After 20 years as a regional representative for U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, Steve McIntosh will return to the private sector this week.

A Carthage resident since 1984, McIntosh was appointed to run Blunt's regional office in Joplin starting in 1997, when Blunt first took office in the U.S. House of Representatives. After 14 years representing Southwest Missouri, Blunt's duties expanded with his first Senate win six years ago.

"Roy asked me if I would go to the Senate, and I said I would commit to one term," McIntosh said. "At the end of the term, I'll have spent 20 years working for him in the House and Senate."

McIntosh said he's ready to do other things, including more fishing, traveling and working on his farm outside of Carthage.

"I'll especially miss the people here and the relationships," he said.

State Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, said McIntosh will be missed by local officials and residents who knew they could turn to him when they had problems or questions involving the federal government.

Now president pro tem of the Missouri Senate, Richard said his work with McIntosh has spanned his years in politics, going back to Richard's days as Joplin's mayor.

"He's always been able to bring federal politics and policies to a local level so people could understand what was going on. You could call him on anything and he'd help you work through it," Richard said. "He's always been accessible; he's trusted and well-respected."

McIntosh worked in Springfield as a certified public accountant, then moved to Carthage when he was hired by a client — Carthage Marble and the Carthage Underground — to become its chief financial officer.

He noted his personal relationship with Blunt dates from their junior high days, when both were students at Strafford, just east of Springfield. He said he and Blunt have remained friends since high school and that he supported Blunt in earlier campaigns.

"When he got elected to the House, he asked me to work with him," he said.

Blunt said he recalls the relationship starting even earlier, when the two were in the fourth or fifth grade.

"For the last 20 years, he's been working to help people with their concerns, and working to help me serve the people," Blunt said. "He's been great at helping people negotiate senseless bureaucratic obstacles and find ways to address those challenges."

McIntosh said helping area residents with problems involving the federal government has been his favorite part of the job. The least favorite, he said, were the times when he would have to tell people no help was available.

He said he is especially proud of work that created the Missouri Alternative and Renewable Energy Technology Center at Crowder College in Neosho, and the Jordan Valley Innovation Center in association with Missouri State University in Springfield. The goal of both centers is to create workers and businesses that translate to more highly skilled and better-paying jobs in the region.

Funding for those projects and others, including improvements to U.S. Highway 71, came from congressional earmarks that have since been eliminated.

"We were able to do good things with earmarks, and I'd defend those all day long," McIntosh said.

He said he also has enjoyed helping with federal challenges involving transportation, the Postal Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and said longtime relationships with Corps officials proved especially helpful in the wake of the Joplin tornado.

Blunt said he has not yet decided how the vacancy will be filled.

"He'll be hard to replace; his knowledge of the area has been an advantage," he said. "But Joelle Cannon, who runs our Springfield office, is from Joplin, and her mom still lives there. There's lots going on in Joplin, and it's an important part of the state that I serve."

The senator noted he also works closely on federal issues with U.S. Rep. Billy Long, who has a Joplin office.

Susan Redden is a former reporter for The Joplin Globe.

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