Candidate’s Positions on Branson Shows and Branson in Ten Years

The Branson Register is running a three article series leading up to the Apr. 2 Branson Municipal Election. It starts with this edition and runs through the Mar. 31-Apr. 2 edition. Each contains the unedited responses of the candidates, for mayor and alderman, to questions submitted to them via email. The Mar. 29 edition will cover questions on “TIFs – Wages – #1 Current Challenge – Strengths – Weaknesses” and the Mar. 31 edition will cover “Qualifications – Transparency.”

While realizing our approach is a little different than others, our goal is to try to limit some of the political rhetoric and give the voters information, in a concise format, that they can use to make a decision when they go to vote on April 2. That’s why the format, for many questions, first asks for a one or two word answer. Most are then followed by a related follow-up question providing for a more expansive answer.

Because the mayor and aldermen all deal with the same issues in city government, all candidates, mayor and aldermen, were asked the same questions. For comparison purposes, the questions are published with all the responses for each, sorted by office, and candidate filing date and time within that office. For any question, if there was no response, the words “No Response” follows the candidate’s name for that question.*

What one or two words best describes the importance of Branson’s Live Shows to Branson’s economic future?

Karen Best (Mayor)  Tradition & Driver
Ray Easton (Mayor)  All Important
Edd Akers (Mayor)  Unique attraction
Marshall Howden (Ward I Alderman)  Paramount
Bob Simmons (Ward I Alderman)  Primary importance
Larry Milton (Ward II Alderman).. Critical Industry
Brian Clonts (Ward III-1 Year Term)  Exciting!
Janet Rackley (Ward III-1 Year Term)  It’s Branson’s history
Kevin McConnell (Ward III-2 Year Term)  Legacy & Reinvent
Ruth Denham (Ward III-2 Year Term)  Extremely Important!

What is your opinion as to how important Branson’s Live Shows are to Branson’s economic future?

Karen Best (Mayor)  Recent surveys reflect live shows still drive visitors to Branson. Great quality shows provide memorable experiences for many of our citizens and visitors. I still have fond memories of my childhood going to see The Baldknobbers and The Presleys on our summer vacation. I would sit in the audience and be mesmerized by their incredible amount of talent. Fast forward to today and I’m still mesmerized by the talent in our community.
Ray Easton (Mayor)  The shows are Branson’s economic future, not converting 76 into Museum Row
Edd Akers (Mayor)  Branson’s Live Shows are critical to Branson’s economic future. Visitors come to Branson for a wide variety of reasons that are all very important, but live shows are one of the most important things that make our destination unique in all the world.
Marshall Howden (Ward I Alderman)  Live Music Shows and Theatres are the only way back to a thriving Branson anywhere close to the level we’ve seen it rise to in the past.
Bob Simmons (Ward I Alderman)  Not only have live family shows been an economic driver for Branson for over half a century but they are also a big part of the very character and fabric of our area.  Seventy percent of our visitors list the shows as a reason to visit and I am sure we can work together to maintain and increase this unique industry.
Larry Milton (Ward II Alderman).. We owe it to ourselves to revisit the Show Industry and find common ground to revitalize this very important industry that separates Branson from almost all other tourist destinations nationwide.
Brian Clonts (Ward III-1 Year Term)  Live entertainment venues are a tremendous draw for tourists to the Branson area and will likely continue to be a very important reason for individuals to visit Branson.
Janet Rackley (Ward III-1 Year Term)  They are Branson’ history.  It is very important in our economic future.
Kevin McConnell (Ward III-2 Year Term)  Our Shows will continue to be a strong driver as long as we give our visitor’s a great mixture of old and new experiences.
Ruth Denham (Ward III-2 Year Term)  The diverse variety of live entertainment is a Branson “gem”, which continues to draw visitors to the area. Creating fair, competitive guidelines for this market could take live entertainment to a new, prosperous level.

The Branson CVB’s 2018 Year End Marketing Report indicates that Branson’s Live Shows are the #1 activity Branson visitors participate in. Yet, the same report shows a continuing down trend in such participation to 71%, from a recent high of 81% in 2013, and below its historical average of 79%. Do you see this as a potential challenge for Branson and why?

Karen Best (Mayor)  As a child, we had three television stations. Then, we got a fourth station. As an early adult, along came cable and there were hundreds of television channels. Today, there is network television, cable television, Netflix, Hulu, and many others. How does one choose what to watch? The same can be said of our live shows. When I was a child, there was The Presleys and The Baldknobbers. Then, came Roy Clark and a host of national entertainers. Today there are hundreds of shows. How do people choose? In my opinion, challenges for live shows remains providing relevant shows, quality products, and affordable marketing. If they can overcome these challenges, they will remain successful.
Ray Easton (Mayor)  Marketed well, Cooperation, opening doors to Nashville, Bransons music will have no problems
Edd Akers (Mayor).. Having served as chairman of the Tourism Community Enhancement District Board for several years, I understand both the importance and the complexity of destination marketing and management. There are countless challenges, both internal and external, that our community needs to address. Ultimately, our economy and our future are dependent on growing visitation to our market so that we can continue to improve and prosper.
Marshall Howden (Ward I Alderman)  I see this as a concerted effort, in my opinion the representatives of the status quo have affected this number but despite their efforts to market everything else the shows still reign supreme in the minds of our visitors.
Bob Simmons (Ward I Alderman)  Yes, I think this is a challenge to the entire community and it will take cooperative efforts to attract visitors, insure that they have a quality experience when they arrive and insure the economic opportunity for the theaters.
Larry Milton (Ward II Alderman).. YES! Huge challenge! What is the visitor type that our CVB is attracting? The demographic is changing. The diminishing quality of some Shows production due to reduced revenues is a real hardship.
Brian Clonts (Ward III-1 Year Term)  I don’t see it as a potential challenge, as long as other viable entertainment venues are brought to Branson.  I believe that the live shows will always have a place in attracting tourists to Branson, as a primary reason to visit Branson or, possibly, another attraction that those individuals may elect to see while visiting our wonderful city!
Janet Rackley (Ward III-1 Year Term)  There is more to do so numbers are spread out. Promotion.
Kevin McConnell (Ward III-2 Year Term)  Certainly.  We need to continue to get an excellent value for our Marketing dollars.  In addition, we need to have the very best Guest experiences between our shows and attractions.
Ruth Denham (Ward III-2 Year Term)  An equal playing field for live entertainment is needed for the Branson area.

