Individual headshots of the four 6th District candidates in the Jackson County primary: Smith, Edson, Carlyle and Gough.
From left: Jackson County 6th District primary candidates Sean Smith, Phyllis Edson, Trish Carlyle and Roberta Gough. (Provided photos)

In the 2022 Jackson County primary election, more than half of the county legislature will turn over, with fresh faces in at least five out of nine seats. This includes the 6th District, where current legislator Theresa Cass Galvin has decided to run for county executive, leaving an open seat.

In the coming days, The Beacon will introduce many of the legislative races and candidates that voters will see on the Aug. 2 Jackson County primary ballot.  

The Jackson County primary for 6th District legislator features four Republicans.  A Democratic candidate, Amanda Toomey, is also running and will proceed uncontested to the general election in November.

The Jackson County Legislature oversees spending and makes important decisions about tax assessments, the sheriff’s department, parks and other functions of Missouri’s second most populous county. All nine of its members, plus the county executive, are up for election in 2022.

The 6th District, which saw its boundaries redrawn in a redistricting process this year, includes Lee’s Summit and unincorporated areas in the southeastern corner of Jackson County.

Running in the 6th District Jackson County primary are:

  • Sean Smith, a businessman from Lee’s Summit
  • Phyllis Edson, a current Lee’s Summit City Council member and owner of biotechnology research company Edson Research LLC
  • Trish Carlyle, a paralegal and former Lee’s Summit City Council member 
  • Roberta Gough, a former math teacher, Democratic candidate for the U.S. House in 2014 and 2016 and founder of the Jackson County Taxpayers Association. Gough originally filed for another county race as a Democrat but was disqualified from that primary following objections from the Jackson County Democratic Committee. 

The Beacon sent all four candidates a list of five questions about what they hope to accomplish as a Jackson County legislator. 

Responses have been edited for clarity, length and Associated Press style.

Click on a question to jump ahead:

What new perspectives will you bring to the legislature?

Sean Smith: First, as a constitutional conservative, I think my perspective is underrepresented in the county legislature but represents a significant portion of my district’s constituents. Additionally, I’ve been a successful small-business entrepreneur, I’ve worked with Fortune 1000 corporations, led finance departments, technology projects and massive infrastructure projects — all of which can directly lend specialized expertise to the county legislature. Coming from private industry and not-for-profit sectors, I will bring a “disruptor” mindset to the legislature and the county, rather than a business-as-usual perspective. 

Phyllis Edson: I have served on the Lee’s Summit City Council for a little over six years. I think the perspective I bring will be that of an experienced elected local official. With that experience, I understand that to best serve one’s constituents means working with others on the legislature and county staff toward achieving a common goal. This requires a willingness to find common ground and work toward compromise on controversial issues.

Trish Carlyle: I will bring a clear view of how local governments, under the umbrella of Jackson County, are treated and communicated with. Also, my time on the budget committee and the community and economic development committee for the Lee’s Summit City Council gives me a strong base of what we should be doing at the county level to tighten our controls and build our commercial base to ease the tax burden for our citizens.

Roberta Gough: While the legislature doesn’t directly control the Assessment Department, the spending and policies need to be reformed. The legislature does control the purse strings.

What will be the most important factors for you when making yearly budget decisions?

Smith: The single most important factor is serving the whole community and doing so in a transparent manner. Additionally, we need to focus on our present circumstances (inflation pains, lingering challenges from COVID-19, supply chain and labor issues) while at the same time not selling out our future. The need for a new justice/detention center is vital but must be addressed with full public participation, fiscal responsibility and long-term effectiveness, including being efficient and fair to those who may be detained, the employees and professional staff that work there and the community.

Edson: Ensuring that we pass a balanced budget will be a priority. I would also like to ensure that budget priorities align with the priorities of the citizens. This can be done by undertaking a “priority-based budgeting process.” This process focuses on budgeting based on the needs of the community. It is also a transparent and accountable process that eliminates wasteful spending.

Carlyle: The most important factors regarding budget decisions are to make sure that we are not spending dollars that are not needed and to be sure the dollars we are spending are going to the proper places. Jackson County needs to tighten the controls and make it easier for taxpayers to follow the money so that they can hold us accountable and be sure that we are being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.

Gough: The out-of-control spending frenzy has resulted in huge increases of property assessments in Jackson County. Jackson County needs to control its spending. 

How will you make yourself available to your constituents throughout your term?

Smith: I will provide constituents updates on a weekly basis about legislative business. I want transparency of the “behind-the-scenes” business of the county. The legislative meetings need to include more time for important items of substance and less time on mundane business. I also publish my contact information and respond on a prompt basis via social, email and a phone line that forwards to me during most business hours.

Edson: I will always be available by phone and email to respond to constituents. Fortunately, I have a lot of contacts with community groups and resident groups within my district that will keep me active in the district and in front of constituents. 

Carlyle: I plan to be available by phone, email, social media or any other reasonably requested source.

Gough: My phone number will always be available to every person in Jackson County.

If elected, what are two or three specific things you plan to recommend to improve the county government?

Smith: I want to see the legislative meetings include more time spent on substantive issues. Presently, most of the official public business of the legislative meetings focuses around smaller “day-to-day” business. I would like to keep that transparency while also including more time and open discussion and public comment on significant issues. I will also work to inform the public of the upcoming issues and highlight the specific items that are likely of public concern. Our use of boards and commissions using both county and outside funds to further enhance the community are vital. I want to see more public awareness and shared partnerships about these wonderful programs, such as Eitas.

Edson: Finding more ways to get citizens’ involvement and input is important. Also, the legislature should look toward getting more bang for the taxpayer buck out of county construction contracts by adopting an apprenticeship rule to require these projects use construction trade apprentices so that taxpayer dollars are used not only to build public projects but are being used to train the next generation in construction trades.

Carlyle: Communication. I believe that the residents of Jackson County deserve clear and frequent communications from the county regarding the status of what is happening. They should not have to wait on hold for hours, or dig for hours to find pieces of answers to their questions. 

Partnerships with city governments. Jackson County needs to be partnering with city governments when it comes to economic development and infrastructure needs. I think they did a great job partnering to form the Rock Island pedestrian trail. We need to see this kind of partnership in other areas as well.

Gough: The out-of-control spending needs to be reined in. The stadiums are huge money sinks and more spending in the future. It must be stopped.

How has the legislature been successful in the past, and how do you think it can improve?

Smith: Historically the legislature and its predecessors created wonderful public resources such as our park system and libraries. The biggest “failure” of the legislature is likely the structural issue that has resulted in a lack of meaningful oversight of the county executive. From board and commission appointments to the assessment debacle, it is clear the community isn’t served when the legislature exercises inadequate authority over the executive functions of the county. I’ll seek to change that and ensure more oversight.

Edson: The county has been successful in the management of the county parks and in the development of the Rock Island Trail. We are so lucky to have the county park system we have, and Rock Island has become an amazing asset. I would love to continue to work to improve this amazing amenity and use it to promote economic development and tourism.

Carlyle: Jackson County has a great parks department and has been very successful with the Rock Island Trail.

Gough: The sheriff’s office has been properly managed and funded. The legislature is the watchdog of taxpayers’ money. It needs to act like one

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Josh Merchant is The Kansas City Beacon's local government reporter. After graduating from Seattle University, Josh attended Columbia Journalism School, earning a master’s degree in investigative journalism....