COLUMBIA — Public Administrator Connie Hendren’s decision not to seek re-election in November has created competition for the often overlooked office.
Hendren, who has held the office since January 1993, said she simply decided it was time to retire. But three people already have stepped forward since filing for county offices began Tuesday. They are Democrat Cathy Richards, who is now the office manager for the Boone County Commission; Democrat Casey Forbis, an attorney; and Republican John D. Sullivan, whose Sullivan and Associates business specializes in providing long-term care, disability and life insurance.
Richards, a Democrat, said she decided to run when she heard Hendren was not seeking re-election.
“Connie is such a good person with the people she works with, and she does it so well,” Richards said. “I’m working on my (licensed professional counselor) license and with her decision to retire, it seemed like the perfect time to seek this office.”
Sullivan ran against Hendren in 2004. He also said this year was a good time to seek the office.
“I think it’s that time in my life where I can run,” Sullivan said. “I have always wanted to be in service in a more extensive way.”
Sullivan described his experiences as a congressional aide during college, as a nursing home administrator and as city manager in Aurora. He said those jobs have allowed him to interact with different government agencies and help qualify him for the position.
“I have a lot of life experiences in terms of career, and all of these things seem to be a part of what a public administrator needs to be,” Sullivan said. “I can interact with people with understanding and compassion.”
Sullivan said it’s too early in the race for him to know exactly what his campaign strategies will be, but he has learned from the 2004 race that his biggest challenge is public attention.
“Public administrator is not a highly known position,” Sullivan said. “The limitation is (that) people’s attentions are going to be drawn to other races.”
Forbis agrees with Sullivan that creating awareness of the position is key.
“I think it’s very important to get my name out there and raise awareness about what the public administrator does and that I’m the right candidate for the job,” Forbis said. She added that she’s been thinking about running for several years and that Hendren’s retirement confirmed her decision.
“I feel like Connie has done an excellent job, and I would like to continue what she’s built,” Forbis said. “The public administrator’s office needs someone with compassion and understanding, and more importantly a legal and financial background. I’m the right person for the job.”
Richards agreed that Hendren has done a good job but said there is room for growth in any office.
“I plan on meeting with (Hendren) again to discuss ways she would like to augment the office,” Richards said. “With every new person in every position, they can bring something new to the table and envision things for the future.”