Thursday, February 23, 2012

You could sit around and complain about your small town or.......

This post comes from Rebel Herron, husband, father, farmer and Rock Port Alderman. If there is one thing you can count on in Atchison County it is that the Herron's bleed blue. Rebel not only loves Rock Port, but he works everyday to make it a better place. Thanks to Rebel and all of our local elected officials for serving and preserving our wonderful way of life for the next generation......AS

I was raised in Rock Port, Missouri. I had a normal child hood, raised by a hard working mother and father who were passionate about their community, sports, and their children. Growing up, I did not always appreciate all the things I had and the sacrifices that my parents made to ensure their children had all the opportunities that they did not. I feel this is a common sentiment that people share as they get older. At a very young age my parents instilled in me that one must take great pride in their community and do their part to ensure it stays a great place to live.

Once again, I wasn’t always paying attention. My friends and I were pretty sure that we wanted to move away, stay single, and never have children. Fiction can be fun. 

After graduating from Rock Port RII High School I went off to the University of Missouri - Columbia, where I received a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science. My intentions were to go on to veterinary school. It was after Mizzou when I decided I wanted to come back to Rock Port and farm with my father. I still do not know what drove me to do it, but I am glad that I did. I am not so sure my parents, at the time, shared in my joyous revelation. I had come to the realization that Rock Port is where I wanted to live, work, and settle down. Living in a place where almost everybody knows your name, watches your back, looks out for your children, cares about and takes pride in their community, and where the streets are safe to walk at night, are all things that meant the world to me.

A great thing about a small community is usually the people that choose to live here do so by their choice. It is not an area they had to move to because of a job opportunity, such is the case in larger cities. There are very limited jobs available in towns such as Rock Port, so the people who live here are doing so because they are passionate about it and find a way to make it work. This is what I wanted for myself, and why I pursued it.

Flash forward several years and I am happily married, (is that an oxymoron?), with two amazing children. I feel truly blessed that I am able to provide my children with a community such as this one to grow up in. They will not have to worry about gangs, random shootings, teachers who don’t care, an unsupportive community, or any other big city realities. As my children get older they will at times feel bored, want bigger and better things to do, and so on…but I am sure in the long run they will appreciate all the positives only a small community can provide.

As I settled down in Rock Port, I found myself wanting, but not knowing how, to help the community with what I have to offer.  I would sit around complaining or criticizing how things were being done around here, yet I was not doing anything more about it than the next person. It is an all too familiar problem with our society. Most people feel it is appropriate to give their two cents on every topic under the sun, but never take the time or effort to do anything about it. Most people love to complain and say how things should be done, and for a long time I was no different. It was at that time I started talking to my friends about wanting to be on the city council. I felt it was a way to have a say in the direction the town was taking. Being a part of the local government was a sure fire way that I could be proactive and have input in the decisions that were being made that would affect a whole community for generations to come. It was just talk for a while, and I think my friends and family got tired of hearing me talk about it without any subsequent action being taken.

As luck would have it an opportunity arose for me to join the Rock Port Board of Alderman. I was very excited about finally having my opportunity to help this great community. As the days and years go by as an Alderman, I have a greater respect for people who put themselves out there as a walking target. One thing I have learned is that as an Alderman you rarely get praise for the good things that are happening to the town. There are good minded and observant people that do notice and comment regularly on the positive changes that are happening around them, but they are in the minority. Most people, such as I used to be, only come to us with things that are wrong, need improvement, or just common gripes. I do not think badly of these citizens…as it is just the way things are and it is expected and appreciated. Most fixes that have happened while I have been on the Board are due to citizens voicing their concerns.  People are not afraid to stop me on the street, track me down, call my phone, etc…to tell me their concerns or comments. I love this. The fact that people feel I am so approachable and will do something with their comments is very rewarding for me. All too often a citizen in the past would have a concern, notify their Alderman, only to have it dismissed when they are out of ear shot. I have made it a point to address every comment I get. Surely some of them are not realistic or even possible, but I do research and try to resolve every concern that I can.  It has been a very rewarding experience for me.  I, along with a growing number of citizens, have noticed this community and its employees making positive leaps and bounds. This community is in a much better place in many different regards than it was even a few years ago. It is more productive, financially sound, and an overall warmer place. I don’t take all the credit by any stretch of the imagination, but I can at least trick myself into believing I had something to do with it. I do ask that all citizens remember that their Alderman are not the President of the United States, and that there are certainly limitations to what we can do. Some requests I have received would be better suited for him, but I am sure that we work much harder at trying to please the common citizen than the federal government does.  With that said, never hesitate to voice a concern to your Alderman. We are here to serve the community and all in it.

