Looking Back: 2017 in review, Part One
Some may say 2017 is a year better off forgotten, while others may have reasons to believe it was a great year. As we step firmly into 2018, we look back and find the year was filled with something for everyone.
After 30 years in law enforcement, 21 of which were spent with the Concordia Police Department, Police Chief Jim Lynn stepped into retirement on Jan. 12, 2017. When asked about how he would spend his time during retirement, Lynn had a quick and simple answer. “I’m going fishing,” he said. Officer Clint Raynes was sworn in as Police Chief effective as of the date of Lynn’s retirement.
January also saw Concordia host the fourth annual Global Ag Symposium, hosted by the Santa Fe Agri-leaders. Claire Latch, manager of Consumer Communication for the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, was the featured speaker. Other presenters included Connor Ferguson, assistant professor at Northwest Missouri State University; Ashley McCarty, executive director of Missouri Farmers Care; Greg Luce, research director for the Missouri Soybean Association and adjunct professor in Plant Sciences for the University of Missouri; and Casey Chastain, marketing specialist from the Missouri Department of Agriculture.
In February the University of Missouri Extension service announced three new specialists had been added to the staff at the Lafayette County office. Tracy Delaney joined the staff as the Nutrition and Health Education Specialist and is responsible for implementing and evaluating education programs in health, nutrition, food safety, food resources management and physical activity in Carroll, Chariton, Lafayette, Ray and Saline counties. Eric Jackson came on board as the 4-H Youth Program Specialist responsible for partnering with and supporting adult volunteers and youth in local 4-H groups around the county. Catherine Neuner of Lexington was hired as the Ag Business Specialist responsible for programming in Carroll, Chariton, Lafayette, Ray and Saline counties.
February also denoted the beginning of months-long renovation work by the Missouri Department of Transportation on the Walnut Creek Bridge on Missouri Highway 23 south of Concordia. The work kept southbound Highway 23 closed for a number of months. In addition, MoDOT started deck resurfacing on the Davis Creek Bridge on Interstate 70, just west of Sweet Springs. The shoulder work and temporary lane closures lasted nearly all of 2017.
Early March saw a tornado rake through the eastern part of Lafayette County, leaving widespread damage in the Oak Grove and Odessa areas. Some 500 homes and businesses sustained some damage in Oak Grove alone. No lives were lost, but emergency management personnel reported that 12 people were treated for injuries by emergency crews after the storm, and three more were transported to hospitals, with none of the injuries reported as life-threatening.
Also in March, the Concordia R-2 District Board of Education announced Brent Cooper would be stepping into the role of district superintendent with the retirement of outgoing superintendent Mary Beth Scherer at the end of the 2016-2017 school year. Scherer had been in the position since 2000, having spent 21 of her 34 years in public education with the Concordia district. Cooper, a 1988 graduate of Concordia High School, already was very familiar with the district, having served there for 17 years previously as A+ coordinator, athletic director, math teacher, and as a coach for a variety of sports including fifth- and sixth-grade girls basketball and varsity boys basketball. The district also hired Caleb Petet as the elementary school principal for the 2017-2018 school year in March.
In April, the City of Concordia approved a 1-cent per-gallon fuel tax. The tax had been placed on the April 4 ballot, found great success with voters (138 “yes” to 25 “no”), and was made official at the Concordia Board of Aldermen meeting on April 17. At the meeting the board also seated Gabriel “Gabe” Woods as the new alderman for Ward 1, filling the empty post previously vacated by Wayne Lindemann.
April also saw the selection of John and Kathy Harris of Oak Grove as Lafayette County Persons of the Year. Saint Paul Lutheran High School hosted guest speaker Pastor Hicham Chehab, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, who was in the area to speak at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Emma. As he spoke about his youthful allegiance to the Muslim Brotherhood and how he had planned to “kill as many Christian” as he could, Chehab always came back to the same phrase: God had a different plan. Chehab now serves as pastor of Salam Christian Fellowship in Lombard, Ill.
The City of Concordia was busy in May of 2017, with the annual May Day celebration, hosting Run for the Wall motorcyclists for lunch at the city park for the ninth year, and hosting friends and families of 2017 graduates of Saint Paul Lutheran High School and Concordia High School. The month also brought the retirement of Shirley Elling from the Concordia school district. Elling had served as both cook and custodian during her 29 years with the district. Local resident and former publisher of The Concordian, Gary Beissenherz, received a 40 year service award from the National Weather Service for his work reporting local precipitation totals for the Coopertive Observer Program of the NWS.
CFM Insurance broke ground on a new community walking trail in June. Phase one of the project included property on the west side of the company’s home office. Enhancements included a few small bridges along the path. Phase one was finished during the summer of 2017. Phase two is scheduled for 2018 and will include completing the trail on the north side of the office building and connecting the west portion with the east portion to complete the half-mile route. During the Summer Reading Program at Trails Regional Library, volunteers and young participants painted a mural on the north side of the Britt’s Central Drug building on Main Street. The painting shows how the children view their hometown. This year’s program theme was “Build a Better World.”