COLUMBIA — “Frog stranglin’” is a title assigned to heavy rain. A “two-lane goat path” is a road that wasn’t planned well by the Boone County Commission. So every time a “frog stranglin’ rain” comes down on a “two-lane goat path,” Boone County Southern District commissioner candidate James Pounds is reminded why he’s running for office.
Filling a Shakespeare’s cup with water and a pinch of lemon, Pounds hops into his red truck, ignoring the chocolate lab, Coda, sniffing the trace his boots leave behind in the dust of the gravel driveway. Coda’s the nice one, but guests are warned to watch out for Maggie, a “Heinz 57.” She might be lurking anywhere, waiting to nip at the heels of some unexpected visitor or chase the four horses out back.
“You know, when it rains so hard, it could just strangle a frog,” Pounds says. He’s wearing his red button-down shirt today. If he had to think about it, it’s probably his favorite color.
Pounds’ unofficial campaign slogan is: “Do it right. The first time.”
As he drives the roads throughout the county — down Bass Road, Scott Boulevard and past the construction of Battle High School — he’s quick to point out a misplaced stoplight or a place where he thinks the county roads are defined by a lack of care, especially compared to the city roads.
He’s “just plain tickled” with the city's work on Scott Boulevard, but where did the guys who did that good work go when the county part of the road was made? Out to coffee? Out to lunch? On vacation to Hawaii?, he sarcastically guesses.
In forums with his opponent, incumbent Southern District Commission Karen Miller, Pounds returns consistently to three issues: the roads, taxes and excess regulation.
He knows the roads because he drives them every day. He says the taxes on his house went up significantly from 1997 to 2011. And where, he asks, are they putting that money? Excess regulation, to him, is found in the thick books of international building codes, international residential codes and the amendments to the building codes piled high on his kitchen counter.
“This here’s the regulations,” Pounds says. "I know it's kinda hard to believe, but some of this will get a little dry when you're reading through it."
“Oh, the Bible,” Pounds' wife, Martina Pounds, says. A member of Missouri Task Force One and a volunteer firefighter for the Boone County Fire Protection District, Martina Pounds is familiar with regulations. It’s one of the political issues the couple disagrees on; she’s a strong proponent of more regulations when it comes to mandatory fire sprinklers in buildings.
Pounds and his wife, however, are able to bond on other political issues. A German native from a small town outside of Nuremburg, she was there for President Ronald Reagan’s speech at the Berlin Wall. The first time Pounds ever voted was in 1984, for Reagan's re-election. Pounds and Martina share a great respect for Reagan, even though they watched his presidency from different sides of the world.
As Pounds empties a box of building regulations, Martina texts her 18-year-old daughter, Savannah Pounds. Pounds points out that they haven’t seen too much of her lately, but Martina Pounds says her daughter is just busy. She’s a freshman biomedical engineer major, after all.
During the summer, James Pounds took a trip to the Appalachian Mountains with Savannah Pounds and members of their church, St. Andrews Lutheran. Putting his construction knowledge to good use, Pounds helped modify and upgrade homes for Appalachian families. The work was a welcome transition from the slow days he’s had at his construction business. Although he's bid on storm-water, remodeling and municipal waterline projects recently, he says his prices are too high for him to get any work.
“I’ve bid more this year than I’ve ever bid in my life, and I still haven’t gotten anything,” Pounds says. “I used to have employees, but I’d rather do the work myself.” Martina Pounds nods in agreement.
She, too, hasn't been able to work much lately; during a recent drill in the Devil's Icebox, meant to teach participants how to perform rescues in caves, Martina Pounds suffered a broken leg.
Pounds says he still keeps himself busy despite the lack of work. His days consist of bidding for jobs, helping his construction buddies with their jobs and taking his son, Collin, 14, to swim practices.
Over free sloppy joes and iced tea in the back room of Mid-City Construction, Pounds asks his friends how work is going and jokes about having to send them job applications soon. Sometimes he makes it out there two or three times a week, sometimes not at all. Five years ago, he says, you’d go walking in, and it’d be standing room only. Now, the tables are sparsely filled with people, reflecting the lack of construction work.
“See how bad business has gotten?” he asks.
Complaining about too much regulation is a common theme among the group. Hands shoved deep into the pockets of their work jeans, they spend time “shootin’ the breeze,” as Pounds puts it.
Pounds remembers the last time there was a heavy snow and he took his Super Glide Harley to Key West, Fla. While his friends called to complain about their struggles, he told them that it was getting a little hot, even with shorts on. He might go back this year.
An experienced rider, Pounds has been to the annual Harley rally in Sturgis, S.D. It's right next door to Wyoming, where he once lived. He'll take his son there for a hunting trip soon.
"I like to ride," Pounds says. "At times, I like to just get out and go ride. I enjoy riding down the black top roads, like between Ashland and Holts Summit."
Later, Pounds will attend a Chamber of Commerce forum, where he'll try to convince people that they're being regulated too much. He decides to take his box of regulation books to use for a dramatic introduction. He hasn’t made any money for this campaign, and he hasn’t asked for any, but he says he’s not afraid to run against a seasoned incumbent.
“The thing about what I’m saying is anyone can drive down the roads and see exactly what I’m talking about,” Pounds says. “I’m doing this as a parent. This is the future of Boone County.”
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.