was a once- or twice-a-week job has evolved into a full-time position.

All three commissioners sit on a number of boards and committees. For instance, Associate Commissioner Jerry Lairmore, R-Owensville, is a member of the region’s Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC), a key panel, and the region’s economic development committee. Associate Commissioner Jim Holland, R-Hermann, is a member of the region’s Solid Waste District board and other organizations. The presiding commissioner is a member of several regional organizations, including sitting on the board of Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC).

Schulte can only hope his move into the top administrator’s position goes as smoothly as the Primary Election process that essentially put him in the office.

“From the polling places to the courthouse…smoothly,” said County Clerk Lesa Lietzow, the county’s chief elections official. Indeed, the workers ferrying voting supplies — ballots, voter registration books, other equipment — from the arriving election judges into the courthouse for the formal count — were able to go home earlier than usual, especially for a Primary Election night. The final batch of ballots was counted by about 8:30.

As for the unofficial hard numbers: Tim Schulte received 1,515 votes (56.4 percent), David Slater of Swiss, 639 votes (23.8 percent), Jerry Spurgeon of Owensville, 529 votes (19.7 percent). There were 10,706 registered voters for the Primary Election with 2,802 ballots cast countywide for a turnout of 26 percent. In the presiding commissioner’s race, there were 2,683 ballots cast for a turnout of 25 percent.

This was Slater’s second bid to capture the presiding commissioner’s seat. Four years ago, he was unsuccessful in unseating Miskel for the county’s top job.

This also was Spurgeon’s second effort at winning a Commission seat. Two years ago, he ran as a Democrat in the General Election against Lairmore. Spurgeon switched parties this year with what appeared to be a reliance on southern county Republicans voting for him while GOP voters in the northern end of the county splitting their votes between Schulte and Slater.

However, unlike Schulte who had a presence on both ends of the county, Spurgeon’s campaign effort was barely visible in the northern portion of the county. Miskel’s endorsement of Schulte late in the campaign also was seen as a key part of Schulte’s large win over Slater.

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