COLUMBIA — Before Friday, Columbia resident Charles Roberts didn't know which of the two Democratic candidates for public administrator would get his vote.
"There's so much news about so many candidates, but (the public administrator job) isn't connected to the political scene," Roberts said at a Boone County Muleskinners luncheon Friday. "This is the first opportunity I've had to learn about the two candidates. I really don't know a darn thing about them."
It has been 15 years since Boone County residents picked a new public administrator. The incumbent, Connie Bell Hendren will vacate her post at the end of this year. Dan Dunham, a practicing attorney, and Cathy Richards, office manager for the Boone County Commission, are both hoping to be picked in the Democratic primary on Aug. 5. The Republican candidate, John Sullivan, is running unopposed.
The public administrator is responsible for the estates of the deceased, of minors and incapacitated or disabled people when there is no legal guardian or conservator. The public administrator also serves as the court-appointed guardian, conservator, representative or surrogate.
Those at the Muleskinners gathering heard the two Democratic candidates talk about their credentials for and thoughts about the job in a question-and-answer format. Questions focused on their legal experience, financial practices and human compassion.
Several people who attended the event asked questions about finance. One responsibility of the public administrator is to budget the money and manage the investments of those in his or her care. Some who attended mentioned the potential for abuse and corruption.
In his work as a lawyer, Dunham said he had many opportunities to manage finances.
"I know how to handle estates and work with budgets," he said.
Richards said the public administrator's office has well-established procedures and a sound computer system for handling money and tracking clients finances.
Compassion was also a hot topic at the luncheon.
"I love these people," Richards answered. "I wouldn't be able to sleep at night if they weren't taken care of."
Richards recounted a conversation she had with Hendren about what would happen to her clients when she leaves the job.
"I said, ‘Connie, don't worry about it,'" Richards said. "‘If I'm elected, these people will be taken care of.'"
Dunham told the group about his experience growing up on a farm and attending church every Sunday. He also talked about how his willingness to switch careers demonstrates commitment to the position of public administrator.
"If I had no compassion for the common man, I would not be laying down a (law) practice of 28 years," Dunham said.
By the end of the event, Roberts knew who he would pick on Aug. 5.
"I know who I'm going to vote for, 100 percent," Roberts said, confidently.