Overall, the betterment of the community, interaction with people, and being a part of something much bigger than myself is why I continue to do this. However, I will not sugar coat it. Even though there are times when I wonder why am I doing this or is it really worth it, and the answer has always been yes. It can be highly stressful and thankless, but then again it is usually highly rewarding and fulfilling. It is a publicly elected office and I know that one day the community may decide I am not right for the job any more. I will hate to see that day come but I know it is part of the job. I will always be able to look back at the positive changes that I know I helped instill and be proud of those accomplishments. In my opinion, if a voting citizen likes the direction their community is headed, then the current Board is probably the best action to take. If they do not like the direction their community is headed, then a change is necessary. I hope to be a part of many more positive changes to this wonderful community, a community that I chose to settle down in, raise a family in, and work in.  I wouldn’t change a thing. I hope every citizen of every small community finds a way to better themselves and their surroundings. Take the time to get to know your local government and express any concerns you have about the direction your community is headed.  You may be surprised at the results that can come from a problem that the Alderman never knew existed. I am very blessed to have gotten a chance to help lead Rock Port.  It is truly a remarkable feeling and one I will never forget or regret.

Rock Port’s well know motto that greets you on its welcome sign is “A proud past and a bold future”…and I, for one, am all in

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Little Background on a Little Place

This is by no means a history lesson as I very obviously left out vastly important happenings and peoples of this time period. Its just my impression after reading a great book about an adventure over 200 years ago through this little place I call home. By the way, when I quoted Captain Clark I corrected the very "liberal" spelling so popular in the 19th Century!

“There was no force on earth that could stop the flow of American pioneers westward. Good, cheap land was a magnet that reached all the way back to Europe. The pioneers were the cutting edge of an irresistible force.” Stephen Ambrose, Undaunted Courage

 In 1803, it was official. President Thomas Jefferson doubled the size of the United States for a mere 3 cents an acre with his purchase of the territory of Louisiana. Widely criticized, Jefferson’s move was bold, some thought unconstitutional and many thought folly, plain and simple. Why add 828,000 acres to a country, in its infancy that had barely learned to govern the territory it already owned?

Tomato Seeds, Hurst Greenery 2012
Thomas Jefferson, a lover of science and geography, believed in the Northwest Passage, a route from the Missouri River to the Columbia to the Pacific Ocean. He imagined the economic promise of trade with the Native Americans. Most of all he believed in the United States and its destiny to become a nation stretching from ocean to ocean.

I just finished reading Undaunted Courage, the Stephen Ambrose novel about Meriwether Lewis and the Corps of Discovery’s expedition. The expedition, ordered by President Jefferson, was his pride and joy. He was not disappointed as he read the Captain's diaries, rich with detail of the Missouri River and surrounding territory. As his crew paddled upstream in the muddy river, Lewis detailed the beauty of his surroundings, a place he and his crew had dubbed paradise.

I read with special significance the part of the journey through the lower Missouri. Clark says it well “We camped in the plain. One of the most beautiful plains I ever saw, open and beautifully diversified with hills and valleys all presenting themselves to the river covered with grass and a few scattering trees, a handsome creek meandering through.”

