Ward I Alderman Candidates Branson.jpg

Branson Ward I Alderman Candidates Rod Romine, Clay Cooper and Jantzen Craine

The April Municipal Election is right around the corner and Branson residents will have several choices to make.

One of those choices will be choosing a new Ward 1 alderman. This year voters will have three options: Rod Romine, Clay Cooper and Jantzen Craine. Incumbent Bob Simmons did not file for reelection.

The candidates are presented in order in which they will appear on the ballot.

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

Background:

Romine:

“I am currently retired and I spent 36 years working at White River Electric (and) retired in 2019. I certainly am very proud of (my family). My wife Brenda and then certainly my two children who have gone off and are doing great things in other parts of the country. I have lived in the Branson community almost all of my life. I moved here from western Kansas in 1969. I did graduate from Branson High School, went off to college, came back, started my career here and have lived here ever since. I went to college at William Jewell and earned a degree in business with an emphasis in accounting.”

Cooper:

“I am an entertainer, a musician. I have three kids: my oldest Cassidy is 26, my son Colt is 17 and my other boy Caden is 12 years old. I’ve been married to Tina Cooper for 21 years and we all perform together in the show here. I’m originally from Wylie, Texas; a little town about 30-40 miles northeast of Dallas (and I have) a highschool education.”

Craine:

“I currently work as a security officer at Silver Dollar City. I have a wife, I have three children now, one was just born on Friday (Feb. 26), so I have a newborn boy, a 3.5-year-old girl and a 2.5-year-old girl. I was born and raised in Fort Smith, Arkansas; then I moved to Pensacola, Florida to attend college. I stayed in Florida and worked in the area for a total of seven years; then moved back to this area at the beginning of 2019. I have a Bachelor of Science degree in business management (and) am in the middle of my master’s degree in business administration.”

 

Why are you running?

Romine:

“Since I have been very blessed to have lived and to have worked in the community all of my life I firmly believe that one’s individual service to the community is very critical to the success of that community. If I am fortunate enough to be elected I believe I can contribute to our community using my past experience and to help make our city better and stronger and more successful in the future.”

Cooper:

“I am running for local government because since COVID hit last year in 2020 we had a lot of issues down at city hall with the mask mandate and I got very involved. I showed up to all four/five meetings over the mask mandate and I feel like the citizens of Branson’s voices were ignored. I thought this would be an opportunity for me to have my voice heard and represent our citizens here in this community and that’s pretty much the main reason that I’m running. I feel like it’s time for the people’s voice to be heard and I feel like I could be a good representative of that.”

Craine:

“I’m running because over the past year I’ve been watching everything going on in Branson and I’ve been staying up to date on all of the politics with COVID. I followed all of the meetings and I saw how our current leadership specifically handled the people stating their opposition to the mask mandate. I saw how (the board) almost bullied them for having a separate opinion and it was really making me mad. I was like ‘these people need to go, somebody needs to do something about it and I’m going to sign up and run because I’m tired of it.’ I am running to be a true representative of the people that will represent and listen to everybody’s comments and opinions.”

 

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

Romine:

“I think all of the businesses and the individuals and the patrons in the city must be commended for their efforts to follow the guidelines. With that being said, I quite frankly believe that ordinance was founded on guidelines and directives from sound science and organizations and individuals that have training and experience to formally propose those types of guidelines; so I fully support the administration, the aldermen and the mayor for their decision.”

Cooper:

“I am totally against the mandate of the face coverings. I feel like the face covering should be the people’s choice. Businesses in Branson, Missouri want to require face coverings, that is their prerogative and they have the right to do that and I don’t have a problem with that whatsoever. If businesses choose to not require face coverings then I believe that’s their choice as well. As far as the safety, I believe that the customers and the tourists that come to Branson, they will make that choice. I think it’s a good idea for all businesses to put up a sign that says ‘we recommend face coverings’ but to mandate face coverings and to force people to wear it, I’m just not for that. I’m for freedom and liberty and people having the choice to make their own decisions.”

Craine:

“I’m not for the mask mandate. My main reason for being against it is the fact that the people didn’t want it. There’s a lot of differing opinions on whether the masks work or not; whether they work or not doesn’t matter. I talked to over the course of the summer, over 6,000 tourists (at a previous job) and all of them said that they would have prefered not to have a mask mandate, so I don’t agree with what the city said are their tourist numbers, 80% of tourists said they were more likely to come here with the mandate. I don’t know who they interviewed but all the people that came to our business were not in that group of people. I think (the mandate) hurts our businesses, I think it was not a representation of the people since the people of Branson specifically said they did not want it and I will be attempting to repeal that on my first day in office.”

 

Do you wear a face covering?

Romine:

“Yes I do.”

