COLUMBIA — Former Boone County public administrator Connie Hendren announced that she has decided to run against Cathy Richards, the current public administrator who Hendren endorsed as her replacement.
After 16 years in office, Hendren decided to retire from her position as public administrator. Hendren endorsed Richards as best suited to replace her, and Richards was elected in 2008. But now Hendren has decided to run for the Democratic nomination against Richards in the August primary election.
“I think the fact that I’m running probably says a lot,” Hendren said. “I have just not been satisfied with the way that the office has operated.”
Hendren said her previous clients have not been pleased with the current public administrator and encouraged her to run again.
Richards said that it seems odd that her work as public administrator would be called into question in an election year and never before.
“All I have heard is rumor so far, but I believe she is accusing me of not taking care of the clients, which is disingenuous to say the least,” Richards said. “I do know she has had great difficulty adjusting to retirement.”
Since retiring, Hendren has kept in contact with her past clients and decided she wants to return to the position.
“I would certainly appreciate the opportunity to work with all of the clients again, with the staff,” Hendren said. “I just feel like this is what I’m meant to do again, and I’m going to give it my best shot.”
Richards has been in office for over three years now and will soon graduate from Stephens College with a master’s degree in counseling.
“As for the job itself, not only do I have a more apropos education than my opponent, I also have more applicable experience,” she said.
Richards said her goal is to educate people about the job and about how everyone can help the mentally ill.
“Keeping mental illness a secret is a mistake," she said. "The more society knows about what the public administrator contends with on a daily basis, the more helpful they can be.”
Hendren said she enjoyed working with people with mental illnesses and disabilities during her 16 years in office, and continues to do so today. She said she is the person who knows the clients, their families and their situations.
Hendren said she has always brought a positive attitude to the job because of her experience with mental illness in her own family.
“It really helps you to understand that in spite of anyone’s disability, everybody is a great person,” Hendren said. “It doesn’t change how society should look at anyone.”
Richards said her compassion for her clients and a keen understanding of the people she takes care of make her the best person for the position. She also said that she wants people to know that she will not run a negative campaign.
“I am confident that the voters will see I have been an outspoken advocate for my clients and will continue to be that way during my next term,” Richards said. “I feel I have done a very good job as public administrator, and I plan to continue that work — if reelected — for another full term in office.”
The primary election will take place in August and the general election will be held in November.