Clay County vote on new constitution could be big shake-up for local government

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LIBERTY, Mo. — On Nov. 3, Clay County voters will have the chance to change how the county’s government is run by adopting a new constitution.

The changes come during a time of recent turmoil in Clay County politics.

It will be the county’s fourth time in the past 20 years putting a new form of government up for a vote. Each time it’s failed, but supporters hope this year is different. 

“We had an agreement with every single person on the committee. So 14 people — seven Democrats, seven Republicans — agree on this document and agree on this yes vote,” Jennifer Justus said. 

Justus is part of that 14-member bipartisan committee who helped write the new proposed constitution. If the ballot measure is approved, the county’s commission will be expanded from three partisan to seven nonpartisan members. 

“So right now, it can be a 2-1 vote and two commissioners can hijack a vote,” Justus said.

Also positions like the county’s clerk, collector and recorder will be appointed instead of elected. 

“We’re taking away a lot of checks and balances in our current county government,” Clay County Auditor Victor Hurlbert said. 

Hurlbert agrees there needs to be reform, but he isn’t happy with this new proposal. 

“I think it’s insulting to the voters to them that this is on the ballot again,” he said. 

One of the other changes in the proposal would mean that county commissioners make less money, making salaries equal to state representatives. 

If approved, the new constitution won’t be implemented until January 2023.

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