Ashland alderwoman offers county choice
Published Sunday, June 29, 2008
Like many people across the country, Barb Bishop was horrified as she watched the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina three years ago unfold on television. The event prompted thousands of people to donate money and volunteer, and it became the catalyst to jolt Bishop into local governance.
“It really upset me,” Bishop said. Governments at “every level dropped the ball there, I thought. I sat there going, ‘You know, if more of us would be more involved in government instead of just sitting back and saying that they are taking care of me — .’ It got me going. Enough. I had to get up and go. … Katrina got to me.”
To prepare for entry into local politics, Bishop started attending meetings of local boards and commissions.
“I think I went 15 months without missing a park board meeting, planning and zoning meeting or council meeting. What struck me was at the different levels and on the boards, the interaction with the city administrator,” which gave her insight into the process, she said. “I decided I needed to be involved.”
Bishop was appointed to Ashland’s park board in 2005, and the next year she and Mike Asmus ran for the open mayoral seat. Asmus won, but in 2007 Bishop was elected Third Ward alderwoman. In April, she again ran for mayor but lost to Asmus.
Now she is challenging incumbent Tom Schauwecker for the job of Boone County assessor. Bishop said her husband, Bernie Martin, encouraged her to consider running for the office, which has a four-year term.
“I enjoy appraising” property, Bishop said. “I enjoy public service. You know, it just clicked. I started talking to people about the position, … and I was encouraged by my friends and family.”
Bishop, 53, said that while she was growing up, her immediate family was not particularly political, though her parents — her dad was a mechanic, and her mom was a homemaker — always voted.
“They did their duty,” she said. “They taught us to obey the law, and if you didn’t like it, you went to vote. Most of all, you took self-responsibility. That’s what we were taught: self-responsibility, which shaped, I think, some of my politics.”
Bishop and her two older brothers grew up in the Cooper County community of Otterville, about 55 miles west of Columbia. Bishop said she was an avid reader as a child and “survived the summers” with the aid of a bookmobile. She graduated from Otterville School’s 12th grade in 1974.
On her 21st birthday, Bishop began classes at State Fair Community College in Sedalia. After earning an associate’s degree in accounting, she transferred to Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg.
“There I completed my bachelor’s degree in management,” she said. “I did that in 3½ years and worked full time while I was at it and raising my two children by myself.”
After a few years working for a research firm, Bishop moved to Tennessee with her new husband and her two young children. They settled near Memphis in Germantown, Tenn., where Bishop worked at Allenberg Cotton Co., a large merchant of cotton. She began as an accounting temp and worked her way up to a purchasing manager.
“During that time, I was mostly just a mom, a working mom,” Bishop said. “That’s where I really got to use my management and accounting experience. I had multimillion-dollar expenditures to oversee” at Allenberg. “I want to assure people I’ll bring those experiences with me.”
While in Tennessee, Bishop became friends with co-worker Benita Johnson.
“We just hit it off,” Johnson said in a phone interview from Tennessee. “We started going out to dinner together, she and her husband and me and my husband. It clicked. We were so much alike in certain ways. We could talk to each other.”
Johnson said she and Bishop have remained “like sisters,” even after Bishop moved to Boone County. She remembers Bishop as a good mom and an honest person who would tell people the truth, even if they didn’t want to hear it.
“She wants you to be square with her, and she’ll be square with you,” Johnson said. “There was an article in one of the papers up there that said she was ‘feisty.’ … I thought, ‘They’ve got her pegged.’ … If she makes a speech, it’s not made up. It’s from the gut.”
After her marriage ended, Bishop returned to Missouri, where her grown children already had moved. She said she needed a fresh start, and an ad for a real estate appraiser caught her eye.
“I’d been involved in buying and selling homes of my own,” Bishop said, adding that she has always been interested in real estate. “A friend of mine I’d gone to college with, she said, ‘Barb, you’ve got to get into the appraisal business. … You’ve got to get into this.’ She said, ‘You’ll like this.’ She planted the seed.”
Bishop began real estate certification courses and working under a general appraiser to evaluate residential properties in Pettis, Johnson and Moniteau counties. In 1996 she worked for Felten Appraisal Services, and in 1997 she worked in Columbia for Cannon & Blaylock.
After she received her real estate certification in 1999, Bishop was allowed to appraise commercial property under the guidance of a certified general appraiser. In 2001 she started her own business as an independent appraiser and worked out of her home in Ashland. Most of her clients were in Callaway County, she said, because people in southern Boone County didn’t want their neighbor to know their personal business. Most Callaway appraisers had client bases in southern Boone County.
“Your primary” customers “would have been lenders,” Bishop recalled. “When I started 13 years ago, most lenders were banks. Mortgage companies weren’t coming in until the last five years. That changed the whole industry.”
When mortgage companies started ordering appraisals at specified amounts, Bishop said, she cut back her client base to deal only with local banks and clients. She cut back her practice even more to take care of her mother, who was diagnosed with colon cancer.
Bishop now is taking classes to become a certified general appraiser who can evaluate commercial properties.
As county assessor, Bishop said she would be more active at the state level about Board of Equalization membership requirements and would raise the issue about whether Missouri should become one of many states requiring public disclosure of home purchase prices.
“I have been a field appraiser, been out there during this boom and seen what’s really out there as to property values,” Bishop said. “I’m more attuned to what’s going on out there in the market. … I’m a good choice for change, a qualified voice for change.”
Since moving to Ashland, Bishop said she has embraced the terrain, the heritage of the area and local celebrities.
She loves to go bass fishing with her husband as a way to relax.
“Don’t get me wrong,” she said. “I love when that bass hits, but I can sit and fish, and it gives me time to unwind.”
When the weather doesn’t allow for fishing, Bishop said, she heads indoors to watch the televised exploits of local race car driver Carl Edwards, whom she tracks by keeping a scrapbook. Several years ago, she said, he did some work on her home. Bishop said she met him as her husband was showing off a hunting trophy.
“I’m at home, not done up, working away,” she recalled of the meeting. “I came out of my cubbyhole, and there was the cutest kid standing there with the biggest smile. He said, ‘Hi, I’m Carl Edwards. Bernie said I could come down and look at his deer head.’ And he was the nicest kid.”
Bishop also joined the Southern Boone County Historical Society, which is collecting oral histories of elderly residents who used to attend one-room schools in the area.
A fellow Ashland alderman, Randy Wyatt, said he is supporting her in the primary, even though he is a strong Republican. He sees her strengths as accessibility to the public and said she takes time to understand other people’s positions.
“I can say this without hesitation: Barb believes in open and honest and fair government,” Wyatt said. “She is more than willing to take any time of the day, by phone or e-mail, to be accessible. She serves her constituents. … If you don’t know Barb, give her a call.” She believes “being in government is a way to assist people she serves, not the other way around.”
Wyatt said that when a resident has a problem in Ashland, he will often note the concerns and then refer them to Bishop so he can compare his notes with hers. “She is laden with common sense,” he said, “and that doesn’t seem to be too common anymore.”
Reach Sara Semelka at (573) 815-1717 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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