Will age matter in the seat for State House 56th District?
Includes Martin City, Belton, Drexel and the western half of Cass County.
By Kathy Feist
Democrat Neal Barnes, 63, has lived in Belton most of his life. He spent 36 years in the construction industry, supervising projects such as the Sprint World Headquarters, Nebraska Furniture Mart, and Church of the Resurrection. He served eight years on the Belton Planning and Zoning Commission and elected twice to the City Council. Barnes now resides in Drexel where he helps care for the family cattle farm. Barnes believes he would be a good representative for the district because of his life experiences. He adds that his abilities gained the trust of mayors and city councilmen who appointed him to the Planning and Zoning Commission. “I went through two or three different mayors, some Democrat and some Republican, and the boards which have to vote on you,” he says. “I never had any votes against me in those eight years. I was able to reach across the aisle–no matter what party was involved–to get something accomplished.”
Barnes would like to see schools become fully funded which would assist some smaller rural school districts, like Drexel, go back to five instead of four school days a week. He supports funding that encourages students to pursue trade schools and union apprenticeships.
Barnes supports funding for comprehensive health care centers in the rural areas. “There used to be hospitals in rural Missouri,” he says. “They are closed now.” He would like to push Student Loan Forgiveness programs for medical, dental and pscyhiatric physicians in exchange for a four-year commitment in a rural area. He would especially like to see veterans receive affordable mental health care both in the rural areas where there is no access, and in the city where homelessness results. He supports drug courts that would provide treatment and job training rather than jail time for those with addictions. “If you don’t have money, it’s extremely hard to find treatment,” he says.
He supports sustainable farming, better funding and enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program and Country of Origin labeling for cattle and pork producers.
Barnes would also like to work with local communities to attract grocers to areas experiencing food deserts, both in rural and urban areas.
Republican Michael Davis, 25, was raised in Maryland Heights, a suburb of St. Louis, and currently resides in Martin City. Davis received a degree in education from Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis and a law degree from Washburn University in Topeka. He has worked in the elementary schools in the Blue Valley School District in their before- and after-school programs. He has also been a paid community organizer for Americans for Prosperity, a volunteer for the Jay Ashcroft campaign and other campaigns and a proud contributor to the defeat of Claire McCaskill . “I have been involved in politics since I could vote,” he says. “I am passionate about moving our state in the right direction.”
Davis’ biggest concern is jumpstarting the economy following the coronavirus and finding a long-term solution to the pandemic. “Cass County has not had the restrictions that Jackson County has,” he says. “And economically Cass County is doing much better.” He says the decision to wear masks should be left to the business owner. “If a private entity would like to have masks, then it’s in their right,” he says.
Davis supports having more health care availability across the state line. He would like to loosen restrictions on nurse practitioner licensure, which could help alleviate the lack of health care to rural areas. “Currently they must be under the purview of a medical doctor,” he says.” I think they should be able to operate to the fullest extent of their training.”
Davis believes in funding a strong public education system “that runs efficiently.”
On Climate Change, Davis agrees that the climate is changing, but does not think its solution should harm the economy due to regulations. “As a country, as a planet, we are already moving away from fossil fuels, so I don’t think putting government restrictions on fossil fuels is worth it,” he says. Davis believes technology will help diminish the lack of grocery stores in rural and urban areas. Already online services, such as Amazon.com and Walmart.com are able to deliver groceries anywhere, he says. Lower taxes could also help grocery stores prosper.
Davis believes the state government should live within its means, and points out that there has been an increase in six-figure positions in Jefferson City which is out of line compared with neighboring states.