A new radio show in Missouri is gearing up to give citizens a snapshot of every county in the Show-Me State.
The program, adaptly called Show Me Missourah, will feature a different region each week, highlighting the history and future, one county at a time.
Show Me Missourah traveled to Bolivar, the county seat of Polk County, as the show continues telling the history of the state of Missouri. At Smith’s restaurant, Host Scott Faughn sat down with some of the people who know Polk County best: Polk County Collector of Revenue Debbi Roberts-McGinnis, the President of the Polk County Farm Bureau Warren Drake.
Polk County is located in southwestern Missouri just north of Greene County and is home to the current Governor of Missouri Mike Parson.
The county was founded by the state legislature on January 5, 1835, and, interestingly enough, it’s not named after President James K. Polk. Rather the county is named after the grandfather of the 11th President of the United States, Colonel Ezekiel Polk. As of the 2010 census, the population was 31,137.
The northern part of Greene County was ceded to form Polk County — though the original boundaries have been reduced with the creation of Dade, Dallas, and Hickory counties.
The county’s namesake Ezekiel Polk, a colonel in the Revolutionary War, had three grandsons: John Polk Campbell and his brothers, William C. and Ezekiel, all of whom moved to Missouri and settled in an area — the Campbells still live in the area. The brothers submitted that the county be named after their grandfather.
The City of Bolivar got its name in a similar fashion. Polk lived in Bolivar, Tennessee, and the Missouri town was given the same name. A majority of the settlers were from Tennessee and actually named the Bolivar, Missouri after the town in Tennessee. However, since the town in Tennessee was named after Simon Bolivar the city is an indirect namesake of Simon Bolivar and there is a statute of him in the town.
The country of Venezuela actually honored the Missouri town with the statue of Bolivar in a little more than 70 years ago. On July 5, 1948, U.S. President Harry Truman and the President of Venezuela were in the City of Bolivar. While the population of Bolivar was only 3,500 at that time, nearly 50,000 people turned out for the momentous event.
“County by county”: Show provides state history radio and podcast offering
“Missouri is an incredibly diverse state, from the truly Southern culture of the Bootheel to the Midwestern attitude of the grain belt and Great Plains,” said Eric Bohl, director of Public Affairs and Advocacy for Missouri Farm Bureau. “Introducing all parts of the state to one another is a great way to celebrate our diversity and strengths.”
The idea for the program in Missouri originated with Wendy Nordwald, the immediate past president of the Missouri Association of Counties and the current Warren County Assessor.
While president of the MAC, Nordwald represented Missouri on a national level, engaging in conversations with others across the United States. It was through those conversations she got the idea.
“I found it was a great place to share best practices, without reinventing the wheel,” Nordwald said. “The platform is unique and provides local leaders with a networking platform to discuss challenges and issues facing counties in every state, and for attendees to learn from one another. Although there are no two counties exactly alike, many face similar challenges and can learn from our experiences.”
She learned some states were sharing with their constituents’ current issues facing them locally or statewide via a television program. She subsequently had lunch with Faughn, publisher of The Missouri Times and host of This Week in Missouri Politics, and mentioned adapting the idea to Missouri.
“I believe the launch of the new radio show will highlight the challenges county officials face daily, and the difference elected officials make for the betterment of the community across this great state and the fascinating history throughout each county of this state,” Nordwald said.
Show Me Missourah is sponsored by the Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Association of Counties, Missouri’s Electric Cooperatives and other advertisers.
“We hope this show will raise the profile of the important work county officials do across the state. They are leaders in their communities and have great stories to tell,” said Dick Burke, executive director of MAC.
Helping share the story of all parts of Missouri shows the beauty of our rural areas and the positive values of our culture that are often overlooked, according to Bohl. Spreading this message to urban, suburban and other rural areas is valuable to Missourians.
“Farm Bureau is proud to be a part of this show,” said Bohl. “Even our own team is looking forward to what we will learn about different parts of our state. It will be a wonderful snapshot of Missouri that we hope can be revisited in the future.”
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.