Local government service is not for everyone. It takes employees and officials who are willing to invest time in their community and deeply care about building quality of life. There are so many areas of life that local government touches – from streets to sewers, schools to streams, youth programs to public safety, community art to secure online services– the people who serve must invest time to learn about and address a wide variety of issues, all to make their community stronger.
At the Missouri Municipal League, we are in an enviable position to learn about many of the successful projects cities throughout the state initiate. Each year, we look forward to the entries for our annual Innovation Awards program, where a city shares how they solve a challenge in their community. Better yet, the entries highlight how another community could benefit as well.
We are happy to honor these cities at our Annual Conference each September, and to share their stories throughout the year. Below are just a few of the ways local government employees are making the magic in your communities happen:
FULTON STREAM TEAM
In 2015, the portion of Stinson Creek that flows through Fulton was found to have lower-than-allowed dissolved oxygen levels. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources required the city to improve those numbers. One solution has been the creation of the Fulton Stream Team, to help inform and educate citizens about the impact of storm water pollution. Thanks to the efforts of the city of Fulton Engineering Department and the cooperation of local schools, colleges and youth-based organizations, the Stream Team has been able to educate more than 200 students. From incorporating Halloween costumes into a stream cleanup to getting into the streams and showing kids the tiny creatures living there, the use of creativity and interactivity has left an indelible impression on students. The success of the Fulton Stream Team’s programs has been noticeable as community groups continue to seek out the team for presentations.
CITY OF WILLARD – DARE/PAL CAMPING CHARACTER
When people think of innovation, their minds often think of the latest new app or technology gadget that can change peoples’ lives. However, innovation in land use can have an equally large impact on the lives within a community. The city of Willard has committed to repurposing land through an intentional process that intertwines activity between the schools, businesses, and local government. Beginning in 2012, the Willard Police Department, the Police Athletic League (PAL) program, and volunteers envisioned using overgrown and unutilized city property to provide a place where youth could interact with police officers beyond their participation in the school's D.A.R.E. program. By accomplishing this outcome in 2017, an excellent outdoor environment for youth to be strengthened in the areas of responsibility, honor, self-control and discernment has been realized. Today, youth can center on those competencies with police instructors while learning the science of boxing, tactical jiu-jitsu, and camping through the city’s DARE/PAL Outdoor Character Camp.
WEST PLAINS – GREATER OZARKS CENTER FOR ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY (GOCAT)
Reeling from some key economic development losses and a community clamoring for more jobs, the leaders in West Plains knew something needed to be done, quickly. Putting aside traditional rivalries and forging a spirit of collaboration, representatives from Missouri State University-West Plains, the South-Central Career Center of the West Plains School District, and thecity of West Plains created a unique alliance to bring technological training in demand by manufacturers to area residents. Their goal: to provide the citizens of West Plains with better careers through hands-on education and training. The result was the Greater Ozarks Center for Advanced Technology (GOCAT), the state's first advanced manufacturing training facility, born in West Plains.
The city of Saint Robert created a city patriotic/tourism park that depicts the City’s values and pride. The park area displays an M60 Army Tank, numerous rock boulders with painted unit insignia of military units, and a Freedom Rock, part of the national effort of patriotism in all 50 states. Saint Robert serves as the prelude to the main gate entrance into Fort Leonard Wood, one of the largest military training facilities in the United States. The mayor and board of aldermen, park committee, and the citizens of Saint. Robert created the tribute to show our appreciation to active duty military, veterans and their families for military service and personal sacrifices. The project has also promoted tourism locally and highlighted the community’s pride along Interstate 44 to draw national and state attention. The city started the park in 2002 by shipping a M-60 Army Tank from Fort Drum, New York, to display. In 2015, the decision was made to add huge boulders for each unit (all branches of service) located on Fort Leonard Wood to paint each unit's insignia. The park is turning into a magnificent site to see and is visible to travelers along Interstate 44.
Learn more about these projects and many more happening on the Missouri Municipal League website at www.mocities.com/innovation.
We are so thankful for the local government officials and employees who work tirelessly for a better quality of life for their neighbors, family and community members they may never even meet. The projects above are just a few examples of the magic they make happen every day.