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Barry McCullough announces bid for Clay County Commission


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Insurance agent Barry McCullough thought he was done with politics when he moved out of the city of Gladstone. But watching the discord within the Clay County Commission, McCullough decided to make a bid.

McCullough is running as a Republican to replace Western Commissioner Gene Owen, a Democrat, in the 2020 election when his four-year term is completed. Democratic state Rep. Jon Carpenter has also announced he is running to replace Owen on the commission. 

“Something has to be done to fix the … corruption. It’s not going smoothly,” McCullough said of the current representation. “Our interests aren’t being represented, and our fiduciary responsibilities are certainly questionable.”

The Clay County Commission has found itself at the center of multiple controversies of late. The State Auditor’s Office began to audit the commission earlier this year and issued a subpoena when it rejected a “standard” records request.

In April, the Clay County sheriff sued the commission, alleging Owen and Eastern Commissioner Luann Ridgeway made “drastic cuts” to his budget out of retaliation. And in May, the pair came under fire for not showing up to a special session regarding an “urgent” issue of staffing and funding the county clerk’s office so residents could be helped with property tax assessments, WDAF-TV reported at the time.

McCullough said part of the current “disconnect” is the undermining of Presiding Commissioner Jerry Nolte. If he’s elected, he believes he will work well with Nolte.

“From there, it’s [about] budget, management, and taxes,” McCullough told The Missouri Times. “As an insurance agent and from running a couple of businesses, I understand meeting payroll, how to balance a budget, and how to manage priorities to be effective and ultimately be successful to grow and to thrive. That applies to the government as well — just having the responsibility and mindfulness of how to best utilize the budget so you’re getting the most for every dollar you spend and not spend unnecessarily.”

According to McCullough, some of the top priorities facing Clay County are infrastructure needs — particularly in more rural areas — and ensuring the Sheriff’s Office is fully staffed.

“We don’t need crime and drugs to get a foothold,” he said. “Unfortunately, once those things are established, they turn into their own entities, and it’s a lot harder to combat if you don’t stay on top of them.”

McCullough has always lived within a few miles of Kansas City — except for during the time he attended Missouri Western State University in Saint Joseph. He and his wife have three children and five granddaughters, including newborn twins.

The election will be held in November 2020 with a primary contest in August.

Owen did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Missouri Times.