And if that wasn’t enough, he went the next night, “Spreading their lofty branches over pools, springs or brooks of fine water. Groups of shrubs covered with the most delicious fruit is to be seen in every direction, and nature appears to have exerted herself to beautify the scenery by the variety of flowers delicately and highly flavored raised above the grass, which strikes and perfumes the sensation, and amuses the mind.”

Jefferson was disappointed when the Northwest Passage failed to present itself, but he still had great plans for the territory that Lewis and Clark had explored. His great imagination planned for an orderly progression of settlers to slowly infiltrate the west. This, Ambrose details in his book, not the expedition itself, may have been Jefferson’s folly. Jefferson failed, most profoundly so, to understand the heart of the American.

Coming to a garden near you in spring 2012!
The American of the early 1800s thirsted for new beginnings and land of their own. When word spread of the wonders Lewis and Clark had observed along the Missouri River, eager Americans packed their bags headed toward the bounty that waited. The paradise described in Lewis and Clark’s journal was the stuff of man’s dreams. Fertile lands and good water as far as the eye could see.

Today, this land once so widely prized, is no longer what most Americans dream of, unless of course, he or she happens to be snoozing while “flying over.” No culture, no diversity, no high rise condos or stoplights for that matter. Certainly no paradise, according to most.

But when I look outside my window, even this cold February, I still see what Lewis and Clark saw over 200 years ago. It’s still a land of plenty. Fertile land where even the most brown of thumbs can raise a juicy, red tomato. Blue skies and fresh air inhabited only by the occasional wind tower. A land where you can make a modest living and still own a home.  A country where you can still be completely alone, with nature and with a gun in a tree stand if you so choose. A community where you can worship freely and without judgment.  A place where families still do physical labor, together, working the land that returns the favor with generous bounty.

Most of all, I see a place where the independent spirit of Lewis and Clark is as fertile as the land where we live. It isn’t the land that changed after all. And its not too late for you to be a pioneer either.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Atchison County: Good Living & Opportunity

Today's guest blogger is Brock Nuckolls, a fellow Atchison County native and one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. I wonder if you'll be able to tell by this post how much he loves living life with his two gorgeous girls in our awesome county!

My wife Kymm and I both grew up in Atchison County. She grew up in Rock Port where we live today and I grew up in Westboro but went to school in Tarkio. Both of us really loved the towns where we grew up and loved the High Schools where we attended. Yes, Rock Port and Tarkio are and always will be arch rivals but both communities are very similar. All of our communities strive for success both in school and in business. Everyone does the best they can to make their communities strong and prosperous today and on into the future.

Kymm and I were married in Rock Port on April 26th, 2003, we lived in Kansas City at the time but always thought of Atchison County as our true home, not the city. Don’t get me wrong the city has its perks. You are a hop, skip, and a jump from all kinds of things. From movie theater to shopping malls to restaurants, an abundance of golf courses, Worlds of Fun, KC Royals baseball in the Spring and Summer, and my beloved KC Chiefs in the Fall. But, when we started talking about raising a family, we didn’t see ourselves in the city. We hardly ever saw each other as it was with our busy job schedules and if we were about to become parents, we wanted to be with each other every step of the way.

Sooooo we moved back to Tarkio in the Spring of 2004. I went to work running the Tarkio Golf Club and Kymm started at Citizens Bank & Trust where she still is today. We had our first and only (so far) child Kylie on May 31st, 2005. There really is nothing quite like being a parent. The best part of being a parent is being able to witness first hand all of the milestones, including your babies first words, first time sitting up, first time standing up, and first time walking, all the firsts you want to witness first hand as a parent. Living in a small town really does have its perks too! They are a bit different than the city but are much more special. No, we don’t have a local theater any longer or a shopping mall or professional sports teams. But, I will tell you what we do have and that is GOOD LIVING and OPPORTUNITY!

