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One day after long-time St. Francois County Clerk Mark Hedrick announced his impending retirement from the post he will have held 16 years when he ends his final term in December 2018, District 116 Missouri Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, announced his intention to run next year in a bid to become Hedrick’s successor.

Engler, 58, a native of Festus and 1977 graduate of Festus High School, moved to Farmington 31 years ago and opened his downtown Edward Jones Investments office in 1986. He has represented District 116 in the Missouri House of Representatives since January 2013.

Engler previously represented District 3 in the Missouri Senate from 2005 to 2013, becoming majority leader in January 2009. He was also a member of the Missouri House from 2003 through 2005. Engler is term limited and will not be able to run for either the state House or Senate again.

Prior to entering state politics, Engler headed up the Farmington Chamber of Commerce when he decided to run for city alderman. He subsequently served as mayor of the city for six years.

Engler is a graduate of Southwest Missouri State University, where he earned degrees in finance/general business and marketing. Along with his retirement from the state legislature next year, he also intends to retire from his work as an Edward Jones financial representative.

Asked why he has decided to run for county clerk, Engler said, “Because I like public service. With my term up in the legislature in December 2018 and my retirement that same month from Edward Jones, it winds up that I can do some service in the county. The election in November 2018 would take effect in January 2019.”

Engler said he believes his experience in state and local government will provide him with several important attributes he will bring to the position of county clerk, if elected.

“I know a lot of the county’s strengths and weaknesses,” he said. “I don’t have all the answers, but I do have a lot of questions that I think the county needs to be asking. Five years ago, the county went to first-class status after I moved up the level several times through legislation to keep us from having to go there, but what I’d like to do is get us up to that actual level and not just be a first-class county in name only.”

According to Engler, he wants to see St. Francois County begin doing the things first-class counties are supposed to do — or at least have a plan to get there.

“I don’t have every answer, but as I said before, I think somebody needs to start asking the questions,” he said. “How do we do more economic development than we do? How do we have better law enforcement, from drugs to animal control? I just think it’s time that we say, ‘OK, when are we going to get there and how are we going to get there?

“Is this the right form of government? Maybe we should be looking at a charter form of government — I don’t know, but I think it’s time we asked these questions. I know the first and ultimate responsibility of the county clerk is the running of elections and the integrity of the elections, but I think you can also be a catalyst for some changes and say, ‘We need to be doing this. I’ve visited this first-class county and this is the way they do this. This is not the way we’ve done it in the past as a second- or third-class county, but how we should be doing it in the future.”

After Hedrick announced his intention to retire at the end of his current term, Presiding Commissioner Harold Gallaher told the Daily Journal he was going to miss being able to call on the county clerk’s long years of experience when faced with a question of protocol in the midst of a commissioners meeting.

Asked if he would be comfortable in the knowledge that he could offer the county the same level of instititutional expertise, Engler said, “I obviously won’t have the information. Mark’s done a good job. He’s got great staff. He’s told me that if I’m successful that he will help me, but I don’t know that necessarily we need to look at the way we’ve done it in the past as much as we should be looking at how we should be doing it in the future. I’m going to use his knowledge and staff as effectively as possible, but I’ll never have the institutional knowledge of the county that Mark does.”

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Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or kjenkins@dailyjournalonline.com

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