Candidates for Phelps County Clerk on Tuesday, August 7.

(R) Pamela K. Grow
(R) Lorri Thurman

A little about you:

Pamela K. Grow: I was raised in the Midwest (Iowa and Nebraska) and moved to Missouri in 1980 after I married my husband, David.  I obtained my M.D. degree from Washington University School of Medicine in 1985 and was board certified in pediatrics, the specialty I practiced starting with my move to Rolla in 1989.  After two more children were born, giving us four, I reduced my involvement in my profession.  I was fortunate to have the experience of home schooling the two younger children during this time.  Though always very interested in politics, the interlude from an extremely hectic profession provided more time to think about good governance and I became convinced that local government was best positioned to serve the citizens with transparency, accountability and thrift.  I revere and cherish our system of self-government, and especially the citizen involvement that is possible in America.  My husband, Dr. David Grow and I, have four children and three grandchildren, who remain in my thoughts when I consider the course of our government.

Lorri Thurman: I am originally from Viburnum, Mo; a home to Doe Run mining. I attended high school in Salem. My career in Phelps County began in 2003, where I was a 911 Operator for the City of Rolla for 6 years. I have been employed with the Phelps County Sheriff’s Department for 8 years and am currently the Administrative Assistant to the Sheriff. I have been married 13 years to Lance Thurman who is an attorney at Williams, Robinson, Rigler, & Buschjost. Together, we have an 11 year old son, Jaden. I have been a CASA volunteer since 2016. My parents are Larry Limbaugh, Potosi, and Karen Allen, Rolla.

What qualifies you for this position and what is the most important responsibility?

Pamela K. Grow: In terms of the qualifications, Missouri statute says “No person shall be elected or appointed clerk of the county commission unless such person be a citizen of the United States, over the age of twenty-one years, and shall have resided within the state one whole year, and within the county for which the person is elected one year just prior to such person's election; and every clerk shall after the election continue to reside within the county for which such person is clerk.” I have those. Our government “of the people, by the people,” encourages and enables participation by keeping the requirements general. The most important responsibility is to be dedicated to serving the people by following the law.

Lorri Thurman: During my last 8 years at the Phelps County Sheriff’s Department, I have gained experience in office management, license issuance, handling of confidential information, HR duties, financial management, budget planning, and policy creation and maintenance.  Being the election authority is the most publicly understood duty of the county clerk, but the not so glamourous job of record keeper may be the most important. It is essential for the County Clerk to keep accurate, complete, and organized records for legal purposes and to protect the interests of the county.

What could be done to improve the get out and vote message to increase the number of registered voters in Phelps County?

Pamela K. Grow: People vote when they think it matters. That starts with education about the role of government during a person’s youth; parents and educators play a big part here. Transparency in elections, so people are welcome to come and observe, or serve as a judge of elections at the polls, help people to see that it matters. Poll judges are real ambassadors for the importance of the elections. However, I would never want to scold or berate people for not voting; personal liberty is so important and it must not be infringed upon by coercion to vote. Totalitarian countries drag people to the polls and the vote is always 100% for the tyrant in power.

Lorri Thurman: What I have observed is how overwhelming elections can be for people. Better access to information explaining the functions of county government offices could help. One way to improve that would be to spotlight each office in local publications during National County Government month. During that month, the County Commission holds their meetings in different towns throughout Phelps County. It is a great opportunity for both the public and the office holders, yet participation is low. At a 3.8% unemployment rate, it’s clear that Phelps Countians are hard working people. The last thing most people want to do after working all day is go sit through another meeting for an undetermined amount of time. This would be a great way to reach community members who would prefer to further educate themselves from the comfort of their homes.

What can be done, and how, on the county’s part to ensure election security?

Pamela K. Grow: There is a danger when the workings of elections are secret and mysterious to the people at large. This is the reason I’m in favor of complete transparency and I lean toward the paper ballot. Not everyone is a computer programmer—I’m certainly not—and paper ballots provide a permanent, auditable trail of voter intent. Maximum numbers of the citizenry can look at paper ballots during recounts (for example) and understand perfectly well what the people intended. We must keep the control local; heaven forbid that the country’s 3200 or so counties have to have their elections controlled from Washington, DC. That is a recipe for disastrous tampering.

Lorri Thurman: While cybersecurity for elections is battled at state and federal levels, the county relies on an army of well-trained and conscientious volunteers, to oversee the election process at the polls and verify voter identification. Keeping voter registration information up to date for whenever people move or become deceased is another way to combat voter fraud and increase voter integrity.

Should county offices be subject to term limits?

Pamela K. Grow: That’s something the people would decide through their elected representatives in the legislature. It is worth considering, though, because liberty will suffer when power is concentrated with a small number of people who might make their jobs massively complicated by serving in them for a lifetime. Complicated government is out of reach for more of the people, who cannot participate because of the complexity of the rules and regulations that must be followed. If a smaller, less intrusive government is the goal, perhaps higher turnover would facilitate that. I favor smaller, not larger, government.

Lorri Thurman: I do not believe that county offices should be subject to term limits. Unlike elected officials at the state and federal level, the duties of your local officials are not legislative. Everything they do is statutorily mandated. If the people feel the candidate they previously supported is no longer meeting their expectations and keeping up with the times, they need only vote for someone else in the next election. I think setting term limits would be contradictory to the current atmosphere where people desire less infringement by the government. It’s the people’s choice. Keep it their choice.

How many years have you served and why should the voters re-elect you?

Pamela K. Grow: I am finishing my first term, so I have served 3.5 years.  Starting this position as I did at age 55, I was obviously not looking for a lifelong career or a hefty retirement package. The position of county clerk in a third class county has, unfortunately, been allowed to become extremely complicated. Departments of the state government place many demands for information on the clerks; they all have different forms and online platforms for entry of enormous amounts of data—some of which is duplicated.  Thanks to a tolerant family, I was able to spend massive amounts of time in the evenings and on the weekends plowing through the excellent records retained by former clerks and in reading the statutes that pertained to my job duties. So, I’ve gained a lot of information about the job and I feel I’d like to serve a second term.

What is your position on terms limits and how would a change in officeholder benefit or harm the operation of the office you are running for?

Lorri Thurman: As stated above, I am not a fan of term limits for local offices. The duties of the County Clerk are extensive, and the people of Phelps County will, no doubt, benefit from a clerk who is able to properly manage employees and continue to improve the accuracy, efficiency, and knowledge of the office. For any elected office, the best candidate should be elected, regardless of the number of terms they have served.

What should voters know about you in order to make an informed decision?

Pamela K. Grow: I physically and mentally work very hard; this is reflected in my campaign plank of the servant attitude. My plank of transparency and accountability is reflected in my drive to post budgets, financial statements, and Commission minutes (among other things) on the county website. The election plank of vote integrity would be emphasized in the way I have followed requirements for pre- and post-election testing of the equipment and the election night verification testing we do. My fourth plank, obeying the laws, is revealed in my continual forays into the Missouri Constitution and the state statutes for guidance. Some might accuse me of legislating or of acting like a lawyer.  That is pretty preposterous. The people need to know the law. How can we be free, and not trapped in servitude, when we don’t know our own laws?     

Lorri Thurman: I have been interested in the business of the County Clerk’s office for several years. This is the perfect time for me both personally and professionally to pursue this career. I am a hard working citizen who is driven to do my very best. I have consistently proven that I am capable of providing service excellence to the residents of Phelps County. I would love the opportunity to serve the people of Phelps County in this capacity for many years to come.