What I mean by GOOD LIVING is that we get to wake up every day in a strong, healthy, safe, and prosperous community. We don’t have to fight traffic, although the 59 did turn into I-59 this past summer and fall because of the disastrous Flood of 2011. Everyone knows everyone, this can be good and bad but it is mostly a good thing in my eyes. Seriously, would you rather know your neighbor or just occasionally say hello to the stranger(s) next door? I love my neighbors, I love watching their families grow, and I love being able to possibly make a difference in their lives.

I worked at Tarkio Golf Club for three years from April 1st 2004 through October 31st 2006. I coached the Tarkio High School boys’ and girls’ golf teams for three seasons as well. Winters were spent finding work at three different factories in our area. I worked at Pella Corporation, Auburn Consolidated Industries, and Eaton Corporation. These three different and successful businesses provide very good jobs to our local population. But, I got tired of the uncertainty of being able to find a job locally in the winter months to be able to provide for my family. So, in February of 2007, I interviewed for a Loan Officer/Branch Manager position with Citizens Bank & Trust out of Craig. I worked in Craig Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and at our Mound City Branch on Tuesday and Thursday. I did this for three years from February 2007 until August of 2010 when I was moved to the main branch in Rock Port where I am today. Kymm, Kylie, and I sold our house in Tarkio in the summer of 2010, purchased a home in Rock Port, and moved in to our home in August. I truly believe we are where we are supposed to be. We absolutely love our home, our neighborhood, our community, and all of Northwest Missouri.

I love waking up everyday to help my wife get our daughter ready for school. I love being able to take her to school and drop her off. I love having the ability to leave work and pick my daughter up from Marcy McMahon’s most wonderful daycare. If you don’t know Marcy McMahon, you need to meet her. She is probably the nicest, most caring, honest, and loyal person you will ever meet. She runs a daycare right out of her beautiful home with love and understanding. She is such an asset to this community.

I am lucky to be able to work with my beautiful and amazing wife each and every day, go to lunch every single day with her, and have dinner every single night with Kymm and Kylie. I truly am blessed.

Atchison County has so much OPPORTUNITY. Each one of us has the opportunity to live a rich and successful life in our community. We are what we make of ourselves and if we all make the best of our situation, anything is possible. Atchison County provides us with everything a person needs including: Education, jobs, good quality healthcare, church, financial services, farm services, insurance services, recreation, and most importantly TIME to spend with family and friends. Life is a lot slower here in Atchison County than it is in the city giving us the time we need to both work and play. As I mentioned earlier, I live in Rock Port, and I have to brag and say that this community is thriving. There truly are a lot of young professionals moving back to our area to experience what I have and continue to experience. I really believe the future of our community is in great hands.

Those things that we WANT but don’t “have to have” are just a short drive away. Maryville, St. Joseph, Council Bluffs, Omaha, Lincoln, and Kansas City are all close enough for us to go and get the things we need and get or experience the things we want.

We love to spend time with family. The majority of our relatives live in or around Atchison County. Kymm, Kylie, and I also love to watch Bearcat Football in the fall in Maryville. Kylie really doesn’t watch the game all that much, but cheers just as much as any of the Rickenbrode Rowdies. I think she knows the cheers and chants as well as the Bearcat Cheerleading Squad. And Kylie loves having the opportunity to take a picture with Bobby Bearcat. Golf is a passion of mine, always has been, always will be. Every chance I get, I head out to the course. I didn’t get my daughter out as much as summers prior, but plan on taking her out as much as I can in 2012. Kylie tried t-ball this last summer but didn’t like it all that much. She’s going to try it again this year so we will see how much she likes or dislikes it this summer. I had the opportunity to coach her t-ball team this past summer and I had a blast. I can’t wait until she is old enough to start playing organized basketball. Three more years and it is ON!!!!!!!! Besides sports Kylie LOVES to swim, dance, sing, and play with her friends. She is the girliest girly girl I know. Lucky me;)! Kymm is our ROCK! If there ever was a Do-It-All Wife, it is Kymm. She is probably the best cook I know. She keeps us organized and our home is always neat and tidy, which I love. She truly is the love of my life and my best friend. She supports Kylie and I in all that we do.

