A Letter From Jamie
I was raised by a single mother. We spent much of our childhood living with my grandparents. My grandpa was a Baptist preacher here in Northern Greene county, so we spent most of our days in the church and at revivals. So when it comes time to tell my story, it is challenging to find a way to talk about it that does not involve the church. In 1 Peter 4:10, it says “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” This is how I live my life everyday, as a servant to others.
In High School I became a first responder for my local fire department, I remained a volunteer for the next 20 years primarily serving the Willard community. After college I spent a year working in the Willard school system while going back to school myself to become a Paramedic. Working on the ambulance I saw some of the worst sides of humanity but felt called to serve in people’s times of need. I had the distinction of being a team leader for Cox Ambulance’s response to the 2011 Joplin tornado - in the hours after the tragedy we helped to organize the evacuation of injured people to hospitals outside the city. It was one of the most impactful experiences of my career. In 2013 I graduated with my Masters in Physician Assistant Studies and currently work in the Emergency Department for several local hospitals. After graduating I joined the Missouri Army National Guard, where I continue to serve locally as a Medical Officer.
Some citizens of Willard approached me with concerns for our city. They asked me to consider running against the incumbent mayor. To put an end to a lawsuit the city was embroiled in with the local quarry, to make the drinking water in Willard cleaner and safer and to bring transparency to our local government. I accepted the challenge and in 2007 I was elected as Mayor of Willard. We ran miles and miles of new water pipes and eventually chlorinated the water to ensure it remained safe. We settled a decades long lawsuit with the quarry that had already cost the citizens of Willard tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. Unfortunately, during this time our nation entered one of the biggest economic downturns that most of us had ever seen and our tax revenue in the city decreased sharply. We jumped into action and despite the frailty of our economy, we were able to bring new businesses, economic growth, and jobs to Willard.
In 2007, part of my platform was to get rid of the “good-ole boy network” and to bring some transparency to our local government. As you can imagine that did not sit well with some of the locals that felt their standing in the community was at risk. They pulled out all the stops to try and discredit me and while the personal attacks were disheartening, it has unfortunately just become a part of public service. However, the attacks were not just aimed at me, in the most vile way of trying to hinder public policy and to reduce the overall transparency of the city - an employee that was an ally of mine was terminated for no other reason than supporting me. The alderman responsible were found at fault and the callous move ended up costing the city quite a bit of money in a settlement. During this time they also petitioned for a city audit.
The audit of the city primarily revealed weaknesses in the financial condition of the city, during an economic depression when anticipated sales tax revenue had been dramatically decreased. Combine that with the city’s acquisition of the Meadow’s water district - more than doubling Willard’s water district, the new combined billing of utilities and trash for the city, and several public works and park department projects which were underway, our Chief Financial Officer was being stretched to capacity. With the addition of so much work we should have recognized the need for additional staff to help her, the audit really brought that issue to light. It also highlighted my own late water bills that were the result of a verbal agreement to pay my bill along with my mother’s with my compensation check from the city, I took my lashings in the public eye, rather than placing blame elsewhere.
I am proud of all the work we did for the city while I was mayor. During that time citizens came to me and asked for the city to address the growing need for families in our community. We started movie in the park with a movie screen I built myself and donated. The night my eldest son came home from the hospital was the first official screening and my wife and son visited on their way home while I was grilling hamburgers in the park - she was not exactly pleased with me that night. She is more understanding than I deserve.
We started the process of constructing the new pool before the economic downturn. The aldermen and I planned for sales tax revenue to help cover the cost. Had we known then what we all know now about the economy, I am not sure if we would have gone ahead with the construction of the pool. It filled a need that citizens were requesting, while addressing an issue that due to legal changes required significant and costly repair to the old pool. The new pool continues to be a divisive topic in our community, which is regrettable because it truly is a wonderful facility.
Above all else, I find it really disappointing that we were not able to pass a bond measure to build a sewer treatment facility in Willard. It was really a multifaceted issue, the sewer treatment facility would have allowed for growth, solved a mounting problem with waste runoff that will likely cost the city millions to remedy and it would have reduced our dependence on Springfield. Without it the city’s growth and subsequent tax revenue from growth has really been hindered, making the city overall more at risk financially. The schools in Willard are outstanding - people move to the district for the school, the friendly small town atmosphere and the lower crime rates, but the city is unable to capitalize on that growth because it lacks the infrastructure to support it.
I knew I would not be seeking a third term as I had decided to return to school. Despite public scrutiny and the time it took away from my growing family I faced my opposition and completed my term as Mayor. I won’t lie to you, it was not an easy task walking through the doors of city hall day after day in those last few months, but I saw it through until the end.
The Next Step
The job as Mayor was basically uncompensated - I received $300 a month to go towards mileage and cell phone reimbursement while continuing to work overnights on the ambulance, couple that with medical bills and student loan debt it had left my wife and I struggling just to get by. We had decided we needed to make a big change in our life if we wanted to ever get ahead. At this time we didn’t qualify for assistance, so I worked overnights and weekends and went to school during the day. My wife and I sold our second car and our furniture, and she did transcription work while raising our two young boys, Noah and Eli.
During those years I saw my kids pretty much just while walking out the door on my way to school or work. When I reflect back on it, I am not sure how we managed. We prayed and we had a network of people supporting us. On days when we were not sure how school tuition payments would be made or how we could possibly keep going we leaned on our faith and it got us through. I was raised in the church, spent more days than I can possible count sitting in a pew with my mom pinching my arm to make me behave - it was those years juggling a family, work and school and some personal experiences during them that really solidified my faith. I earned my Master’s degree from Missouri State University in 2013. The following year we welcomed our youngest child, a precocious little girl named Cora.
The Present; The Future
Allison and I have built an amazing life together. We have been blessed in ways most people only dream of—we recently moved outside of Willard to a house with a little bit of acreage. Our kids are growing and involved in community activities; Cub Scouts, Soccer, and Gymnastics. This run was a difficult decision for both myself and Allison. Our kids are young, I have a giant “honey-do list” I haven’t even tackled yet, we could spend our free time traveling or camping, and there is still a treehouse and a chicken coop left for me to build...
But, then I was asked “What if?” I looked at my children and I love being with them and my wife - we homeschool just to make sure that we can spend time together on my days off as I usually work evenings and weekends. I could not allow their voices and my own voice to be ignored as so many in Southwest Missouri have been. Southwest Missouri deserves better than what we have had for the past eight years in Washington D.C. I looked at the other candidates and I know with my experience and my commitment to public service, I can be that voice for my fellow Missourians —I faced opposition and have proven that I will only rise stronger. I will show up to do the job you hired me to do. My commitment is to the people of Southwest Missouri.
I knew I wouldn’t make everyone happy when I was Mayor and I PROMISE you that I will make those people in Washington D.C. unhappy. I will make them notice the citizens of Southwest Missouri and start answering to us when we are overlooked or in legislation that hurts - our jobs, farms, economy, education, healthcare, and families.
Ask yourself these questions as I asked myself: Have you felt represented by Billy Long? Have you seen and talked to Billy Long? Have you had a chance to ask Billy Long for an update from Capitol Hill? Do you want someone in D.C. who actually asked YOU what your concerns were instead of catering to the concerns of people outside of our district? Has Billy Long proven he is lifelong public servant or just a salesman?
Billy Long doesn’t represent me, my family, my friends or our Missouri values. I won’t stand by any longer, I need your support and together we can be the voice for Southwest Missouri.