LAKE OZARK, Mo. — The City of Lake Ozark will have a new mayor.
On Tuesday, voters overwhelmingly went for write-in candidate Dennis Newberry over incumbent Gerry Murawski and past mayor Johnnie Franzeskos, according to unofficial vote totals..
The unofficial count, with all Lake Ozark precincts reporting in Miller County, is 229 (51%) for Newberry, 103 (23%) for Murawski, and 97 (22%) for Franzeskos. There were 19 other unspecified write-in votes, with 448 votes for mayor in all. Voter turnout was high compared to the last mayoral race in 2019, when the total vote for mayor was around 260 votes.
Newberry entered the mayoral race late, after a March 13, 2021 Lake Expo exposé revealed Murawski had been the subject of three separate investigations related to concerns over prostitution and sex trafficking. In those investigations — and in an interview with Lake Expo — Murawski admitted to paying for a prostitute in Columbia while he was an elected Lake Ozark Alderman in 2015. The FBI says the girl was 16, though Murawski says he thought she was 19 or 20.
Newberry, a local business owner and entrepreneur, told Lake Expo in a recent interview, "I have been thinking about entering city government for a few years, giving it consideration through the last two election cycles. It is not a convenient time. But the voters of Lake Ozark deserve better. I feel I can make a positive impact on the city.”
Newberry has said he plans to decline the mayoral salary and wishes it to be designated to the Lake Ozark police department salaries, though if that is not possible due to legal reasons he wants it to be paid to a good cause in the city limits of Lake Ozark.
"I have no platform or agenda, other than seeing the voters of Lake Ozark served with decency, and properly managing the city business. I am not a politician, I’m a business owner," Newberry added.
Dennis Newberry and his wife Tanya have been long-time Lake Ozark developers, opening many businesses on the Bagnell Dam Strip. He helped to form the Bagnell Dam Strip Association as a founding member, a 501c non-profit group spurring the revitalization and preservation of the historic strip. The association sponsors events such as the St. Patrick’s Day parade and Hot Summer Nights.
Newberry owns Ozark Realty, with an office on the lower half of Bagnell Dam Boulevard near Stewart’s Restaurant.