Neosho City Council Candidate Q and A, part two

Seth Kinker
Neosho Daily News

During the November elections, the citizens of Neosho approved changing the number of City Council members from five to seven and established four wards. Of the five current council members, Mayor Carmin Allen and Councilman Tim Workman’s terms both end in Apr. 2021 and neither filed for reelection.

The openings are in Ward 1 for a three-year term, Ward 2 for a two-year term, Ward 3 for a two-year term and a general At Large opening for a three-year term that will be voted on by all four voting precincts. 

Leading up to the Apr. 6 election, the Neosho Daily News will be profiling the candidates for the open seats. In this edition, candidates for Ward 3 and the At-Large seats were asked a set of questions pertaining to running for city council. For part one, click here.

Ward 3 – Jon Stephens and Julie Humphrey

Jon Stephens
Julie Humphrey

Occupation? 

Julie Humphrey (JH): I have worked as a Child Development Teacher with Educare Project REACH (Rural Early Childhood Initiative) with the University of Missouri for over 16 years.  I connect child care providers with local resources, provide one-on-one support and provide individual and group training on health and safety issues and child development to child care providers in rural counties in Southwest West Missouri. 

I am also an Adjunct Instructor for the University of Cincinnati in the Early Childhood Education On-line degree program.  I have been an adjunct instructor for UC for over 10 years.

Jon Stephens (JS): Office Manager at Signature Granite / Realtor with Realty Executives Tri-States

What party are you affiliated with, if any?

JH: Neosho City Charter designates that City Council elections are a Non-Partisan Election. The names of candidates for the Council shall be printed on ballots without party designation, and all election campaigns shall be conducted on a non-partisan basis.  (Section 9.03)

The state of Missouri does not allow you to register with a party to vote.  I’ve voted for members of both political parties in elections.  In city elections a person's connections to the community and the issues they support to help their community are more important than any party affiliation. In state and federal elections, I vote for the person who is the most qualified to do the job, and so in past elections I have voted for public servants of both major political parties.

JS: Republican Party

What experience do you have in civil service?

JH: I am a current member of the Neosho Newton County Library Board.  I have previously worked in the Juvenile Court System in Northwest Arkansas as a child advocate and coordinator of volunteers in the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) program and I tailored my graduate degree to fit the needs of children in the court system by auditing domestic relations law classes at the University of Arkansas.

JS: I served on the City Council for Neosho from 2017-2020. Served on the Chamber Board in Anderson MO. 

What made you want to run for the city council seat?

JH: Our city would benefit from electing new public servants with fresh perspectives rather than re-electing citizens who have previously held council positions. Adding the Ward System helps to ensure all areas of the city are represented in city government. I feel that now is an important time to be more involved with this level of government.

JS: I didn't like how the current City Council was infringing on our rights. I bring a common sense and facts-based approach to my decision making. 

What do you think are some of the biggest issues the city is currently facing?

JH: Water loss and upgrading the old pipes around town is a huge issue in the city.  The City of Neosho has been battling this problem for 10 – 15 years and previous City Councils, that several of the individuals running sat on, have not dealt with the issue. 

Our community would benefit by creating programs for our homeless citizens that help with developing job skills and by making mental health programs accessible to our homeless community.

Activities for youth.  Youth activities attract families and encourage community growth. Our community needs a community center that provides a safe atmosphere where youth can go for social activities. 

JS: We need more industry that brings jobs and restaurants to our Town. The city manager is currently working on water loss prevention efforts that we desperately need. 

How do you plan to help address these issues?

JH: I plan to bring my knowledge of local and state resources to address the topics.  I have a background in researching and writing grants that will also be helpful to find resources to meet these needs and others that I have not mentioned.  I have served on state boards and can work alongside others to accomplish things for the good of all.

JS: I plan on continuing to promote the city as a place you want to start a company or move your company here. I will also make sure the city manager has what he needs to help find the water loss issues we currently have. 

At-Large – Kathi Pellegrin, Mitch Jarvis and Charles Collinsworth

Kathi Pellegrin
Mitch Jarvis
Charles Collinsworth

Occupation?

Kathi Pellegrin (KP): I am retired, I was a former legal assistant.

