A new year offers an opportunity for new beginnings. That’s true for almost all of us, but it is especially true for a number of newly elected officials in the Taney and Stone counties.

I’d like to welcome all of those individuals to office and extend my hope that all of them will find success and with their new responsibilities.

Some of these officials were sworn in Dec. 31, others were sworn in Jan. 2 or later in the week. Regardless, they all basically took office with the start of the new year.

We are in a region where Republican elected officials, with few exceptions, tend to hold on to their office until they retire, get elected to a different office, or fulfill a required term-limit. 

Because of that, we don’t always get the turnover we saw with the 2018 election. That turnover was most evident in Taney County where there were several retirements.

Elected in Taney County to circuit judge is Jeff Merrell, although he is not new to elected office. He has spent the last 12 years as the county’s prosecuting attorney. He is taking over for Tony Williams, who retired after his stint as the inaugural circuit judge for the recently created 46th Circuit, which covers Taney County only. Previously, we shared a circuit with Christian County.

Because Merrell chose to run for judge, that left the prosecutor’s job open. Filling that position is former Branson City Attorney William “Dub” Duston. 

Amy Strahan is Taney County’s new circuit court clerk, following Beth Wyman, who chose to retire.

It’s been a while since there has been a new face in the Recorder of Deeds office, but longtime office-holder Bob Dixon retired, and Jodi Stahl is now your new Taney County Recorder of Deeds.

Finally, David Clark managed with win a primary race against Rick Findley, so Clark is the new Taney County Auditor.

Also worth noting, although Collector Mona Cope, and Associate Circuit Judge R. Tiffany Yarnell managed to hold on to offices they currently hold (Yarnell had to fend off a couple of primary challengers, while Cope ran unopposed) but because both had been appointed to their positions, this was the first time they were elected to their positions.

Stone County had much less turnover, but the county does have a new presiding commissioner. Mark Maples, who had been serving as the county’s norther commissioner, was elected to the position, replacing Dennis Wood, who retired. 

The  county also has a new circuit court clerk in Mechelee Lebow, who ran unopposed.

Also elected for the first time were Steve Seton as northern road commissioner, and Randy Rogers as southern road commissioner.

Because of term limits, some residents of the Tri-Lakes area will have new representation in Jefferson City.

Brad Hudson was elected the new representative for District 138, serving much of Stone County and a sliver of Taney County, following Don Phillips who could not run due to term limits.

And in District 155, which serves eastern Taney County, as well as Douglas and Ozark counties, the new representative is Karla Eslinger, who replaces another term-limited legislator Lyle Rowland.

We at the Branson Tri-Lakes News will be working with all of these individuals, including all the other elected officials who either were re-elected or did not have to run this year, to let you know what is going on with your government. 

Hopefully all our interactions are positive ones, but experience tells me that might not be the case 100 percent of the time.

So, for now, when the jobs are new and everything is fresh and full of hope, I want to wish every newly elected official the very best in your new responsibilities. 2019 is a new beginning. 

I can’t wait to see what happens.

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