What one or two words describes the one thing that will be the most important to you in making the decisions you will make in your official capacity?

Karen Best (Mayor)  Due Diligence
Ray Easton (Mayor)  Future History
Edd Akers (Mayor)  Public Servant
Marshall Howden (Ward I Alderman)  Citizen’s Voices
Bob Simmons (Ward I Alderman)  Citizens & Transparency
Larry Milton (Ward II Alderman)..Residents First
Brian Clonts (Ward III-1 Year Term).. Fiscal responsibility
Janet Rackley (Ward III-1 Year Term).. Constituents
Kevin McConnell (Ward III-2 Year Term).. Transparency & Accountability
Ruth Denham (Ward III-2 Year Term)  Stakeholders

Why are those words so important in making those decisions?

Karen Best (Mayor)  In order to make a good decision, one must complete due diligence to insure they make a decision that is in the best interest of the community. Completing one’s due diligence includes gathering information and historical data, input from stakeholders and community members, and evaluating the information prior to making a decision. In the end, the decision has to reflect what’s best for the community.
Ray Easton (Mayor)  Branson has a great history to be remembered.  If it is going to survive it’s future must be secured
Edd Akers (Mayor)  We need to be constantly aware that we (elected officials and paid staff) are public servants. There is no personal agenda, friendships, special interests or other debts that should distract from our service to the citizens of Branson.
Marshall Howden (Ward I Alderman)  In Branson we are constitutional conservatives and the people have the power.
Bob Simmons (Ward I Alderman)  I wish for us to have the best City possible and to do that the citizens must be informed and have opportunities to input as desired
Larry Milton (Ward II Alderman)  Decisions that are best for the residents and businesses are the best decisions for City government.
Brian Clonts (Ward III-1 Year Term)  City council members are elected to be good stewards of the hard-earned dollars that the citizens of Branson pay in taxes.  We need to protect those funds and use them for the intent of providing infrastructure maintenance and improvements, public safety, and effective well-managed growth of the city of Branson.
Janet Rackley (Ward III-1 Year Term)  They elected me so I want to represent their thoughts and ideas.
Kevin McConnell (Ward III-2 Year Term)  The Residents and businesses deserve to understand what is going on in City Government.
Ruth Denham (Ward III-2 Year Term)  Citizens, business owners and tourists are the heartbeat of Branson. A culmination of past history and current issues lead to innovative ideas for Branson’s future.

What do you expect the economic base of Branson to be in ten years?

Karen Best (Mayor)  I expect a continued growth of economic development for the next ten years which includes: year-round economy, year-round jobs, and continued diversity of businesses to include technology companies, light industry, and tourism. We currently have new technology being developed and produced in our community which is being recognized with national awards in Silicon Valley. This technology was introduced through a pilot project for my campaign using Ask Alexa technology. As this new technology grows, so will technology jobs in our community. In addition, there will be more affordable housing due to a concerted effort between city officials and developers.
Ray Easton (Mayor)  Bransons history and future is live music.  I do not see the city surviving without it.
Edd Akers (Mayor)  Midwestern values and Branson hospitality will continue to attract both visitors and businesses to our region. We need to keep tourism strong while we attract additional business and new, higher paying industries with the quality workforce and quality lifestyle available in the Ozarks. In ten years, our vision and planning has created the infrastructure that is required for this growth and expansion. We will invite and welcome those who bring quality business and beneficial growth to Branson.
Marshall Howden (Ward I Alderman)  Live Shows
Bob Simmons (Ward I Alderman)  I do not see drastic changes in the economic base which is why we must support expansion of our existing businesses and new endeavors in those same areas.  Tourism and shopping will still be key with continued development in our educational institutions and medical systems adding good, clean expansion.  I would like to see strong year round employment and that should remain a goal but I have been involved in economic development efforts in the area for the last 30 years and I think we need to buckle down and work on what has been so good to us while trying to expand the shoulder seasons and keep looking for complementary business to fill the off season.
Larry Milton (Ward II Alderman).. If it is not Shows, Attractions and Entertainment, we will experience a lower economic base.
Brian Clonts (Ward III-1 Year Term)  I hope that economic base of Branson is more diversified, with a mixture of continued and new entertainment and dining venues, increased regional healthcare services, and light industry.  Above all, I’d like to see industry that is open year round and provides a living wage and benefits for the employees.
Janet Rackley (Ward III-1 Year Term)  Entertainment
Kevin McConnell (Ward III -2 Year Term)  I believe in ten years, we will continue to be a desired family destination that will include live theatres, amazing attractions, affordable and higher-end lodging, as well as unique attractions.  Hopefully our base will include more year around jobs as well.
Ruth Denham (Ward III -2 Year Term)  A competitive market…supply and demand, will play a huge role in determining the economic base in Branson in ten years.

*Even though his name will be on the ballot, Lucas Case, Candidate for Ward II Alderman, has withdrawn from the election. He was sent a questionnaire and did not respond.