COLUMBIA – Cathy Richards is Boone County's new public administrator, winning with 57.98 percent of the vote over Republican opponent John Sullivan.
Richards, a Democrat, will replace Connie Hendren, who held the position for 16 years and decided not to run again.
"I just want to say that I didn't do this by myself," Richards said while celebrating with friends at Billiards on Broadway. "I had my family, my committee, I want to thank all of them. It's just been great, it's been a good trip. I've enjoyed it."
Hendren endorsed Richards, saying that she researched the position thoroughly before deciding to run and that she has "shown the most interest."
"I think she has as close to a realistic picture going in as anybody," Hendren told the Missourian in October.
Richards garnered 44,524 votes to Sullivan’s 32,270. Richards credits her strong win in the August primary with helping to sway Boone County voters. She said she believes voters saw her genuine desire to serve people, not use the office to advance her political career.
"Thank goodness I've been given this chance to help," Richards said, "to do something in this life to make a difference for someone."
She said she doesn’t know yet whether she’ll make any changes in the administrator’s office, but wants to keep learning more about the position beforehand.
"I'll do a lot of studying," Richards said. "I think there's training that has to go on with the new public administrators, and I'll be visiting Connie a lot in between that and using my vacation days to hopefully meet a lot more of the clients."
The public administrator serves a four-year term and handles the estates of deceased people and those of minors or people with disabilities when there is no legal guardian, conservator or other competent person to assume those duties. When appointed by the court, the public administrator provides for the proper care of such people and protects the assets of their estates against injury, waste, theft or loss.
One point of contention in the election for administrator was that Richards lacked academic degrees and qualifications relevant to the job. She argued, however, that growing up poor, working on a farm, being a nursing student and pursuing her master's degree in counseling give her the life and work experience that will help her succeed in the post.
For the past eight years, Richards has been office manager for the Boone County Commission. At Billiards, where Richards held a joint watch party with Chris Kelly, candidate for the 24th District seat in the Missouri House, she laughed when she said she'll have to go back to work for the commission tomorrow.
Sullivan conceded the loss by thanking his supporters and the people who had confidence in him.
"I wish Cathy Richards the best and successful service as the public administrator," Sullivan said, and he encouraged her to keep working on behalf of the clients.
Richards said she's most looking forward to meeting her new clients.
"They mean a lot to me already and I haven't even met them," Richards said. "I can't wait to meet them."