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Northern District Boone County Commission: Tristan Asbury

Party: Republican

Opponent: Incumbent Democratic commissioner Janet Thompson

Residence: Columbia

Occupation: Small business owner and strategic communications director for the Missouri Association of Realtors

Education: Bachelor's degree in business, Central Methodist University

Previous political experience: None. Father was Randolph County commissioner and state legislator.

Family: Wife, Kari

How would you assess the county’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Honestly, when we started this race, I don't think there's any of us that would have envisioned that we were having this conversation right now. But it's kind of it's the way it is. That said, I think above all else, the health and safety of our citizens is absolutely the No. 1 priority. The fact is, and no matter which route you go here, COVID is spreading and continues to spread. Family, small businesses and nonprofits, they're suffering as a result of that.

I think the biggest thing for me and what's most aggravating for myself and others I've spoke with is the county has yet to utilize millions of dollars in the CARES Act funding that they've earmarked for emergencies such as this to help provide the much-needed relief. We've seen counties throughout the state, Greene County, they're a tremendous example of being proactive and successful with these funds. We didn't have to spend $122,000, on a portal to do what they're doing. Many other counties, again, going back to Greene County, have done this in a PDF format. And that has worked great for them. That would allow us to get these funds out much sooner.

Our commissioners to date they've lacked the action -- that has potentially cost local businesses their existence, put employees in jeopardy ... and they have made it difficult for families who are already facing the numerous struggles created by COVID and COVID-related decisions today. Again, this would all go back to me, the best thing we can do right now is take the funds available to help in emergency times such as this, and we're not seeing that happen.

Some legislators have suggested a bill to put health order power in the hands of county commissioners. Would you support such a change?

I would.

The county commission, they have the responsibility to take into account a broader array of issues and how that will affect our economy. That's just the nature of what this position does. That said, as I just stated, health is the No. 1 priority, the health and safety of our citizens is the No. 1 priority. We must sit down at the table and take into account what the health director says and what statistics show, things of that nature. But we also need to ensure in our role that indirect health-related issues don't occur due to businesses closing, people losing their jobs, being unable to pay their utility bills, things of that nature.

Assess the relationship between the city and county. Does that relationship need work?

Personally, I think there's room for tremendous improvement.

As we've seen recently the city -- Columbia -- and Boone County they continue to butt heads in regard to distribution of CARES Act funding. It's a he said, she said game right now, in regard to the impact COVID has had on related restrictions that have potentially closed businesses, we've seen that all over the news here in the last week. They continue to blame each other online, on air and through letters. Yet we have not seen any of them take the initiative to sit down in person and have these conversations.

These are all elected officials that are supposed to be representing us. And for us right now, for myself and many others I've talked to, they're losing credibility right now and in the future, because they just can't work together to make this decision. So whether they see time and time again, when you sit down and listen to them, they say it's a fantastic relationship. But then things like this come to light. And we just have to remember these are grown adults, and instead of pointing fingers, let's work together. That's what it's all about.

County leaders say one of their biggest challenges is stagnant sales tax revenue. What should the county do to address this issue?

I think right now the county needs to begin by first looking at their own costs. As families we have to live within our means the county should 100% have to do the same, especially before they come to us for additional revenue. Sometimes services may be affected because of that. But that's just the way it is we change our budgets at home accordingly as well.

I think one thing ... is asking department heads to see where they could cut in their budget. I know times are tough, but the city went ahead and did it as well. And they did find places to cut. It'll be tough here for a period of time, but they're living within their means. And I think that's what the county needs to do as well.

That said, I think one of the biggest things that they could do, it all comes down to economic development at this time. I think the best option for us is to increase revenues is to increase economic development opportunities. In short, that stimulates revenue growth, as businesses invest in the local economy and build a product, they will create additional good-paying jobs. This will be greater revenue to fund county services. There's no doubt about that. And these additional and better-paying jobs will allow folks to afford homes and other things within the county which directly benefits the tax base. And at that time, it's not an imposed tax.

ABC 17 News Team

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