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Republican James Harris' relatives snag another fee office

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 14, 2010 - At least one prominent Republican is doing well under Gov. Jay Nixon's bid process to award contracts for the state's quasi-private system of license offices.

The offices generally are called "fee offices'' because a fee is added to each transaction to pay for office operations and profit.

According to an announcement just issued by the Department of Revenue, the  Overland license office, 9443 Lackland Rd.,  has been awarded to Wentzville Agency Management, LLC.  The company earlier was awarded the Warrenton contract.

The company "is associated with Mary Winkelman of Labadie, John R. Harris II of Washington, and Michelle Boyer of O’Fallon..." the Revenue Department's release said.

Winkelman is the grandmother, and John R. Harris II is the father, of Republican activist James Harris. The younger Harris formerly served as then-Gov. Matt Blunt's staff member in charge of such awarding such contracts, which used to go to allies of whoever is governor.

James Harris now heads the group Better Courts for Missouri/Show Me Better Courts, which has launched the initiative-petition effort to do away with Missouri's current system of selecting judges in the urban/suburban areas, and for the appeals court and state Supreme Court.

Until the last half of Blunt's tenure, the fee office contracts generally have gone to friends of whoever was governor. Blunt began bidding out the offices when some contracts lapsed, and Nixon expanded the system to include all fee offices. The Legislature approved a bill last session, at his request, that now sets the bid process into law as the official practice for awarding the fee office contracts.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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