Cooper:

“I wear a face covering when I’m in public, yes. I don’t like it and I’m not happy about it but at this time it is a mandate and I feel like if I’m running for city office and if I’m going to possibly be elected as a city official here I should probably be the first one to follow the rules even though I do not like the rule, at all.”

Craine:

“If it’s required I do. I try to social distance but obviously if a business requires (it) I’m not one that goes in and tries to get away without wearing one and makes a big deal about it. My workplace requires me to wear one so I do wear one anytime I’m required to without complaint. If I have the choice, I don’t. Especially before the mandate happened if there was a business that didn’t require one I choose to go there over the one that required it.”

The topic of crime has been raised by several candidates. What do you think needs to be addressed, if anything, regarding crime or police in Branson?

Romine:

“I know that the current administration and the city are very proactive and trying to do all they can do to keep the crime down. I know that many times it’s all about finances and things of that nature; as far as funding police and all of their needs. I know the current aldermen and the city administration and all of those folks have been on board and doing all they can do to promote and make that happen; so I would certainly try to do the same thing if I were elected.”

Cooper:

“Branson is unlike any other mid-sized town/city, there’s crime everywhere you go. I know that Branson has its fair share of car windows and homes being broken into. I would look at increasing the police force; that would be a priority that I would definitely go after because I feel like that our police staff is understaffed to take care of all of the issues and the crime that’s going on. 

Another thing is, we have a mandate here in Branson where they are sending out police officers to write citations to people not wearing face coverings and I feel like there are bigger issues and a lot more serious crime going on than to be taking away our officers to go get onto somebody for not wearing a face covering in Walmart.”

Craine:

“Drug crime is a big issue here, I think that’s the main crime issue. I even think that most other crimes that happen are drug related. There is of course the issue of policing not being staffed, needing some more funding for actual staff resources. I know we’re currently funding a new police station and I tend to be in favor of that. I do think we need a new police station with more space but we do also need some more personnel to actually get out and fight the crime. I think that a lot of those crime issues will be solved if we could just focus on the drug issue. Obviously that’s not something that will change overnight or even over a couple years but we can always be working toward that.”

What would you like to see happen next with the ‘76 Project’?

Romine:

“I think that it seems responsible that the first thing that needs to happen is based on the phase that’s already been completed; the undergrounding of the utilities. That would need to happen and then I think from there kind of regroup and see what, based on cost, would the next phase look like. Then just take it one step at a time to see what you could logically do based on the cost of the project and the revenue stream that could support the project.”

Cooper:

“The 76 Project, first of all, they jumped into something and I don’t believe they were ready for it. They definitely didn’t have the funds for it. I think the intention was good, to beautify the Strip; it is a good idea. You collect tax revenue so that you can do things like this and I just don’t believe in the past the city officials have been good stewards of the money. They’ve blown money on things that we didn’t need and then they spend money that we don’t have, then here we sit with a project that’s three phases away from being completed. I would just say that we need to really sit down and evaluate.”

Craine:

“I love the 76 Project. I think that it’s a thing that’s taken so long to really get underway. I think our current leaders have actually done a good job of getting the ball rolling on that. I’d like to see us pick up the pace on it as much as we can. I think the Strip definitely needs a face-lift. There’s a lot of portions on Hwy 76 that have really run-down (and) I remember them looking much different when I came and visited as a kid. I miss seeing it in all its glory. I’ve seen some of the original plans for the revitalization project and I think it looks great. I’d love to continue pressing forward on that, gaining momentum and seeing that through to completion.”

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

Romine:

“I think it is very important to support the renewal of the Tourism Tax that’s coming up. I think it’s critical to the finances of the city for needed infrastructure and the marketing component as well. It seems to me that given the fact that a very large percentage of the tax is borne by the actual visitors in the area, it’s a win for the city and the surrounding community.”

Cooper:

“I’ve been in this town making a living’, playing music for 35 years. I love this town, I’ve raised my family here, I’ve put my heart and my soul here, I have a business here and I just want to be a part of making things better, solving problems, finding solutions to problems and making Branson the best it can be. I would love to see Branson become a year-round destination and I’m all about getting together with the other aldermen and city officials and trying to find out how we can make Branson a year-round destination.”

Craine:

“I am a conservative Christian, I am republican as far as my belief system goes and again I’m running to be a true representative of the people. I would say what makes me the best option is the fact that I offer a unique perspective to the board. Right now the entire board either currently owns a business, is retired from owning a business or is in a high-level position on a business; I am not any of those. I’m just your average citizen that works a hourly job here in the community and I think that would offer a unique perspective. There’s nothing wrong with a business owner’s perspective and that’s one we definitely need but it’s one that’s already there and is very well covered. I think the average resident is kind of left out as far as their perspective goes. I also think that I have more time due to the nature of my job to put into this position. If I’m elected I will continue to reach out to people and get their thoughts and opinions on all of the bills we have up for vote.”

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