The key for any public servant is to be dedicated to what they do, according to Charles “Bud” Dean, who recently retired from the Phelps County Commission after 12 years.
“You need to have the ability to do your job,” he said. “I look at it as it’s an honor, but when I get elected to an office, the people trust me with the administration of that office and when I run, I’m selling them with the best of my abilities.”
He noted that being a public servant may require more than just being available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Having good communication skills and the knowledge to make the best decisions for the public also are keys to success, Dean said.
“Be honest with the people … Do what you say you are going to do,” he said.
Dean was elected the District Two Commissioner in 2000 and began his first day on Jan. 1, 2001.
And right off of the bat, one of the first things on the commission’s agenda that year was dealing with problems found in construction/engineering of the new sheriff’s office and jail, which led to delays in construction of the facility.
“That was my orientation to being a commissioner,” he recalled.
Another memory from Dean’s first year, while not local, was the 9/11 attacks. Dean said he remembers hearing about the news on his way to a commission meeting that day via radios from the road department. Since then, cellphones have replaced those radios.
One issue that continued throughout his time in office and still continues today is finding space for offices at the courthouse. During the 12 years he served, several offices were relocated and the combined office of circuit clerk/recorder of deeds split into separate departments.
Also during Dean’s six terms, he worked closely with the road department. “We made all of efforts to improve our roads, both county and hard surface.” Additionally, he said the commission reduced the number of employees in the road department, operated with better equipment and provided better pay for the employees as well as making the sides of road cleaner.
He noted several examples of good deals in trade-ins or purchases of road department equipment that the commission made and said, “As stewards of the people’s money, we always try to get the most value for every dollar spent.”
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While the commission gets many requests to address a certain issue in one part of the county, Dean said, “We have to look at the need and how it fits into whole county operation.”
Dean noted that state statutes authorize the commission to increase the budget for an increase in revenue, but the county budget cannot be decreased when revenues fall short.
Among the road and bridge projects that stand out as accomplishments during Dean’s time on the commission were a new bridge on County Road 4080 over Dry Fork Creek and a Delta Regional Authority bridge project near Flat.
He noted a disappointment was the current project to replace a bridge on County Road 5240 over Beaver Creek south of Rolla, which the commission, contractor, engineer and Missouri Department of Transportation are continuing to address.
Dean also served as a representative from the county commission to the Missouri Ozarks Community Action Inc. (MOCA) board, Phelps County UM Extension Council and the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) board.
Dean said one thing that made it easy to serve as a county official was that all of the county officeholders work well together.
“Whether they are Democrat or Republican, it doesn’t matter,” he said.
“I had a good time serving on the commission and the people I represented in District Two are good people,” Dean said.
Before the commission
Serving as county commissioner was not Dean’s first time being a public officeholder. He previously served as a member and treasurer for the Phelps County Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees for about five to six years.
Dean also served in the National Guard for about six years with the 1438th Engineer Company. He was a platoon sergeant.
For most of Dean’s life, he has been a farmer and recalled operating farm equipment at the age of 10 or 11. During high school, he helped with hay baling and milking cows.
“I’ve been connected to agriculture for most of my life,” he said, noting that he used to be a chicken and pig farmer, but now raises cattle.
Dean worked with the Rolla Farmers Exchange for about 10 years, starting in 1961. He later worked for Rolla Municipal Utilities for 12 years as an auditor, a position later renamed to business manager. While at RMU, he learned to program codes for software.
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Dean and his wife, Linda, who have been married for 50 years as of last April, bought the Rolla franchise of H&R Block. After they sold the business, that was when Dean was approached to run for commissioner.
Dean and his wife have two children, Susan and Brian, and five grandchildren.
Dean has been a member of the Rolla Lions Club for 40 years, and is assistant treasurer. He also helps with cooking at events and the club’s tax returns. He plans to stay active with the club in retirement.
Additionally, Dean attends Redeemer Lutheran Church.
Dean will turn 72 next month, and while he said many people were sad to see him leave office, he tells them to congratulate him because he is looking forward to retirement.