In the April 6 race for St. Francois County Health Center Board of Trustees, there are five candidates seeking one of three four-year terms, and two candidates seeking one three-year unexpired term on the board.
Candidates seeking a four-year term on the health center’s board of trustees are Victoria Damba, Debbie Hoehn, John “Jack” Poston, Jennifer Crouch and Drew Allen Wheatley.
All seven candidates were provided an identical list of questions to answer in their own words regarding themselves and the position they seek.
Incumbent board member Victoria Damba of Farmington is married to Dr. Dwayne Damba. She is a graduate of Ste. Genevieve High School and has an Associate Nursing Degree from Mineral Area College and a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from Truman University. She is also a medical school graduate of A.T. Still University.
Damba is employed by MercyGoHealth Urgent Care and is second vice president of the Missouri Association of Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons. She is seeking reelection to the St. Francois County Health Center Board of Directors after having served one full term, as well as a partial term to fill a vacancy.
Responding to the question regarding what she’s accomplished while in office, Damba said, “I feel I contributed positively to the decisions our health board makes regarding the public health safety of St. Francois County residents and wish to continue to provide insight to the organization.”
Asked why she’s running for reelection, Damba said, “I am running again because I feel a duty to give back my community through organizations which I may be able to contribute based on my background expertise.”
A life-long resident of St. Francois County and Farmington resident, Debbie Hoehn has been married 43 years to Howard Hoehn. The couple has two sons, Josh Hoehn and wife, Ashley; and Dustin Hoehn and wife, Serina; and two grandchildren.
The candidate has been a registered nurse since 1977 and a certified women’s health nurse practitioner since 1992. She is a 2002 graduate of St. Louis University Public Health Leadership Institute.
Hoehn retired from the St. Francois County Health Center in 2017 after 38 years. She is currently volunteering at the health center giving COVID-19 vaccinations.
She belongs to New Heights Church and the Threads of Friendship Quilt Guild. She is also a former member of St. Francois County Community Partnership.
Hoehn has not previously served in an elected office.
Asked why she is running for a seat on the board, she said, “I am running for the St. Francois County Health Center Board of Trustees to give back to an organization that provides services to promote and protect the health of St. Francois County residents. Since 2016, the St. Francois County Health Center has been accredited by the Missouri Institute for Community Health. The health center staff and then board of trustees worked very hard to attain this voluntary accreditation during my tenure as director of the health center.
“As a retired public health nurse and former health center director, I have always been proud of the services the health center provides to the community, most without cost to those individuals.
"Services include the Women, Infant and Children’s (WIC) Program, Immunization Program, Missouri Safe Crib Program, Breastfeeding Peer Counseling and support, Educational Trainings for Daycare, Teen Outreach Program in local schools, birth and death certificates, environmental health, sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment, communicable disease investigations, tuberculosis testing and treatment, Infectious Disease Clinic, Ryan White Program, emergency preparedness planning, lab draws and community health education classes including nutrition counseling education from registered dietitians.
“I feel that because of my public health experience, I would be an asset to the St. Francois County Health Center Board of Trustees and would appreciate your support.”
John “Jack” Poston
Twenty-one-year member of the St. Francois County Health Board and its current chairman, John “Jack” Poston of Bonne Terre has a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and a Master’s Degree “plus” in elementary administration/supervision from Southeast Missouri State University.
A retired educator, he worked 31 years in the North County School District and served two terms on the North County Board of Education.
Poston is a lifetime member of the Missouri State Teachers Association, member and former state president of the Missouri Retired Teachers Association, current state vice president of the Missouri Retired Teachers Foundation, member of the Mineral Area Retired Teachers Association, member of the Desloge Chamber of Commerce, member of the Desloge Public Library Board, member of Desloge First Baptist Church, and co-chairman of the Feed My Sheep annual food pantry fundraising event.
Responding to the question regarding what he’s accomplished while in office, Poston said, “As a health board member, I am proud of building improvements; our WIC Program; qualified, dedicated staff members; financial stability; wise stewardship of tax money; the recent successful COVID-19 vaccination shot clinics; and obtaining state accreditation for our health center.”
Asked why he is running for reelection to the board, Poston said, “I am running once again because of my dedication to providing quality public health services for the residents of our county.
First-time candidate Jennifer Crouch of Farmington graduated from Farmington High School in 2005. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Truman State University in 2009 and graduated with her MD degree in 2013 from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine. Crouch completed her residency in internal medicine at University Hospital and Clinics in Columbia, Missouri, in 2016.
She currently works as a primary care physician in Farmington and is board-certified in internal medicine.
Crouch attends St. Joseph Catholic Church in Farmington and is a member of the American College of Physicians, Christian Medical and Dental Association and St. Francois County Conservative Club.
Asked why she is running for a seat on the board, Crouch said, “I have been concerned to see the erosion of our freedoms due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While COVID-19 is certainly a serious disease, particularly for vulnerable individuals, I am opposed to any COVID-related mandates such as lockdowns, occupancy restrictions or mask mandates. Instead, I believe in presenting individuals with all the facts and data, making recommendations with the best information we have at the time and trusting each individual or business to make the best decision for the unique circumstances.
