By KAITY HOLTMAN Staff writer, Maryville Daily Forum
Posted on Feb 6, 2015
Nearly 300 representatives from across the northwest Missouri region gathered in Jefferson City on Tuesday, Feb. 3 and Wednesday, Feb. 4 as part of Great Northwest Days.
Kicking off the two-day event was the introduction of the group to the House of Representatives and the Senate. The group split into two to represent in both places and were announced and welcomed. Counties represented included Andrew, Atchison, Buchanan, Caldwell, Daviess, Dekalb, Gentry, Grundy, Holt, Livingston, Linn, Mercer, Nodaway, Putnam, Sullivan and Worth counties.
At the luncheon, the group heard from four panelists in the areas the group had identified as priorities for this region. Those areas included transportation, economic development, infrastructure, and education.
Michelle Watkins, Transportation and Planning Director for the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) focused on budget cuts that had been anticipated and have now arrived. She said MoDOT funding has been cut to $325 million, which means the focus will be on maintaining primary roads but that supplemental roads would likely suffer. Maintenance will be continued on primary roads, but new projects are not in the plans, according to Watkins.
“From what they told us in a meeting recently, that means 136 and 71 are considered primary roads in Nodaway County and all other roads are supplementary,” Nodaway County Commissioner Bob Westfall said.
Max Summers, University of Missouri Extension Transition team leader, focused on economic development and specifically the Community Foundation of Northwest Missouri. His focus was on providing opportunities to young people to encourage their return to rural communities.
Randy Railsback, executive director of the Green Hills Regional Planning Commission, echoed Summers’ message about investing in young professionals and businesses as he discussed efforts to increase broadband across northern Missouri. Railsback stressed that in order for businesses to succeed and thrive, the ability to connect with the rest of the country online was a key and that it needed to be made a priority for the region.
Commissioner of Education Dr. Margie Vandeven spoke of goals to make Missouri’s education top-notch. She announced that all Missouri high school juniors will now be able to take the ACT test once at no charge. Vandeven also discussed her department’s focus on investing in both students and teachers in an effort to be in the top 10 states in education rankings by 2020.
City Manager Greg McDanel recognizes that many of these priorities match that of the Maryville city council. One specific priority mentioned repeatedly was bringing youth back to rural communities.
“I think it’s been in the city’s long-term plan for a while to continue to bring youth back to the community,” McDanel said. “Rural university communities tend to suffer from students getting their degrees and leaving, but the more high-tech jobs, the more opportunities we can provide, the more reasons we can give them to come back here and raise their families.”
That afternoon, the Leadership Maryville group and others attended a Higher Education Hearing, where Dr. John Jasinksi addressed legislators about the state of Northwest Missouri State University. Jasinski spoke among his colleagues from Truman State University, Missouri Western State University, the University of Missouri system, and others.
Jasinski brought up positive aspects and the continued progress of the university and noted that any funding needed this year would be for routine maintenance of the campus facilities.
An evening reception welcomed northwest Missouri region delegates and legislators from across the state in the Capitol Plaza Hotel Ballroom. Residents of each county set up booths to showcase features their area has to offer.
The City of Maryville, Nodaway County Economic Development, Greater Maryville Chamber of Commerce and Leadership Maryville worked together to showcase Mozingo Lake Recreation Park and Northwest Missouri State University, as well as manufacturers and businesses from across Nodaway County.
Maryville Chamber of Commerce director Jordyn Swalley said that hosting a booth was a great way to make leaders aware of what Nodaway County has to offer.
“I think the main thing that I took away from this event is pride,” Swalley said. “Pride when it comes to Dr. John Jasinski explaining the accomplishments Northwest Missouri State University has made even with a 21 percent financial decrease from the state; pride in handing out giveaways to our state representatives & senators from local manufacturers and businesses that are expanding or thriving; and pride in our past and present representatives and senators as other Missouri figures expressed the deep amount of respect they have for them.”
Food, music and community booths created an environment of fellowship, networking and productive conversations among northwest region residents and legislators from across the state.
Half of the General Assembly was present or represented at the reception. Sixteen senators and 87 representatives were present, and office staff represented an additional 22 legislators.
“The northwest region certainly had a strong, unified presence, and this was a great opportunity to talk about the needs of the ‘Great Northwest,’” McDanel said. “Those needs usually include sales tax, and funding of K-12 and higher education. Representative (Allen) Andrews and Senator (Dan) Hegeman have our interests at heart, but others may not realize our needs … this was a good time to go down and speak our piece.”
A regional breakfast on Wednesday featured speaker Dr. Tim Crowley, who provides leadership development workshops throughout the region. His motivating speech focused the importance of story telling to promote small communities and businesses.
According to Crowley, statistics show that 75 percent of conversations in the workplace are negative. He challenged everyone in the room to work to change that and to encourage one another.
A group from the Leadership Maryville class and members of the Maryville Chamber of Commerce took a behind-the-scenes tour with former District 1 Representative Mike Thomson and Joe Hegeman, intern for current Representative Allen Andrews. The tour included the floors of the Senate and House, and the dome of the Capitol Building.
“This truly was an experience that not all get to witness and I couldn’t be more thankful,” Swalley said. “On the floors of both representatives and senators, we learned about the process of how people must address the speaker in order to be recognized, and how the votes are actually accounted for. There are many factors that go into making our Missouri government and I’m so happy that Mike Thomson was willing to share his knowledge with community leaders, Leadership Maryville, and myself.”