Jerry Carrington wants a rematch.
After losing a race for Boone County Northern District Commissioner in 2000, Carrington, a Columbia Republican, is running against the same opponent for the same job four years later.
And although he said his approach won’t vary much from his previous effort, Carrington expects the results will. He said increased voter turnout for this year’s contentious presidential election and a growing concern about things not getting done in county government should help him.
Carrington’s opponent, Democratic incumbent Skip Elkin, won about 60 percent of the district’s vote in 2000. Elkin, 40, of Hallsville, now has the advantage of incumbency and comes from a family with a long history of political service .
The winner on Nov. 2 gets a four-year term, an annual salary of $75,254 and the chance to represent the interests of half the county.
Carrington, 71, has been an independent real estate agent in Columbia for 34 years. Born and raised in Fulton, he has lived in mid-Missouri most of his life. The U.S. Army deployed him for two years in Germany at the height of the Cold War. When he returned to Columbia, Carrington embarked on a 13-year career as an engineering inspector for the Missouri Department of Transportation.
For the past eight years, Carrington’s name has been a familiar sight on local ballots. In 1998 and again in 2002, Carrington ran for presiding commissioner. He ran for district commissioner in 2000.
Elkin is also a veteran, having served four years in the Marine Corps. Upon returning to Hallsville, Elkin worked for two years at an engineering company before taking the reins of Elkin Roofing Co. from his father.
Elkin entered politics in 1995 when he joined the Hallsville Board of Aldermen. He became involved with government full time in 2000, after defeating Carrington for his first term as commissioner.
Elkin said he wants a second term to continue improving the condition of the county’s roads and to develop the Boone County Fairgrounds, which he envisions as an oasis of sports and recreation amid the hustle and bustle of nearby U.S. 63. Elkin would also like to integrate more cost-saving technology into the everyday tasks of county workers and to make sure government services keep up with growth.
“We have to make sure the roads keep up, try to make sure our sewers keeps up, make sure our technology keeps up,” Elkin said. “That’s the challenge.”
It’s a challenge Carrington doesn’t believe Elkin has the tools to deal with. He cites as evidence numerous road projects he believes the commission has mishandled. He said the commission wasted money building Obermiller Road northwest of Columbia because it was placed in a flood plain and is often impassable.
Carrington has also criticized the pace of development at the fairground and the distribution of money the county earns through its lease arrangement with BJC Health Systems at Boone Hospital Center.
Carrington thinks the fairground should be quickly developed into a recreational facility that will pay for itself. He also believes the county’s share of hospital revenue should be reinvested in the hospital rather than distributed to other interests.
Carrington, who advertises his positions in local media outlets even outside election seasons, said an interest in public service drives his desire to become a commissioner.
“I do have a record for money I’ve saved the taxpayers without even winning an election,” Carrington said.
Carrington said he would be willing to accept less than the standard commissioner’s salary if county finances required him to do so.
“I’m not just interested in a $70,000 a year job,” he said.
Elkin also views the role of commissioner as one of public service. A fifth-generation Boone County resident whose family has lived here since the 1860s, Elkin said he hopes to make the area better for a sixth generation.
“My kids are my motivation, really,” Elkin said, referring to his daughters, Kathryn, 15, and Alexandra, 10. “I want to make this place the best place for them. I don’t want them to feel they have to move away.”
Elkin said his late grandfather, Bud Elkin, who served as Boone County sheriff and mayor of Hallsville in the 1960s and 1970s, is also a source of motivation.
“It was almost expected of us to be active and serve in our community,” Elkin said. “It’s part of my family’s values.”
Elkin sees transformation of the fairground to include playing fields for kids and areas for activities by agricultural groups such as 4-H, as a public service. He calls it one of his “pet projects.”
Carrington, on the other hand, would like to see the property double as a disaster-relief area that could provide shelter and other amenities for mid-Missourians in case of a terrorist attack, an earthquake or another catastrophic event.
One of Elkin’s top priorities is to step up efforts to implement more cutting-edge technology in county government, allowing workers to meet the increasing demand for services without placing undue financial burden on residents.
“We can’t just continue to tax people at higher and higher rates. Yet demand continues to increase,” Elkin said. “The question is, how do we provide this level of service, and my answer is that we have to work smart, we have to use technology.”
Some Northern District voters cited roads as their primary concern.
Harry Topper, who lives just north of Columbia, said streets in his area are in poor condition.
“They just need to fix the roads,” said Topper, adding that neither candidate seems focused enough on that issue. “That’s all I really care about.”
Cinda White of Centralia agrees. “I’d like to see a little more attention paid to the roads up here,” she said.
Both are undecided, but White said she’d probably cast a straight Democratic ballot.
Elkin said the best way to improve county roads is to build proper drainage ditches alongside them.
“Then we won’t have to go out and fix those roads every time it rains hard,” he said.
The money saved on maintenance could then be used to build more and better roads, Elkin said.
Carrington believes the county needs to develop a more comprehensive plan for its road system and to pay more attention to safety. He said gravel roads such as River Road, which runs along the Missouri River near Hartsburg, need more signs and barricades, in this case to prevent cars and buses from swerving or slipping into the river.
“If we’re going to build and upgrade roads, we’ve got to upgrade the whole system,” Carrington said.
If elected, Carrington said, he probably would serve only one term because many of his priorities can be accomplished within four years.
“I think one term would do it,” Carrington said.
Elkin, on the other hand, could stick around for a while.
“I could do this for the rest of my life and be happy and enjoy it,” Elkin said.