HOPKINS, Mo. — Dee O’Riley, a Republican, is running for Nodaway County Public Administrator.
O’Riley grew up in Excelsior Springs, where her parents — both graduates of Northwest Missouri State University — were teachers. She followed in their footsteps to Northwest, where she graduated with a B.S. in accounting and met her husband, Tony. After graduation, she tallied experience at a medical clinic, the prosecuting attorney’s office, as a tax preparer and, after the birth of their third child, became a stay-at-home mom.
“That lasted about a month,” O’Riley said. Then, she started at City Hall as the municipal government’s part-time clerk.
But in May of last year, O’Riley was injured in a crash when a pickup reportedly pulled out in front of the SUV in which O’Riley was a passenger, causing a collision and totaling both vehicles. She received the worst of the injuries of those involved in the crash, and said that’s when she began thinking about a new, full-time career.
“Basically, I had went through a car accident and had been in a position where I was in the hospital for quite a while, and after that I decided that I needed some type of change,” O’Riley said. “I decided I wanted to help people throughout the year, and (public administrator) just seemed like it would fit for what my background was.”
To get the position, O’Riley would have to unseat three-term incumbent Diane Thomsen, whom O’Riley said is doing a good job.
“(But) sometimes there needs to be a change,” she said.
If O’Riley were to win, one of those changes would be to the location of the public administrator’s office. Currently, Thomsen’s office is located inside the Strong & Strong law firm (see Thomsen’s candidate profile in this paper for more on why that is) in downtown Maryville. In the event of an O’Riley victory, it’s likely the office would move to county facilities instead.
Another change could be in an agreement with the attorneys at the Strong & Strong firm. Thomsen said that the attorneys have provided free legal services for the frequent needs of the public administrator, but indicated that arrangement would not continue under anyone but Thomsen, potentially introducing what she estimated to be thousands of dollars of new costs to the county.
O’Riley said she wasn’t worried about finding a similar deal.
“To that I would say, I know several attorneys from when I worked at the prosecutor’s office, and I know that they all do pro bono work,” she said. “They all are always helpful. … And so I think there’s plenty of good attorneys in town that would help us.”
O’Riley said that as public administrator, she would lean on her experience in tax preparation and accounting, but said it’s her focus on doing what’s best for the people she would serve as a whole that sets her apart.
“Through my tax preparation career, you can always look at things several ways, you have to explain things 20 different ways sometimes for people to understand what’s going on,” she said. “That’s my goal, is to be the person that (is) going to find out who you are, and try to make sure that your wants, your needs are met. Not just, OK, well this is how it’s done and do it, (but) make sure they understand and are OK with (it).
“I’m a caring person. I feel that I would make good choices for people with their needs in mind.”