Branson Mayor Candidates 2021

2021 Branson Mayor Candidates: Marshall Howden, Karen Best, incumbent Edd Akers, Amber Thomsen and Larry Milton.

On April 6, Branson residents will head to the polls for the April Municipal Election. One of the big decisions they will be tasked with is choosing a candidate for Branson mayor. Voters will have five options: Karen Best, Marshall Howden, incumbent Edd Akers, Amber Thomsen and Larry Milton. The candidates are presented in the order in which they will appear on the ballot.

All five candidates participated in interviews with the Branson Tri-Lakes News. Their answers are below and have been edited for space.

 

Background

Best:

“I am currently a licensed real estate salesperson. I’ve been blessed to have two incredibly amazing, God-centered parents who I love and adore. They instilled in me at a very young age service above self and the importance of giving back to your community. I was born in Blytheville, Arkansas, lived there for three months, moved to the Chicago area and lived there for seven years. The majority of my life has been spent in southwest Missouri. My dad was in the Air Force when I was born. I have a bachelor’s degree from Evangel University, a master’s degree from Oklahoma State University, an Ed Specialist degree from St. Louis University and a doctorate ABD (all but dissertation) from St. Louis University.”

Howden:

“I’m currently training to go into ministry, and I manage a lodging establishment located on Shepherd of the Hills Expressway. Born in Nashville, Tennessee, and moved to Branson with my family and had a live music show.”

Akers:

“Right now I have retired from any business affiliations, and I basically am seeking to serve the citizens of Branson. I’ve got seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild and we’re able to see them on a pretty regular basis. I’m from Branson, Missouri. I ended up getting a bachelor's in accounting and a master's in business administration from University of Missouri.”

Thomsen:

“I am a nonprofit founder, Civil Defense Coalition. I started it in 2017. I volunteer, basically. I’ve been on disability since 2012. Both of my children were illegally abducted by state government of Missouri’s approval. My daughter was interstate human trafficked institutionally to foster care to a family that couldn’t afford adoption. My son was also stolen from me under illegal premises. (I’m from) Branson, Missouri; I’m a native. I have a bachelor’s degree in dietetics from College of the Ozarks; then I have my teacher’s certificate in elementary education at Ottawa University; and then physical therapy assistant at Gateway Community College.”

Milton:

“I’m the owner of a few businesses down at the Branson Landing: The Paddlewheel, Branson Landing Axes, our water sport rental business. I have a loving family. I have a loving wife named Lianne, I have a son who is 40 years old and two granddaughters (aged) 5 and 8. I was an Air Force brat, moved to many Air Force bases, and I’ve lived in Branson for the past 27 years. I am a high school graduate.”

 

Why are you running?

Best:

“I’m running for mayor because I believe in this community, and I want to see it thrive and prosper. We have a very important heritage that is based on faith, family and the flag, and I think it’s very important for us to preserve our heritage while also embracing for our future. We have historically been a three-month tourism economy, which turned into a six-month tourism economy and has turned into a nine-month tourism economy. I’m very focused on making us a 12-month economy, strong in tourism but also diversifying into other businesses so that we can provide good-paying, year-round jobs.”

Howden:

“I’m running to be a limited government mayor. For a long time there has been a powerful establishment caucus at city hall, and they have steered things towards their interests as opposed to the citizens' well-being. I have been a stalwart advocate for our citizens at city council and our business’s free market interest in my service on the Planning & Zoning Commission for years.”

Akers:

“I’m obviously the current mayor. In a lot of ways I feel like I’ve been robbed of being able to do some of the things I wanted to do because of the changes and the focus that had to be on COVID. So I have some things that I’d like to get in place to help for the future of Branson. I’d love to be able to do more envisioning, planning ahead and seeking to see what this area will look like in 15 to 20 years and make plans for that. I want to serve. I’ve been labeled as a politician because I’m in a political position, but I really don’t feel like I’m a politician. I’m a public servant.”

Thomsen:

“No.1 is constitutional civil defense; it’s at an all-time low. Citizens are victimized without any recourse at all on a state government level or even a city level. So we’re trying to create a public conviction where citizens can go against the court system, in general, I would say, to basically address citizens' civic complaints in an organized manner – create alliances for people like myself. Personally I’d like to return my children to me, I’d like to make my case more publicly known because the media does try to squash out any realms of political defense through the news stations. Giving people a place to speak and allowing for the end of business shutdowns, government overreach.”

Milton:

“I am currently an alderman and I sit on the city budget and finance committee, and for the past two years I have seen many changes that I would like to see changed at the city. I have been the people’s voice when it comes to voting on issues impacting our community. I believe our city has lost the respect of our citizens, so I want to restore the city back to being governed by the people.”

