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Q&A with Jerry Sparks

By County Current Staff

Jerry Sparks, the Democrat candidate for state representative for the 159th district.

The County Current staff interviewed both candidates for state representative for the 159th district. This is our interview with Democrat candidate Jerry Sparks. You can find our interview with the Republican candidate Dirk Deaton here.

(Note: This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.)

(County Current) What made you decide to run for Missouri State Representative?

(Jerry Sparks) “There were a lot of factors, but down in a Republican entrenched area that we live in, I think the biggest reason was for another choice besides just purely Republicans. Almost any election down here, county, city, state, whatever, there are so many blank spaces that Democrats don’t even have to vote for, and I personally believe that the choice that the Democrats stand for is the direction that the country needs to move in. So, it was natural, especially down here in such a beautiful remote county. There were a lot of things, but primarily, it was for the environment and to give a good solid feasible alternative to the Republican problems that they present down here.”

Is getting a Democrat on the ballot a victory?

“I believe there hasn’t been any opposition to the 159 since 1992. It is obviously some sort of victory to get a choice out there, but that choice is hopefully a first step among many steps to a bigger, broader, and better life for everyone. It gives us hope. Without choices, without progressive thinking , and open minded thinking, there is really no hope. It’s everyone’s duty and responsibility to vote, and I hope everyone does that for the right reasons. Not because their mom does, dad does, but because they care enough to make the right choice and do the right thing.”

How can you improve the public education system in Missouri?

“I think obviously money is the root of any improvement when you are talking about county and districts. I think appropriate taxation on certain businesses, and even individual taxation is going to be the biggest way to improve anything that is considered public.”

What is your view on school choice (open enrollment) as a solution to current public education problems?

“If you have choices and start importing/exporting {students), it’s inevitably going to be more costly. The prices are going to be paid with absenteeism, and it’s definitely going to take away from the district. I don’t think that’s the direction school districts need to go in at all.”

How do you think attending public school [as a student] gives you a different view of education than you opponent who was homeschooled through junior high and high school?

“Education is going to be what you make out of it. In making the choice to be homeschooled, I think there are certain benefits, but in the bigger and broader arena, you miss all kinds of basic early elementary social skills. You’re closed in. You don’t have open-ended views. You are not progressive thinking. I think that is a reflection of [my opponent], and obviously, the party that he stands for. I don’t hold it against him, but you know if you are homeschooled all your life, what really outside of the immediate family nucleus are you exposed to? It’s very limiting, and I believe he’s probably very limited in county perceptions, state perceptions, and probably a lot of realistic perceptions.”

What makes you different from other politicians in your party?  What is unique about your particular views?

“I have a lot of life experience. I’m in my mid-50s, and I’ve had a lot schooling.  I’ve had lots of education. I’ve coached football. I’ve substitute taught. I’m fortunate enough to be open-minded and progressive thinking. My emphasis would be on the land quality, the water quality,  and the air quality, which I think is synonymous to a degree with the Democratic party. It’s a priority for them, but it’s not at the very top of their list.”

What is one thing you want to accomplish that would help our district (the 159th) the most?

When I think environmentally of this area, I think of coming down here camping, fishing, and backpacking all my life. I’m very very fortunate that I live on Indian Creek. The one thing that I really truly want to do is maintain the quality of the Earth and improve on the compassion among people down here. We have a lot of minorities. We have a lot of diversity now, and I think equality and treating man as our brother is slipping. [I want to] try to somehow infuse that old, biblical [teaching] of treating man the way that you want to be treated, treating everybody the way you want to be treated, treating the Earth the way it deserves to be treated.

Is the high cost of college tuition a problem, and if so, what can we do about it?

I believe there has to be answers to make secondary education much more affordable. Everybody says that Bernie [Sanders] was always saying “free”. That “free” right there had a price to be paid. I’m not necessarily sure how that price should be paid, but I do believe that [tuition] should be much more affordable to give the less fortunate the opportunity for secondary education. Without secondary education, life can be much more challenging than it needs to be.



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