“As a primary care physician, I see first-hand the many long-term health problems facing this country, including drug abuse, mental illness and obesity. I would like to see the health department provide the people of the country with as much information and as many resources as possible to address these issues to help the people of the county live their best, healthiest life instead of issuing heavy-handed mandates that deprive people of their liberty and autonomy over their own health."
Drew Allen Wheatley
First-time candidate Drew Allen Wheatley of Bonne Terre is a retired U.S. Air Force senior master sergeant of 21 years. He is a member of the Disabled American Veterans, VFW, American Legion and Air Force Association.
Asked why he is seeking election to a seat on the board, Wheatley said, “For the past 12 years I have been a DAV service officer helping veterans file for education, medical, disability compensation and death benefits. I have seen many people with health concerns and feel that, even though I am not in the medical field, I will bring insight from a lay position.
“I have always been a volunteer, from coaching fast-pitch softball, assisting Special Acres State School, volunteering at church, sponsoring T-Ball and softball teams and performing service officer work in eight counties. I have also served on several state committees with the Disabled American Veterans. In 2017, I was the DAV Service Officer of the Year.
“I am running to ensure transparency of the board, as well as freedoms of the individual. I believe we have many health issues that need to be addressed in the county, without using mandates. I believe the board should strongly recommend best practices but should not encroach on the freedoms of citizens by mandating actions.
“I will listen to concerns of the public before making any decision. My opinion on the definition of essential business is: if it is essential to one person, it is an essential business. Again, I don’t feel I have the right to recommend closure. If people have health concerns, they simply should not go there. I look forward, to the opportunity to serve the citizens of St. Francois County. Thank you for your support!”
Candidates seeking a three-year unexpired term on the health center’s board of trustees are Laura Lynn Rasnick and Sarah (Jones) LaBrot.
Laura Lynn Rasnick
An incumbent member of the board of trustees, Laura “Lynn” Rasnick of Desloge is a registered nurse and has earned a Master’s Degree in Nursing with a specialty in Health Policy.
She is running as a candidate to retain the unexpired term she was appointed to due to a vacancy at the end of 2020.
Asked why she decided to run for reelection, Rasnick said, “As a lifelong citizen of St. Francois County, I know the health and environmental struggles the community has had and continues to have. The health department has an important role in the monitoring of all types of environmental and health-related issues that impact the community and the families that live in this community.
"It is important to bring these issues forward and let the residents of St. Francois County know what essential service the health department provides and that there is oversight of these services. 2020 has certainly been an unusual year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but other health and environmental issues that were important to the county prior to 2020 didn’t go away.
“As a maternal-child nurse, I know first-hand the benefits of the WIC clinic in providing healthcare assistance to women and children with services they may not be able to afford. Because of the history of the lead mines, our community continues to struggle with unsafe lead levels in the environment and in the blood levels of our young children.
“As a member of the Opioid Taskforce, I know of the programs the health department offers to assist in the fight of the epidemic of opioid addiction. These services — along with testing and surveillance of communicable diseases, immunizations to children and adults — are just a few of the many services the health department offers to the community.
“While most residents may never need the direct services of the health department, it is important that the community know that the duties of the health department continue indirectly behind the scenes in the form of making sure the restaurants we eat at provide safe and sanitary services, industries are not polluting our breathing air and soil with toxins, and the community as a whole is safe for our families to live in.
“I am running for the health department board of trustees because I believe as a healthcare professional with 39 years of healthcare experiencing — including emergency preparedness and global health policy — it is important to have this knowledge in order to have oversight for and to make informed decisions on behalf of the community as a whole. By continuing the unexpired 3-year-term, I will be able to continue to work with the staff at the health department and serve the community and residents of St. Francois County in providing these essential services.”
Sarah (Jones) LaBrot
First-time candidate Sarah LaBrot of Valles Mines graduated from North County High School in 2004 and earned a Doctor of Chiropractic in 2013 from Logan University College of Chiropractic. She finished her Masters in Sports Science and Rehabilitation in 2015.
LaBrot’s fiancé is Todd Renshaw. The couple has four children — Ben, Emma, Callie and Carson.
This is her first time to run for public office.
Asked why she decided to run for a seat on the health center’s board of trustees, she said, “I have not run for office outside of school before; however, I have been in leadership positions since my sophomore year in high school through graduate school. Upon graduation I was given the “Student Doctor” award for my leadership.
“I’ve been practicing for seven years now and have been practicing back in St. Francois County for about two years. I used to work in the city on athletes of all levels, which widened my perspective on healthcare and needs of different regions and people’s way of living. I just try to help when there is a need and have an internal drive to step up in those moments.
“Over the last year, I’ve recognized the need for “We the People” to be heard and I want to give them a voice in our local healthcare system. I feel that the people of St. Francois County are due the confidence that they can trust those they have elected to represent them in serving their community. I hope to be a representative that the citizens of this county may count on to listen to their concerns and opinions and represent their voices on the board at the St. Francois County Health Center.”