Barry Orscheln is an avid hunter and fisher, he plays the organ for his local church, and was in a rock and roll band (Plato and The Philosophers). He was raised in Moberly, graduated from Central Methodist College, and has been active in his community.
By most accounts, he is your average Missourian — other than the fact that he is at the helm of a global company employing more than 3,000 people.
And, pending Senate approval, he will be the newest member of the commission charged with serving as conservation policymakers, approving wildlife code regulations, strategic planning, budget development, and major expenditure decisions.
The chairman and CEO of Orscheln Industries was nominated on February 28, 2019, by Gov. Mike Parson to serve on the four-member Missouri Conservation Commission. Terms typically begin on July 1 and span six years, but the current opening is for a term ending in 2023 following the withdrawal of Nicole Wood’s nomination. The Senate Gubernatorial Committee is expected to vote on Orscheln’s appointment next week.
“The hardest part, and I am speculating to some extent, is to make sure that my grandkids, and my great-grandkids, and everybody else’s future generations have the same opportunity to enjoy all the benefits of conservation in Missouri that I have,” Orscheln told the Missouri Times.
To date, the only involvement Orscheln has had with the Conservation Commission has been as a user — he started hunting in his early teens and continues to this day, he fishes, and he enjoys the multitude of state parks around Missouri.
But from an aspect of how the commission actually works, he noted he has a lot to learn — and that is an advantage from his perspective because he is not going into the position with a predetermined mindset or with a specific agenda on how things need to be done.
“I haven’t even attended a meeting yet. I am going to be learning a lot in the next several weeks, months, and years,” said Orscheln. “I am going into this humbled in the sense that I don’t pretend to know the challenges that conservation is facing today beyond what I have read. So, I am totally open-minded, and I am open to anyone’s ideas in how we solve any problem conservation has.”
And this is not the first time that he has dove into a topic he was not an expert on. Orscheln previous served on the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission and went into that position without a reservoir of knowledge on the topic. He has also served as chairman of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Food and Agriculture Committee
The “very challenging” and “very fulfilling” task of serving on the transportation commission required him to learn a lot about the subject, do a lot of research, and talk to a lot of experts.
Orscheln looks at his appointment to the Conservation Commission as the “same type of challenge.”
“I’m not a know-it-all — and hope never become a know-it-all. I just want to learn and help set policies that are beneficial,” said Orscheln. “Hopefully, I will be able to play some small role in making the Conservation Commission something everyone can be proud of.”
Being a good listener and judge of character with the ability to know when to be a “cheerleader or firefighter,” are skills that he believes will be beneficial on the Conservation Commission. They are skills that have certainly aided him in his career.
After college, Orscheln “took the first job that came along” with an insurance business before branching off to start a leasing business, which he sold before working for Chase. After commuting between Missouri and New York for a few years, he returned full-time to the Show-Me State to work for the family business.
He is currently the chairman and CEO of Orscheln Industries. Barry Orscheln’s grandfather helped found the privately-owned business that is headquartered in Moberly, Missouri. The company has global annual sales in excess of $500 million and employs more than 3,500 employees. The Orschelns’ group of diversified companies is engaged in manufacturing, retail, commercial real estate development, and other businesses.
“Our company has been blessed, our family has been blessed. And I think those people who have been blessed have a responsibility to give back to the communities that they are apart of,” said Orscheln. “To me, it really is a responsibility to become involved. A responsibility to help make our city, our state, our country a better place. That is why I do it, I think I have a responsibility.”
Alisha Shurr was a reporter for The Missouri Times and The Missouri Times Magazine. She joined The Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University.