Longtime Cooper County educator seeks state office
Bill Betteridge spent more than 36 years teaching students in Cooper and Pettis counties. Now, his sights are on the state legislature.
Betteridge is running as a Democrat for state representative in the 48th district. He is running unopposed in the August primary and will face off against either Don Baragary or Tim Taylor in the November election.
He sees serving as state representative as a natural segue to his career in education.
This is because Betteridge wants to put his focus on education if he wins the seat. He also wants to look at agricultural concerns for the district. Betteridge still lives on his family’s farm — first purchased in 1903 by his great-grandfather — where he raises cattle and has row crops.
“I think those two things really have a lot do with the 48th district,” he said.
Betteridge wants to make sure the state’s foundation formula remains fully funded, he said. The formula determines how much state funding public school districts receive based on student average daily attendance and other factors.
“It seems like we have had to make budget cuts and the foundation formula, it’s taken some hits,” he said.
He spent 18 years as a social studies teacher in the Otterville School District and was the principal of Pilot Grove Elementary School for eight years, before working at Horace Mann Elementary and Heber Hunt Elementary schools in Sedalia as principal.
When it comes to agriculture, Betteridge wants to explore infrastructure improvements so that agriculture products are easily transported. Another intersection of agriculture and infrastructure is broadband internet.
Betteridge is a board member of the Co-Mo Electric Cooperative and Co-Mo Connect, an internet service provider.
“We have brought the gigabit, high-speed internet, the fiber to rural areas,” he said. “That is a crucial piece for our rural economy to remain strong and to remain connected.”
The cooperative celebrated its 20,000th broadband customer Monday.
The COVID-19 pandemic greatly emphasized the need for rural broadband as adults were working and children and college students were learning from home, Betteridge said.
“Because we have the high-speed capability, [my wife] was able to work from home,” he said. “The internet became a crucial piece for kids to get an education this year. It really is an issue I feel strongly about.”
Betteridge likes the cooperative model for high-speed internet in rural areas. Large corporations are more concerned about the bottom line than working as a group in a cooperative, he said.
“The future for rural Missouri, the state of Missouri, broadband is a very key piece,” he said.
Along with the cooperative, Betteridge serves on the Cooper County Ambulance District Board as treasurer. The district has undergone numerous changes since he joined the board. The district’s funding source went from property tax to a one-quarter-cent sales tax. This allowed for the construction of a new facility for the district.
Betteridge feels his wide range of experience is what sets him apart from other candidates seeking the state rep seat.
“The other candidates are fine people, are good people, but I think I have a unique connection to the area,” he said. “I look forward to the opportunity to get out and visit with the people of the 48th district and hear a little bit more about what is on their mind.”