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Thursday, December 31, 2020

A final thank you from Southern Commissioner Larry Hacker


As my tenure of representing Bates County as Southern Commissioner ends, I wanted to say “Thank You” to all who supported me, as I supported, and represented, Bates County.
In 2014 I was appointed to fill the unexpired term of the late Larry Berry who was tragically killed in an auto accident in the midst of his term as Southern Commissioner. In my interview with the Governor’s office in filling that position, I pledged, that if appointed, I would give the position my total effort in professionally representing Bates County, and Missouri, and that I would “do it well”.

First, let me say I was privileged to follow earlier elected officials who had Bates County in a very good condition. Commissioners preceding me such as Terry Wheatley, Jim Scott, Randy Pike, Bob Wingate, Donna Gregory, Larry Berry, and others had made wise decisions, and positioned Bates County well financially.

Over the six years that I was YOUR Commissioner, our county has undertaken MANY major projects, preparing Bates County for many years to come, and we completed them successfully.

We passed a half cent “Capital Improvement” sales tax that allowed Bates County to be prepared for many years to come. We purchased the Butler Music (Jennings Market) building and the two story Jennings house on the corner. From there we moved all of the offices on the second floor of the Courthouse to the newly renovated Administration Building which allowed the public convenient, ground level, handicap-accessible facilities to conduct almost all daily business with the County.

The building, with 10,000 square feet of additional space in the basement, is prewired for a major catastrophic command center to be used by Emergency Management and Sheriff’s department, should their facilities ever be destroyed. The move also allowed the Public Administrator to relocate to the Courthouse, putting that staff nearer to the Courts. It allowed the Prosecutor’s offices to expand into more efficient office areas.

The Courts, located on the upper floor, will now eventually be able to renovate and expand, gaining a much needed additional courtroom, and to address additional court-related security needs. The Juvenile offices also relocated to the vacated second floor allowing them more room, better facilities, and improved access to other related agencies.

During this process, it was obvious, that with today’s violence, our Courthouse needed better, more thorough, security for all who worked within that building, as well as the public who attend and interact with the courts, Prosecutor, Juvenile officials, or Public Administrator.

One access became a designated secure entry point for admission into the Courthouse, and a full camera/security system was installed throughout the Courthouse.

As the Administration Building came online, the entire phone/internet system in the Courthouse and Administration Building was updated to enable many additional capabilities
needed to functionally run our county and accommodate the electronic communication devices we depend upon today.

Even the additional parking lot to the south of the Administration Building is efficient, and complementary to operations, being functional to BOTH, the Administration Building needs, as well as potential use by the Sheriff’s office should they need it.

The third aspect of preparation for the future was expanding (to a nearly double capacity) the jail facility and updating the existing jail to create one of the best facilities in southwest Missouri. It has already reached capacity since its completion and is generating revenue sufficient enough to make it “self supporting”, and is modernly and adequately equipped.

One big project that is still in process is our County receiving just under $1.9 million of Federal Coronavirus Relief Funds to be distributed within Bates County for Public Safety, Public Health, and First Responder needs, addressing mitigation and response to the COVID-19 crisis. Bates County’s public schools, the Bates County Health Department, Bates County Memorial Hospital, local city governments, and many other entities have already been allocated reimbursements of nearly $900,000.

The responsibility of determining what entities, what expenses, and how much each was reimbursed fell upon County Commissioners along with a County review panel including the County Clerk and County Treasurer. Countless hours have been required to layout and administer the guidelines provided by the Federal government in properly distributing these reimbursements. That process has been extremely successful and efficiently managed.

Along with these MAJOR projects, I have represented Bates County in civic positions from President and Board member of Butler Rotary Club, President of the Kenneth Kern Foundation, Butler Chamber of Commerce Board member, Kaysinger Basin Regional Planning Commission and their Transportation Advisory Committee, MU Extension Council representative, as well as membership in the Missouri Association of Counties and the County Commissioner Association of Missouri, and various other committees. Along with that civic commitment, I also have conducted a multitude of BENEFIT auctions (donating items and my services) for Bates County community events and organizations.

Some of those are the Rich Hill 4th of July, Butler Senior Center, Kern Senior Center, Bates County Ducks Unlimited, Butler Children’s Center, Hume Fire Department, McGennis Youth Center, Papinville Historical and Picnic, Hume Alliance Ministry, and many others. I have also repeatedly given donations along the way to support many additional worthy organizations and causes WITHIN Bates County. All of these are PART of not just “doing the job”, but “doing the job well”, which is what I pledged from “Day 1”. As I have told many, “Anyone can probably do the job, but to do it “WELL” takes a commitment and more than just spending a couple days out of the week at the Commission office”.

I hope my six years have set an example of HOW an elected official should be expected to perform and represent the people of Bates County.

As I close, I just want to say, I have been honored and proud to represent Bates County, and I thank YOU once again for that opportunity!