Meet the Candidates: Branson Ward III Alderman | News Free

The April 6 Branson Municipal Election is so close and the citizens of Branson have some very pressing issues to vote on.

One of those decisions includes choosing an alderman for Ward III; this will include the choice between three candidates: incumbent Julia King, Richard Allen Banks and Ruth Denham.

The other two candidates who originally filed, Daniel Meenen and Dr. Ralph J. LeBlanc, have both formally withdrawn their bid for the position.

All three of the remaining candidates participated in an interview with the Branson Tri-Lakes News.

The candidates are presented in the order in which they will appear on the ballot. Their answers are below and have been edited for space.

Background:

King:

“I am a project manager in the healthcare I.T. industry. I have served as a leader in corporate helping physicians and nurses and clinical staff save patient lives for the last 15 years now. What that means is that when you go to a hospital and see your physician he or she isn’t writing things down with pen and paper, it’s entered into an electronic health record; I manage the software implementations for an electronic health record for hospitals all over the United States and sometimes overseas. I have a wonderful husband, Kevin, and I have a crazy chihuahua, Luna. I am from Kansas City, Kansas. I have my bachelor’s degree in business, I have my master’s degree in business and I am also certified as a project manager with the Project Management Institute.”

Banks:

“I am a retired law enforcement professional with almost 40 years in law enforcement. I’m also retired Army, Army National Guard military intelligence and inspector general. I am in the process of launching an independent business here in the city of Branson. – I’m married, my wife is a local business owner/operator with All Access Branson and the All Access Branson entertainment group. – We’ve been married 17 years, we have four children – we have seven grandchildren, all of which are attending Branson city schools. I was born and raised in San Diego, my father was a Captain in the United States Navy from 1945 till 1972. I joined the Army straight out of high school and after three years of active duty I left the Army and went in the Army National Guard and worked for the county of San Diego as a rural paramedic for a year; married and moved to South Carolina where I worked and lived up until 2011. I’m a graduate of La Salle University; Academy of Health Sciences of San Antonio, Texas; multiple law enforcement schools; my degree emphasis is business with a minor in accounting.”

Denham:

“Currently, I’m retired. I’ve been married to my very best friend, Brian, for 42 years and together we have three children and six grandchildren. We’ve lived in Branson since 1994 and our children and grandchildren have attended the Branson School District, except for our new one, he’s only a month old. We are originally from southern California. I’ve served in local government in a variety of positions for 30 years and almost 14 of those have been at the city of Branson in the planning and development department and then I was at Taney County for approximately five years. I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in business management and I’ve also served as a board member for the seventh district federated republican women on the Taney County Federated Republican Women’s board and the Branson Tri-Lakes Human Resources Association.”

 

Why are you running?

King:

“I am currently serving as a ward 3 alderman for Branson and I have developed during my time on the board an understanding of what keeps Branson a fabulous place to live, vacation and invest and I look forward to remaining on the board so that I can continue bringing positive outcome. I’ll continue tackling tough problems with practical solutions, by adding objectivity and a balanced perspective to the challenging things that take place and impact our town.”

Banks:

“First of all I’m a conservative candidate. I’m in favor of, and I believe in less regulation, lower taxes, lower licensing fees, less restrictions and pro economic growth. Also, enough with the added taxes and ever increasing costs for citizens and our business owners in our community. Those are my core values. Our elected officials must be able to listen and be responsive to the citizens to which they serve, not be dismissive. A lot of our tax revenues that are generated here in Branson, are raised here in Branson and are sent off to Jefferson City and dispersed throughout Missouri and I want to work with state legislators to ensure more of the taxes come back to Branson, for Branson.”

Denham:

“I’m running because I really believe the board of aldermen should be serving the citizens and not the other way around. By choice I have been a public servant my entire career and I am really looking forward to continuing the role, first and foremost, serving the citizens of Branson. I just believe the true leader servant-hood has been missing at city hall for some time and I would love to bring it back.”

Where do you stand on the city’s face covering ordinance?

King:

“As someone who has worked in the healthcare I.T. industry for the past 15 years with a passion for helping clinicians save lives, I have always supported Branson having the mask mandate. I do however think that we can be responsible and look at undoing our mask mandate based on facts and data and recommendations on information that we have received from our healthcare leaders; also based on the number of individuals within our city that have been able to get vaccinated and how many are remaining on the list. So I think we take a comprehensive approach to phase out of the mask mandate. But without information that supports a responsible way to do that, I would still be in favor of it.”

Banks:

“Face masking mandates need to be repealed. Safety is a priority but it should be practiced in a manner in which the economy and working families just aren’t crippled and ruined through the loss of earnings and wages. The states with – mask mandates have not been any better off than those without. It should be up to the individual and business owners to make their own decisions regarding their health and their personal health. I don’t believe any restrictions should be placed on any place of worship, religion is not to be infringed upon whatsoever, it’s a constitutional, God-given right. Finally, just take precautions to protect yourself by personal responsibility.”

