I don’t know where Allen Hawkins has been living for the past 35 years, but it seems it’s not Sedalia.
Hawkins was acting mayor from 1976 to 1978 before winning a four-year term in the office from 1978 to 1982. He is campaigning against current Ward 1 City Councilman Steve Galliher to return to the office in Tuesday’s election. One of the key talking points of Hawkins’ campaign is that as mayor he, in effect, single-handedly created Sedalia’s economic engine. It’s an eyebrow-raising boast Hawkins has been peddling for years, but he’s not stopping there.
In an interview with the Democrat’s Emily Jarrett, Hawkins said, “The city hasn’t brought anything in since I left.” He was talking about the three decades since he departed the mayor’s office, but based on how monumentally inaccurate that statement is, it leaves me to wonder if he has been living in Saskatoon since the early ‘80s.
But before we get into “now,” let’s take a look at “then.”
During that interview with Jarrett, Hawkins also said, “I brought in Kelsey Hayes, Waterloo, Gardner Denver, Broaderick and Bascum and Alcolac. … I hired the first economic director.” This is at best an exaggeration and at worst complete fabrication, as Bill Hall served as the city’s industrial development director — in essence, an economic developer — at the time and had held the office for years before Hawkins became mayor. Hawkins certainly played a role in helping lure manufacturers to town, but his insinuation that he alone brought all those industries to the area is disrespectful to the hard work that Hall and many others put in to help secure those and other employers.
While those claims are troubling coming from someone who seeks the city’s highest office, Hawkins’ assertion that progress stopped when he left office would be laughable if it wasn’t so insulting to so many business leaders and to the city itself.
We can start with ProEnergy Services, which came to Sedalia in 2006 and relocated its corporate headquarters here in 2007, according to data from Economic Development Sedalia-Pettis County. ProEnergy created jobs for about 650 people with an average wage of $58,600. The company has invested more than $110 million here.
Retailers and restaurants also have set up shop here — everything from Menard’s, CVS and Tractor Supply Co. to Panera Bread, Freddy’s, Bandana’s BBQ and the soon-to-open Steak ‘N Shake. Don’t forget about the Sedalia Crossing complex that includes Save A Lot, Papa Murphy’s and Starbucks. Our local Dairy Queen changed hands and changed locations to allow for greater capacity and more local jobs.
There’s Sierra Bullets and Starline Brass, Xceligent and Impact Signs. Then there are the expansions, which show that a company is willing to reinvest in our community. Inter-State Studios, Duke Manufacturing and Maxion Wheels, among many others, all have poured more dollars and jobs into our local economy since Hawkins left office.
Another of those expansions was at Tyson, which may not be within the city limits but it certainly employs a lot of people who call Sedalia home. In 2012, Tyson added 200 jobs and has invested $44 million into its plant near Dresden.
EDSPC Executive Director Linda Christle told me: “Economic development is much, much more than just recruiting new. We have to take care of what we have, first and foremost. We don’t want to lose any companies and have people out of work.”
Christle, who came to Sedalia in 2004, added: “Our board feels very strongly that every company is equally important no matter what size they are, big or small. If you think a company with two employees is not important, why don’t you ask those two employees what their job and their paycheck means to them?
“We show no favoritism and work hard with everyone who wishes to start a business, move their company here, or expand.”
All of that effort adds up to a positive business climate for Sedalia and the surrounding area.
In a piece published in the May 2012 edition of The Missouri Municipal Review, Sedalia City Administrator Gary Edwards wrote that between January 2006 and June 2011, the city experienced 27 expansions, new divisions and/or new companies coming in, which created a total 1,062 jobs with an average wage of $39,800. That would be considerably more than nothing.
Good leaders are aware of their surroundings and the work that is being done in their community. They also give credit where it is due. Hawkins misses the mark on all of these counts, and that is why Sedalia cannot afford to put him back in the mayor’s office.