Rural Phelps County lost a voice on the Phelps County Commission Tuesday when Gary W. Hicks, the Republican, defeated incumbent Charles L. "Bud Dean, the Democrat, 4,463-3,918.
When he is sworn in Jan. 2 as the District 2 commissioner, Hicks, a Rolla resident, will join fellow Republican Larry Stratman, the District 1 commissioner, who lives in a subdivision just outside Rolla on Highway BB (10th Street), and Presiding Commissioner Randy Verkamp, a Democrat who lives next to the St. James golf course.
Dean, a beef cattle producer who lives south of Rolla, acknowledged in an interview Tuesday night after the election results were in that he has seen himself as the rural voice on the commission.
"I represent rural Phelps County," he said.
And once he's gone, rural Phelps County will be less represented?
"That's correct," he said.
Dean said he expected the outcome, because he expected the county to go Republican high on the ticket, as it did, and that would have an effect on local races.
"That did not surprise me at all," he said.
Continuing, he said, "I've had a good 12 years on the commission, and I've appreciated serving the citizens of Phelps County."
Dean said he has enjoyed working with all county officials, regardless of political party.
"We got some roads repaired and bridges built. We've got a bridge we'll finish in two or three weeks," he said.
Dean said when his term concludes at the end of the year, he'll retire and find other ways for community service. He has been active in the Rolla Lions Club for many years and will continue with that.
Hicks, also interviewed after the votes were in, acknowledged the 11,893-5,798 vote for Republican Mitt Romney over President Barak Obama countywide helped him.
"I would say I probably was running on the right ticket," Hicks said. "But also, the county may be looking for a change. I'm just pleased to have won, and I'm looking forward to serving the people."
In the campaign, Hicks had pledged to quit his job at Meek's and to focus on economic development once he takes office. He reiterated those pledges Tuesday night.
"I'll work through the end of the year and maybe a little afterwards to help with the transition," he said of his job at Meek's.
He stressed that his emphasis will be on economic development, and he'll encourage more cooperation with the Rolla Regional Economic Commission. He also said he would look toward Jefferson City for help by working with Reps. Keith Frederick and Jason Smith and Sen. Dan Brown.
"I want to see what benefits the county can bet from the state," he said.
Hicks agreed that rural residents are interested in better roads and bridges. That costs money, he said, and "I'm not big on raising taxes, so we need to raise revenue through growth. We need shoulders on roads, bridges; there are lots of things we need to look at."
Page 2 of 2 - His service on the Rolla City Council in Ward Three will have to end Dec. 31, although his term continues until the April election.
"We've already got a qualified volunteer" as a replacement, he said, and Mayor Bill Jenks will make that appointment at the last meeting of the year in all likelihood.
In closing, Hicks said, "Really, I'm a little bit stunned."