 

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

Best:

“I am a strong supporter of wearing masks. However, I do not support the mask mandate. The reason I don’t support the mask mandate is because we do not have the police force to enforce the mandate. I would rather see us approach masking through an educational and encouragement perspective instead of a mandate. Before the mask mandate went into effect, local businesses were doing a very good job of setting the bar for the expectation of people wearing masks, and I would rather leave that up to businesses and individuals with the encouragement and emphasis on wearing masks. My dad is immunocompromised, and I have worked very hard to keep him safe throughout the pandemic, and my choices not only affect myself but affect those around me. I would highly encourage our community to embrace wearing masks, but not have it mandated.”

Howden:

“During everything that has happened with COVID-19, I have been the first to ensure that all our citizens were completely informed on the actions the city was taking. At the city council meetings regarding this topic, I live-streamed footage of each meeting to over 81,000 viewers over the months in which this was an issue. Philosophically, I do not support government mandates and have worked to ensure that Branson businesses were still allowed to operate in these trying times through my free market advocacy.”

Akers:

“I am strongly behind our aldermen. The mayor of Branson (does not vote on the issue, but) helps to get information, get it to our aldermen and to aldermen from each ward, then votes. I support them entirely. I helped them get information so they could make good decisions, and the majority of our aldermen favor the face coverings. For me, it’s a no-brainer if we want people to be able to have jobs, businesses to be able to survive – but the fact that we were able to stay open and then we were able to get funding – because we did have face coverings in place.”

Thomsen:

“It’s illegal. I did speak before the council more than once ... they’re not health officials, but even if they were, they legally can’t mandate that people have their homeostasis and their breathing mechanism altered, because it can be a lethal reaction. I told them you can highly recommend it, but you can’t enforce it. Any health care procedure cannot be made into a law, period, no matter if the whole entire board was a list of physicians, because everyone knows that, as a physician, they’d be arrested for causing a huge detriment and lethal negligence upon their own citizens. I said if you’re going to put up a sign that recommends it, you should also put a sign beside it that (lists the dangers of) wearing a mask. There’s been a lot of intimidation and discrimination against disabled individuals, as well. We’ve had a lot of people that should have had the ability to put a lawsuit against some of the local businesses where people had health problems and they could have accommodated them still. They were trying to use it to bully them with the police.”

Milton:

“I’m going to actively work to repeal the mask mandate and change it to choices. I believe the individuals should be able to choose; I believe businesses should be able to choose whether they mandate masks in their businesses. Ultimately, the consumer will decide whether they feel comfortable spending their dollars.”

 

Do you wear a face covering?

Best:

“90% of the time I do wear a face covering. Sometimes you get out of the car and you forget the mask and you have to go back and get it. It’s not something that is first nature for us, but I do try as much as possible to mask up.”

Howden:

“Yes, certainly.”

Akers:

“I do. There are people who try to catch me without a face covering; if I’m eating something or they come over close to me when I’m eating something, I’ve had some on Facebook that have taken pictures and saying I’m a hypocrite, but I’m human. I can wear a face covering, and it’s an inconvenience. It’s not a problem. Sometimes I leave it off, I forget and I put it back on.”

Thomsen:

“I’m not able to physically. I can for a limited time wear a scarf over my nose. I created what’s called a 99% mask policy, and I started that with the Civil Defense Coalition, and I try to promote that to the news station. And again, I promoted a list of the warning signs of wearing a mask, and what happened was I didn’t get any response; we didn’t get anything put on the news, either, to warn people, especially on children that could die from being forced into what’s called an exercise induced asthma. I can wear it briefly, but for the 99% mask policy purposes, in order to prevent infection spread and maintain infection control, basically it’s wearing a mask 1% of the time.

Milton:

“Yes I do.” 

 

What is the most important issue the city is facing?

Best:

“I think there are three important issues, I don’t think we can just narrow it down to one. Those important issues would be public safety, which is police and fire; infrastructure, which is water, sewer, roads, bridges, parks; and then economic development, which is retaining our current businesses while attracting new businesses. Those all go hand-in-hand together because you can’t attract businesses if you have high crime and you have lack of water, sewer, streets, infrastructure, etc.”

Howden:

“Crime has been a significant focus of my campaign. In talking with my fellow citizens, it is mostly drug proliferation and theft they’re concerned with. Branson is a special place, and we want to keep it that way. My intent when elected will be to create a temporary mayor’s commission on crime to examine the root causes of these problems.”

Akers:

“Being able to try to keep our businesses open and stay open. I’ve had an issue that I had found when I came into office, the Compton Sewer Treatment Plant almost flooded in 2017. It came within a foot of breaching a five-foot bladder that was purchased to try to keep it from flooding. If we would have major flooding and the Compton Treatment Plant go out, the environmental impact downstream is unbelievable, but over 65 percent of the businesses on 76 Highway would be without sewer treatment and could not flush their stools and operate their business. So that’s got to be the No. 1 priority, and we’re getting closer.”

