The Sustainable Ozarks Partnership (SOP) held a public meeting Thursday at the Lions Club on Highway 17 North in Roby.
The meeting was led by Steve Tupper, chairman of the SOP, a non-profit organization that focuses on the four counties neighboring Fort Leonard Wood. It identifies and helps implement major programs and projects that sustain and improve the quality of life and business climate in the four counties and enable continued growth of Fort Leonard Wood.
Also attending were Joe Driskill, executive director of SOP and Leonard Wood Institute, State Repsresentatives Robert Ross (District 142) and Steve Lynch (District 122), Texas County Commissioners Fred Stenger, Linda Garrett and John Casey, and Sheriff James Sigman.
Hosting the meeting were Lions Club President Norman Swetham and incoming President Tom Steinbaugh. Kimberly Biddle represented the National Forest Service. SOP Executive Committee members attending included Keith Pritchard, CEO, Security Bank of Pulaski County; Bill Ransdall, staff member, Missouri Department of Economic Development; and Don Shelhammer, former presiding commissioner, Texas County.
Steinbaugh welcomed everyone to the Lions Club, and Tupper opened the discussions by noting that everyone in the communities surrounding Fort Leonard Wood needs to understand how important it is to both residents and national defense. SOP provides an opportunity for all communities to be heard in advocating for Fort Leonard Wood and the region.
Driskill pointed out the reason SOP was created was to bring the communities together to address all of the opportunities and issues that impact on making Fort Leonard Wood the most viable place for the U.S. Army and Department of Defense to train and station military forces.
Ross pointed out the need for everyone at all levels to work together to keep and grow Fort Leonard Wood. Local, regional state and federal all have a role. Ross said he would work with Lynch and others to make sure the state stayed in the game.
Lynch commended the regional effort and was glad to see Texas County eager to work with the other three counties.
Stenger said he was pleased that two state representatives were participating in the meeting.
“Texas County is vital to SOP’s success,” he said. “We need to be involved.”
Shelhammer asked everyone to consider volunteering to be part of the SOP effort. Texas County residents were encouraged to form a Fort Leonard Wood support organization, as the other three counties neighboring the fort have.
A second public meeting is planned in Texas County on 6:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 23, at the Texas County Justice Center. The public is invited.
More information about SOP can be found online at www.SustainableOzarks.org.