JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Gov. Mike Parson continues to meet with leaders from across the state as part of his listening tour, but the past week also proved to be the new governor’s first brush with tragedy in the state since taking office.
To begin the week, Parson met with rural commissioners for several counties to discuss the issues they face and get input on they might best work together.
That evening, Parson held a reception and dinner for the Missouri Leadership Academy, a new program launched this week to develop emerging leaders from across the State of Missouri’s 16 executive departments.
“Leadership is critical for any organization to succeed. For far too long, we have not invested in the next generation of our state government leaders,” said Governor Mike Parson. “I am proud that we are investing to make our leaders better for their teams and for the citizens of Missouri.”
The first Missouri Leadership Academy class includes 1-3 representatives from each of the 16 Cabinet departments. Slates of candidates were nominated by their department leaders. Each nominee then had to submit a resume and a brief memorandum on why they were a good candidate for the program. A committee of Cabinet department leaders reviewed the applications and made the final selections.
On Tuesday, Parson met with mayors from the Kansas City area, including Mayors Eileen Weir, Independence; Mayor Bill Baird, Lee’s Summit; Mike Larson, Sugar Creek; Adam Couch, Odessa; and Jeremy Martin, Oak Grove.
But Tuesday proved to be a test for the new administration, as the House Budget committee took on Parson’s budget vetoes.
Parson also announced the appointments of 16 people to serve on the Child Abuse and Neglect Review Board, the Children’s Trust Fund Board, and the Missouri State Foster Care and Adoption Board.
“Our children’s welfare is a top priority for this administration,” said Governor Parson. “By making sure these boards are appropriately staffed, we can be sure that our kids’ safety and best interests remain intact.”
On Wednesday morning, Governor Mike Parson met with State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) Director Ernie Rhodes, Department of Public Safety Director Drew Juden, and SEMA Chief of Operations Terry Cassil to thank Cassil for his service before his departure to Hilo, Hawaii.
The governor also issued an executive order, declaring Phase 2 of Drought Alert and calling for the Department of Natural Resources to activate the Drought Assessment Committee and the associated drought impact teams.
On Thursday, Parson joined fellow Republicans for the Vice President Mike Pence visit.
THANK YOU MISSOURI! Great to see @GovParsonMO, @AGJoshHawley & working families in St. Louis. Talked about the RESULTS of @POTUS’ tax cuts & our agenda – businesses have created nearly 3.7M jobs across the U.S. – including over 46K jobs in Missouri & over 16K jobs in St. Louis! pic.twitter.com/oJW8Pbjt5Q
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) July 19, 2018
When tragedy struck and 17 people were killed in the sinking of an amphibious boat at Table Rock Lake on Thursday, Parson traveled to the area, spending Friday meeting with survivors, victims’ relatives, rescuers, and emergency responders.
“What happened here last night was a heart-breaking tragedy, and we must all work together to support the victims and their families,” Gov. Parson said. “The courageous efforts of emergency responders and civilian rescuers helped avert an even worse tragedy, as people rushed to help in extremely dangerous conditions. I was inspired by the stories I heard from some of those who were part of the rescue effort and tremendously encouraged by the strength of the family members of victims I met with today. We pray for all those who were affected by this terrible tragedy.”
Please join Teresa and me by offering prayers and support for the victims and families affected by this tragic event. https://t.co/BaS2JXnwvD
— Governor Mike Parson (@GovParsonMO) July 20, 2018
After meeting with Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader and others leading the recovery operation early Friday morning, Parson traveled to Cox Medical Center Branson to meet with survivors and some of the medical personnel who helped treat the injured Thursday night. The Governor also met with some of the civilians and emergency responders who helped with rescues Thursday and with the loved ones of some of the victims.
Thirty-one people were onboard the Ride the Ducks amphibious vehicle when it sunk in strong winds and large waves Thursday evening. After working throughout the night and into today, nine Missouri State Highway Patrol divers have recovered the remaining four bodies from the water totaling 17 fatalities. The Patrol divers were among several dive teams that all worked expeditiously to recover the victims. Many of the victims were out-of-state visitors to the Branson area. Of the 14 survivors, seven were injured, one seriously.
The investigation into the boat sinking is being led by the National Transportation Safety Board and the U.S. Coast Guard. The Governor pledged the support of all state resources necessary to assist with the investigation.
Gov. Parson in a press release reminded the public that severe storms are again in the forecast for southeast Missouri on Friday morning and cautioned the public to follow their local forecast and to always take protective action when severe weather strikes.
Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.