Denham:

“I’m 100% against the mask mandate. To wear or not to wear, that’s a personal decision and I don’t feel that we need the government making health decisions for us. I feel that we need to fully reopen and show our beautiful smiley faces to the world and, as always, the free market will end up controlling itself.”

Do you wear a face

covering?

King:

“Yes, I do.”

Banks:

“When I’m in public I social distance, I’m cautious of my surroundings. If I frequent a business, if there’s a sign up that they want you to wear a face mask I comply. I don’t wear a face mask all the time, no.”

Denham:

“No, I do not.”

 

How do you feel about the progress being made at the Compton Drive Wastewater Treatment Plant?

King:

“I think that we have tried to make as much progress as the city could make considering the pandemic and recently our board has made votes and approvals to continue progressing to make sure we’re protecting ourselves from flooding that water treatment plant and that is an ongoing conversation, and ongoing action plans that are taking place. I strongly support making sure that we are protected from flooding so that we can keep our water system and infrastructure up to par.”

Banks:

“My understanding of the wastewater treatment plant is it’s supposed to be 50% completed somewhere around August of 2022 and fully completed in 2023. I’ve talked with some people with the city that said they are on track to have it completed in those time frames. 

I’ve not gotten any response back in reference to the wildlife management study or what they plan on doing to ensure the habitat of the two endangered bat species are protected. I’m going to follow-up on that, we need to be a good steward of the resources that we have here and I was really unaware that we had two endangered species of bats and they just happen to be right here in the city of Branson. What I’ve been told and what I’ve been able to find so far is the project’s on track. I’ve have to continue to follow-up with it.”

Denham:

“I feel that, of course, we need to have progress with our infrastructure and I believe that once the new board gets in, the new board and the citizens should be presented with a thorough review of what was initially approved and how the dollars have been allotted. I believe that we need to really have an open decision to see how the dollars are being spent.”

 

Do you support the Tourism Tax? Why or why not?

King:

“I absolutely support the Tourism Tax. I encourage everyone to vote yes. The 12,000 residents that we have in Branson cannot be the only one sharing the expense for Branson’s water, sewer, utilities, roads and infrastructure; someone else has to help share that load. It would be too expensive for our residents to take that on; and so the eight million visitors that come in here, that’s what the Tourism Tax does, it allows them to share the load of the expenses of keeping Branson up to par and they’re utilizing those things just like we are and so they should participate and share in that expense. So, again I encourage everyone to vote yes and I am in support of it.”

Banks:

“I do support the Tourism Tax. Unfortunately it’s a necessary evil. We have so many tourists that come to this town and we’ve got to be able to provide the services. It’s a recurring tax, so I’d be in support of it to continue but I would like to see some emphasis on where those tax dollars are being spent to do more to push the city of Branson and our activities. I’ve traveled across the south three or four times a year, I stop and I check these vacation channels and the tourism channels, and I always see the same thing; it’s Nashville, Knoxville, Pigeon Forge, Dollywood, Asheville, Myrtle Beach. I don’t see any advertisement, whatsoever advertising Branson and I’d like to see where that money’s going to. The chamber of commerce is getting a lot of it and what they’re doing with it, I think that needs to be taken a look at and reassessed.”

Denham:

“I do support the Tourism Tax and the reason I support the Tourism Tax is because it is not a new tax. I do not support new tax. The Tourism Tax has been in place since I believe 1997. So there is not going to be a difference in what we have been paying since 1997, percentage wise and I feel it’s important that citizens are educated on this tax, knowing it is not a new tax and that if it doesn’t pass the citizens are going to be responsible for paying those dollars. So I do believe that we should pass this existing tax before it expires.”

 

Is there anything else you’d like voters to know?

King:

“I want voters to know that I use my brain everyday in corporate reviewing budgets, managing people, doing research and making tough decisions; that’s what I do everyday for a living. That’s what I’ve done for the past six to seven months on our board of aldermen and that is the same experience they’re going to get with all the things that are set in front of me for the years to come. So, if they want experience, if they want objectivity, if they want someone that’s going to do the research and make an uncompromised decision based on logical, not emotional, then I would let them know that’s what I’m going to do.”

Banks:

“I would like to say that I’m running to return ‘We The People’ back to Branson. Government overreach is taken over and the citizens of Branson want their city back. I believe that the greatness of the community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members and that’s a quote from Coretta Scott King. I think we all can do better for our citizens; our children, our grandchildren are depending on us.”

Denham:

“I’m a conservative republican and you can count on me to represent you by voting conservatively. I believe that all people should be treated equally, both on the board and in public, and our aldermen should listen to each other and work together and they should also listen to the people. As alderman for ward 3 I will welcome all citizens into city hall and encourage their participation in the operation of government, after all, why else does the board exist other than to serve the people. I am retired and that’s a benefit because I will be able to fully serve the people daily and I’m going to bring my years of experience working in city government with me to city hall and if I’m elected they’ll know they have an experienced, conservative republican voice that they can trust representing them. I do want to really stress that I believe in less government control, constitutional based leadership and transparency.”

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