Norborne mayoral candidates Jacob DeMint (left) and Ryan Miller. (KMZU)

NORBORNE, Mo. — Two candidates quite familiar with the workings of city government in  Norborne are running for mayor.

Ryan Miller, a former 15-year city employee, is now plant manager for Alliance Water Resources, Carroll County’s rural water provider. He wants to bring his practical experience of infrastructure to the job.

“I currently have three DNR (Department of Natural Resources) licenses — water, wastewater and water distribution — that I have held for nearly 18 years. With my background of the city and its water and wastewater systems and streets, I think I would be a big asset in improving and helping maintain the quality of water that we have and the DNR regulations coming out,” Miller says.

Jacob DeMint says he ran two years ago for Norborne Board of Aldermen to bring new ideas and improve the communication between the city and community. Thanks to three county businesses’ donations, the city now has a website and a text alert system to communicate with residents, he says.

“I am running for mayor now because I have current knowledge of the city’s finances. I know what our income is. I know what our expenses are. I know what our goals are and where we are heading into the future,” DeMint says.

When asked the city’s most pressing issue, both says it’s the city’s limited revenue.

“No one wants to raise taxes, but in the long run, I believe that’s going to end up happening,” DeMint says. “Citizens want change: better roads, better drainage and with all that, we need better funding.”

One major project – an upgrade to the city’s water plant – was completed about two years ago, they say.

“Norborne is sitting on the biggest aquifer there is,” Miller says. “And as long as we have an operator and continue to fund the water plant, I don’t see any reason why DNR or anybody would get rid of it.”

Moderator and presiding commissioner Stan Falke asked how they can involve citizens in the city’s decision-making process.

“There’s a lot of bickering going behind the background, but nobody wants to come and say what they need to say to the city,” Miller says. “So, I would encourage everybody to come to meetings and discuss their problems or concerns there.”

DeMint agrees.

“At least once a week, I’m getting a Facebook message, mainly harassment, of ‘we need this’ or ‘you’re not doing anything,’ but those people will never show up to a council meeting. Over the last two years, maybe three citizens showed up to a council meeting to address their concerns. I wish we had to book the community center across the street because we had so many people addressing their concerns,” DeMint says.

An audience member asked what the city could do to create incentives for new home construction, as a spec house is currently being built.

“They have already purchased two lots,” DeMint says of the Norborne Housing Revitalization Committee, formed by Norborne Savings & Loan and Goppert Financial Bank. “One (lot) had an older house and they tore it down and they are building right next door. This is something I am very excited about. They have tons of plans. This will not be a one-and-done house. Their plan is to build and sell, build and sell.”

Norborne R-VIII School District candidates Danielle Deitch (left) and Jessica Miller (KMZU)

Community growth was also on the mind of Danielle Deitch and Jessica Miller, two candidates running for Norborne R-VII school board. With a district of around 168 students, pre-K to 12, both candidates would like to see a bigger enrollment to sustain extra-curricular activities. They also discussed the impact of COVID-19 on learning, as well as parent and community participation in special events.

“I think there are a couple challenges. Being a small school district is numbers,” says Deitch, who is a co-owner of a business with her husband and mother of elementary children.

“Being on the high school end of it for the several years, I’ve seen where we had to do some creative thinking to provide our high school students some extra-curricular activities they enjoy,” says Jessica Miller, whose youngest son is a senior. “Also, we need to be able to continue to encourage our teachers to provide the best education they can for our kids, keeping them motivated, especially during Covid because it has been difficult.”

Lonnie Windsor and Desi Bates, who did not attend the forum, are also candidates for school board.

Current Norborne mayor and Ward 2 Board of Aldermen candidate Natalie Fergason (KMZU)

One of two candidates vying for Ward 2 Board of Alderman also weighed in on Norborne’s biggest challenge.

“I am the current mayor of Norborne, and what we are facing is income. That’s our biggest challenge,” says Natalie Fergason. 

She says the city’s projected income is around $625,000 with $568,000 in going toward expenses. It leaves little room for debt service if pricey equipment breaks down and needs repair, she adds.

Falke asks Fergason: “If you got $150,000 from CARES Act funding – which isn’t out of the question — how would you spend it?”

“My first thought is our streets,” she quickly replies.

Falke asked how she could help with residents engaging more with city government. Fergason’s advice is something she’s actually doing.

“Sign up and run for office.”

David Deitch is also vying for the Ward 2 seat. Andrea McKinney is running unopposed for the Ward 1 seat.