INDEPENDENCE -- Despite having worked for Marion County's public works department for 16 years, Bob Patterson had mostly stayed away from local politics.
Now, after getting involved in a land use dispute, politics found him.
Patterson filed to run for Polk County Commissioner earlier this month. He will face fellow Republicans Brian Hewitt, Stan Butterfield and Mike Propes in the Tuesday, May 18 party primary.
Last fall, city officials moved to annex an unincorporated stretch of Stryker Road near Patterson's home and metal recycling operation. He fought back, claiming the City had plans to annex and rezone his land.
The issue is now before the state Land Use Board of Appeals.
Patterson called the dispute an awakening. "I don't get involved in political issues unless it affects me," he said. "And that did."
In running an outsider campaign, Patterson wants to keep government connected to the people it serves. "It's always good to get different perspectives," he said.
"Sometimes people get entrenched in one place and get tunnel vision."
Patterson has no problem with the current crop of county commissioners or their decisions. He feels they would get along well together.
Having experienced the business end of local government action, however, Patterson said he can bring that viewpoint to Polk County. Politicians "get removed from the real world.
"I've lived in the real world all my life and had real world experiences."
Those experiences help shape Patterson's views. A lifelong Polk County resident -- "I'm almost grafted to the ground," he said -- Patterson wants to preserve the rural lifestyle.
The Independence area's growth particularly alarms him. The city population more than doubled from 1960 to 1980.
Many mobile newcomers came for the small town feeling, Patterson said, but don't care about community. "It's still small, but they have ruined the quality of life for people who live there.
"It was so quiet and peaceful." he said. "Now, the street lights are on all night and the music's blaring."
On the other hand, Patterson considers himself a strong supporter of personal property rights. "Within reason, a person should be able to do whatever they want to their own property."
Patterson feels communities can reach a balance between development and rural preservation. Having a commissioner who lives on the edge of that battle could only help, he said.
"Sometimes it needs a little fresh blood in the system."