By Susan Redden
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Joplin’s recovery since the May 2011 has been impressive, former Mayor Larry Hickey said Friday during a reunion of a half-dozen former mayors of the city.
Hickey praised the city’s response to the disaster, the influx of volunteers and other aid, and the spirit of Joplin residents who have worked together in the recovery.
“It’s been overwhelming; what’s happened since then is going to make Joplin better,” said Hickey, who led the City Council from 1968 to 1972.
The reunion, held at Central Christian Center, was organized by Councilman Gary Shaw, who served as Joplin mayor from 2008 to 2010.
He said he and Darieus Adams, mayor from 2000-2002 and now Western District associate county commissioner, developed the idea for the gatherings.
“This is the third one we’ve had, but the first since the tornado,” Shaw said. “There are 12 Joplin mayors still living; we had nine mayors at the last one.”
Also on hand, along with Hickey, Shaw and Adams, were Phil Stinnett, mayor from 2004-2006; Richard Russell, from 2002 to 2004; and state Sen. Ron Richard.
Richard, now majority leader of the Missouri Senate, was Joplin mayor from 2004-2008. Richard was active in economic development during his tenure, helping attract a number of new companies to Joplin, including several that located at the Joplin-Webb City Industrial Park.
But Richard on Friday credited Hickey as the mayor “who started pushing economic development for Joplin.”
“If you had a passion for economic development, he was the one you followed,” said Richard. “He was pro-growth and pushed against the argument that Joplin was fine the way it was. He started it, but he’s too modest to talk about it.”
Among other things, Hickey helped bring manufacturer FAG Bearings Corp. to Joplin.
In addition to growth since the tornado, the former mayors also discussed the cooperative development of a park north of Joplin to memorialize a Civil War-era battle near the site. The goal of the park is to remember the regiment of black soldiers ambushed and killed by Confederate guerrillas and the response by Union reinforcements who burned down the farm and the nearby Sherwood community. Shaw and Adams both worked on the project, which is the first park owned by Jasper County.