Mitch Jarvis (MJ): I’ve been a United Methodist Pastor for 17 years, and here (in Neosho), for the last five.

Charles Collinsworth (CC): Parts Department /Customer Service at the Marco Group

What party are you affiliated with, if any?

KP: Republican. This is not a partisan election, there are people trying to make it so. It is not and I’m not running on a political party platform. My main goal is to bring Neosho into a more destination and bring businesses back to Neosho. Make it a venue where people want to come spend time and shop and dine. That’s my main focus and that has nothing to do with politics.

MJ: I am not registered with any parry. I’m an independent who has voted for republicans and democrats both nationally and locally. I’m an independent who leans progressive.

CC: I’m a conservative.

What experience do you have in civil service?

KP: I’ve really not served in civil service; I’ve worked with attorneys.

MJ: Other than leading this congregation, which is a very diverse group of people, socially, politically and even theologically. It’s kind of the magic of the United Methodist Church. We’re a big tent church and have people from all across the spectrum. In addition to leading the church I am also currently serving as the board president for the Neosho Habitat for Humanity. I’ve also led, in the past, a community conversation called “Theology on Tap” down at Indian Springs Brewing Company where its an open format theological discussion for the whole community. You get a lot of different viewpoints and opinions and were able to navigate that.

CC: I’m a two-term councilman, a former Mayor, and have served on city boards.

What made you want to run for the city council seat?

KP: We retired and moved back here; Neosho is where I grew up. I’ve lived the last 40 years since I graduated in Houston, Texas. When we retired, we decided to come back here and build our retirement home. I wanted to see how I could serve the community.

MJ: I think Neosho deserves positive, encouraging leadership. I think our city is at a crossroads right now where we have to determine where were going for the future. Do we want to try and embrace vision for the future and move boldly forward? Or do we want to try to step back, kind of pining for the past, and circle the wagons? I was encouraged to run for city council by a group of friends to keep us moving forward with our parks and outdoors spaces. I’m a bike enthusiast and make a lot of use of the bike pats and parks here. I’ve also been encouraged to help us increase our services, for instance sometimes our internet is slow and spotty here in town. From a city council perspective, id advocate for better services and lastly, to advocate and encourage the growth of the downtown business district. I think Neosho is somewhat unique, a lot of cities our size, the downtown is dried up and nonexistent. It’s sad. That’s the way it is in my hometown, my father was a longtime downtown merchant. Its heartbreaking. Neosho certainly has some signs of life and vitality. We need leaders who are going to encourage and advocate for that, not leaders who are going to complicate matters or pull back from progress.

CC: I’m running because the erosion of civil liberties and the tone deafness I’ve witnessed in certain elected officials. 

What do you think are some of the biggest issues the city is currently facing?

KP: Right now, a lot of the discussion has been about water loss and drainage in the city. That’s the biggest issue on the table. The parks had been an issue, but the parks have really come a long way.

MJ: I always say the biggest issue is one of vision. We need to decide amongst ourselves, what are we going to be? Again, I look to our neighbors to the south in northwest Arkansas. They seem to have embraced the arts, they have embraced outdoor activities and I think that has been a boon. It wasn’t so long ago that northwestern Arkansas was sleepy and underdeveloped. It’s been those kinds of things, embracing tarts and culture, outdoor space. It has absolutely changed the trajectory of northwest Arkansas. I think that can be true for us here a well if we don’t play it so conservative that we just regress and fade back to where we were.

CC: The biggest issue facing the city is governmental overreach. We need officials who won’t try to restrict individual freedoms or tell businesses how they must operate.  Less government is more. 

How do you plan to help address these issues? 

KP: Working with city council for one thing. They’re taking bids now to improve the water loss and the drainage issues. The parks have been addressed and are being utilized fully.

MJ: Very similar to how my church works, I want to be on city council to be a supporter of our city manager. And to encourage that city manager to think big and bold for the future. That’s really the role of the city council, to be advocates for and to hold accountable our city manager who is the primary administrator for our city. Not to complicate matters and get in the way and politic, but to keep him or her on task and encourage and support them.

CC: I will improve this situation by expanding the opportunities