I’ve probably rambled long enough about my life and some of my experiences here in Atchison County. I just want to let anyone reading this know that Atchison County is a wonderful place to live and raise a family. If anyone reading this is ‘On the Fence’ about moving back to our neck of the woods don’t be. Make the move! You will love it here and you won’t ever regret it! To those who do live in Atchison County, take a moment and reflect just how lucky we are to call Atchison County our “home”!

Take care and God bless!
Brock Nuckolls

Friday, February 3, 2012

Community Pride on Display in Jeff City

[Our apologies for being such slackers during the month of January. Clearly, we were exhausted after so much holiday awesomenesss...]

This week, 18 counties from our region descended upon Jefferson City for the annual Great Northwest Day at the Capitol. In case you don’t know about GNW Day, it’s a cooperative effort designed to unify and enhance our region’s image in Jefferson City and to pursue issues and legislation beneficial to the “Great Northwest.” With a delegation of over 300 northwest Missouri constituents, GNW Day includes introductions to the House & Senate, educational forums, and an evening buffet with State legislators, department heads and elected officials.

GNW Day is one of those things where we ask ourselves from time to time, ‘But – what do we really get out of this?’ It’s not an easy question, because the answer is somewhat intangible, but here’s what I think: I love Atchison County, but I’m also wildly proud to be a Northwest Missouri native. We’ve got good stuff going on up here, and we’re often doing those things together. Leadership Northwest Missouri, Roundtable of Economic Developers…these types of groups do not exist in all corners of our country, let alone all corners of our state. They are rare and wonderful examples of true regionalism. And how awesome that once a year, we get to put that excellent regionalism on display in front of legislators from across Missouri.

While part of the purpose of GNW Day is to convey our support to our local legislators and to communicate the issues that are most important to our region as a whole, the other purpose is to strut our stuff at a big ‘expo’ at a hotel ballroom. I often describe this event as a cross between your senior prom (Mardi Gras, THS, 1996!) and a trade show complete with county/city booths. With live blues music, PowerPoint presentations, jambalaya, giveaways, and some carnival-like games thrown in here and there, it’s a truly bizarre and fun event.

Booths typically try to do several things: educate, entertain, and brag a little. Last year, Atchison County highlighted the construction in 2010 (new grocery store, hospital, grain elevator), but this year was difficult. In such a festive atmosphere, how could we discuss the disaster that was the Flood of 2011 and respectfully convey its impact on our county to legislators from St. Louis, Taney County, Hannibal and everywhere in between? How could we educate State Legislators (who likely can’t have much of an impact on any Federal ‘fixes’ many are looking for anyway) on our tragedy and still portray our pride in the fact that we are proactively repairing and fixing and moving forward every chance we get?

After numerous, sometimes hilarious suggestions, we zeroed in on our theme: “Atchison County: Still Afloat!” The handout? A travel pack of wet wipes with a note declaring that the Flood of 2011 didn’t wipe us out. The game? A bag toss game, complete with mini-sand bags to help us plug the hole in the levy – get all three in the hole and win a pack of life savers! Decorations? What better to use than what you have laying around – leftover sandbags, a ginormous inflatable raft, and life jackets. Cute, but how can we convey the damage? Two big pictures (an aerial shot of the flood at its peak and a close-up view of the damage to Highway 136 after the water had receded) and several quick flood facts.

What we get out of this event a dose of community pride and the opportunity to demonstrate who we are, where we’ve been, and what’s going on in Atchison County to people from across the state. This year, our booth was visible from across the room – every one of the several hundred people who walked into that ballroom saw our raft and understood in an instant that we made it. Those who made it over to our booth learned from our photos and facts that 2011 was sickeningly tragic and had the opportunity to learn more from our citizens in attendance. And, they learned that Atchison County is home to resilient, proactive people who can always find a way to laugh.