Thomsen:

“The biggest issue right now is the government overreach. We need to have a political alliance created between the Taney County commissioners, our governor, our local representatives, and state and federal. Someone who’s going to be an open communication but also who’s willing to step aside from any type of protocol that they try to mandate, which would be against the health and well-being of our citizens. We don’t really have that right now, I don’t think we ever have. We’re trying to create alliances. I’d also like to create some committees; one to safe-guard the school to prevent a shootout like what occurred at Sandy Hook. I’m also running for U.S. Senate in 2023. I’ve already created legislation to help increase the mental health and physical well-being of children (and) parents, keep open communication to general parties and isolation tactic the healthcare industry tries to use in creating hostages and trying to mandate forced procedures and forced isolation on citizens when it’s not necessary; it’s really a form of abuse.”

Milton:

“Well, the most important issue right now, I believe, is the mask mandate. I also believe that it’s time to address our homeless issues in Branson and change the mindsets at city hall.”

 

What would you like to see the city do about it?

Best:

“We started the process, back when I was mayor during my two terms, for public safety. We went and lobbied the folks in Jefferson City for permission to ask our citizens to help fund the resources needed for police and fire. In doing so we have to attract more officers, which is becoming more difficult in this climate and culture. We have to provide our firefighters with the resources needed to reduce the amount of time it takes them to get to a fire.”

Howden:

“We need to focus on the areas in which the criminal activity is able to flourish, such as our hotels that allow weekly and monthly rentals and the prevalence of drug rehabilitation centers which act as magnets to our community. It all comes down to prioritizing our resources, because they are not unlimited. Once we form the task force to examine the issue further, we will have a better understanding of how to rein in this problem that changes the character of our home.”

Akers:

“We’re doing all we can do. Obviously back in 2016, when the original (Compton Treatment Plant) study was done and I found it on my desk when I came (into office) in 2019, we’ve been focusing on getting that. Last year, we thought we were going to be able to get it funded, but COVID came and interrupted that. But we’re almost two-thirds of the way there, and we’ve been promised for the other third on the $11 million project, and so we’re getting closer and hope to be able to make the announcements here by March on exactly what’s going on.”

Thomsen:

“Again, I’d like to create some alliance committees: One to safe-guard the schools; another one would be to open civic complaints, we can have some committees like that to discuss people who discuss complaints that are really unexpected, like a 400% tax increase, etc.; and find ways we can work with our local legislators to end that abuse.”

Milton:

“First and foremost, encourage community input, listen to the voice of the people, restore our values of freedom and liberty, and address our extended-stay issues we have with our lodging properties.“

 

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

Best:

“I was very honored to serve two previous terms as mayor. During that time, we were very focused on public safety, infrastructure and economic development. As stated before, we were headed in the right direction funding resources for police and fire. We also worked very hard to improve our infrastructure, and we also worked very hard (at) attracting new businesses. We attracted many new businesses that have 12-month, year-round job opportunities and also year-round tourism opportunities to move us into that 12-month economy. When I say ‘we,’ I mean myself (mayor) and the Board of Aldermen. In addition, we were very focused on budget and finding ways that we felt was not the best management of city funds. In doing so, it took some very hard decisions to sever ties with staff members who were not being good stewards of taxpayer money, and I cast the tie-breaking vote to sever that employment, and I’m very proud of the procedures that we put into place to make sure that taxpayer monies are spent efficiently and effectively.”

Howden:

“My three campaign pillars are budget responsibility, economic growth and tourism, and prioritizing public safety. I would encourage a healthy amount of skepticism to anyone who presents a platform who has served in Branson government in the past. My question would then be, ‘Why weren’t they able to accomplish it before?’”

Akers:

“At 76 years of age, to decide that I wanted to run for mayor wasn’t just a whim. I felt like it was something that I was being asked to do by, not only friends, but also by the following in my heart. I love my hometown, and I want to see it thrive and prosper, I want to share it with other people. Branson, Missouri is a special place, and I’d like to be able to see and hear people recognize that we’re doing all we can do to keep this place open and keep it attractive for tourists. We’re quite a ways ahead of the game in regard to similar locations across the country, in that we were able to stay open. So I hope the voters will see that what we’ve done has been right. It’s been common sense, and it’s not been done with demanding or someone trying to seek a power situation. It’s been done with fairness and a peace that most people don’t seem to understand that I have about being able to do my job.”

Thomsen:

“I’d like them to join me to end IHT, institutional human trafficking. It’s an acronym I came up with to end victimization of citizens by the government. They can look at my website, civildefense_coalition.org. I also have a music CD which also pushes for civil rights defense for families to stay together on IHeartRadio called ‘The Intro’ by Amber Thomsen. Lastly, I was really looking at police reform, and that’s another area to address. There’s too much intimidation and bullying, militant-like reactivity. I’d like to form a committee to help them, but right now it’s something we could have an alliance with the state legislators who want to help address those issues and come up with a pilot program to make it a safer city for citizens to live in so they’re not abused by police.”

Milton:

“I’m experienced, I have passion for the residents and businesses in our community. I’ve been a small business owner for the last 27 years, and I understand the trials and tribulations that small businesses and large businesses go through dealing with the city. I openly listen to our residents. I want our citizens to have renewed trust in our city government, and I have also not forgotten that, as our mayor, I will be a servant of the people, unlike some who think they are the masters.”

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