COLUMBIA — Democratic incumbent Cathy Richards won her party's nomination for Boone County public administrator Tuesday and will continue to vie for a second term in a November general election contest with Republican nominee John Sullivan.
Richards defeated previous incumbent Connie Bell Hendren, who served in the office for 16 years, by winning 67.5 percent of the votes. Richards got 4,849 votes to Hendren's 2,334, a margin of 2,515. Sullivan garnered 6,111 votes, or 72.2 percent, against opponent Norman Lampton, who received 2,348 votes, or 27.8 percent.
Richards joined Democrat Darin Fugit, a candidate for Northern District commissioner, and more than a dozen combined supporters of the two candidates at The Upper Crust Bakery and Cafe to watch the election results. Richards' family and close friends stayed near her side, just as Richards said they had throughout her campaign. She attributed her primary victory to the constant help and encouragement of supporters.
"I couldn't have done it with out a grassroots effort," Richards said. "They believe in me. I feel good about it because I know I did what was right for my clients."
Richards said she was relieved to see the primary elections come to an end after a campaign in which Hendren said she had received complaints about Richards' performance in the job.
"No one should have had to gone through I what I had to go through," Richards said. "I've just done by job, and I never faltered. I've always said I will do what is best for my clients, and I'll continue to do so."
Hendren spent a calm night at home watching a movie as the results rolled in. Hendren, who retired from the office in 2008 and then endorsed Richards' campaign that year, hoped to return to office and bring the position back to the way she left it. Although Hendren said she was eager to serve her clients again, she thinks she put up a good fight during this campaign.
"I appreciate everyone who did vote and who helped me," Hendren said.
Like Hendren, Sullivan took it easy and stayed at home to watch the results with his wife, Suzanne Sullivan, as a few campaign committee members visited. He was pleased to see such support for his campaign but was already thinking ahead to what was next.
"I need to make a distinction between what I can bring to that office in terms of my administrative and human experiences and how I can use those to advance the work of the the office," Sullivan said.
Sullivan, who has worked as a nursing home administrator and city manager, said he hopes his work in service-orientated careers will show the kind of care he would bring to the public administrator's office.
"Anybody can say I care," Sullivan said. "It's trying to show a genuineness in being able to say that and being able to back it up in your experiences and the way you have demonstrated caring in the past."
On the south side of town, Lampton began the evening with other Republican primary election candidates at Stoney Creek Inn but ended the night quietly at home. Lampton said he ran a pretty low-key campaign due to other commitments.
"I really didn't make my campaign a priority on purpose," Lampton said.
Although Lampton was Sullivan's opponent, the two are good friends. They are both members of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church and the Knights of Columbus.
"I will do everything I can do to get him elected," Lampton said. "I'm glad that John is doing that well, and I will support him."
The public administrator office is not widely understood, candidates said during the campaign. The public administrator manages the estates of the deceased or of people with disabilities or incapacities that prevent them from handling their own affairs and who have no one else to do so. The position often provides for the proper care of clients and protects the assets of estates against injury, waste, theft or loss.
Both Richards and Sullivan said during their campaigns that they want the office to be more visible to the public.
Richards hopes to build upon her first term by establishing a mental health advisory board, hiring more workers in the social work field to better manager the office's caseload and raising community awareness that mental illness is a normal part of life.
If elected, Sullivan plans to incorporate more community involvement, create an office atmosphere of respect and work more aggressively to maintain clients' independence.