Citizen of Year

Dan Pekarek talks with Joplin City Manager Nick Edwards after receiving the 2021 Outstanding Citizen of the Year award Monday at Mercy Park. GLOBE | ROGER NOMER

Congratuations to Dan Pekarek on being named Joplin Citizen of the Year.

It is an appropriate honor and a fitting end to his career of service.

Dan just wrapped up 35 years with the city of Joplin, serving in multiple roles, including working 24 years in the health department and several years as interim city manager and then as assistant city manager.

“Dan was nothing short of amazing,” said City Council member (and last year’s Citizen of the Year) Gary Shaw. “The respect the employees had for him and his unique leadership abilities turned our staff in a very positive direction and made it easier for the incoming city manager to assume those duties.”

We always found Dan to be honest, straightforward and dedicated to public and environmental health. He started educating people about COVID-19 before the pandemic was declared and helped lead creation of Joplin’s Response and Recovery Plan.

Among other things, he led efforts to address the needs of area homeless, to adopt a local prescription drug monitoring ordinance and a Tobacco 21 ordinance to curtail smoking and tobacco use. He also worked with the Environmental Protection Agency on replacing soil contaminated by heavy metals and on cleaning up the dangerous legacy left by decades of mining.

Earlier this year, the Missouri Public Health Association gave Dan its highest honor, the W. Scott Johnson Award, for his distinguished service in the field of public health in Missouri.

We also found Dan to be humble, and willing share any accolades with the people who worked with him.

Jeremy Drinkwitz, president of Mercy Hospital Joplin and president of the chamber board, said of the award, “We give it to people who make this community great. ... Sometimes that impact is in moments, and sometimes, in Dan’s case, for 35 years he’s made a positive impact on thousands of people’s lives, and they may not have even known it.”

Well, they know it now. Thanks, Dan, for all you have done for this community. Count us among your many admirers.

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