Over 230 local community members turned out for the Cassville Area Chamber of Commerce's annual banquet, which featured special guest Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt.
Stan Kelley, outgoing Cassville Chamber president, opened the event by welcoming all attendees. Later, Susie Jacobs, incoming Cassville Chamber president, gave Gov. Blunt a brief introduction that included information about his educational and professional background.
"I would like to talk about where we were in January, 2005 and where we are today," said Blunt. "In 2004, Missourians demanded change. Missourians wanted their state government to put Missouri families, Missouri values and Missouri taxpayers first."
According to Blunt, when he took office in 2005, he inherited a $1.1 billion deficit, which was caused by lawsuits, regulation, misplaced priorities and a large state government.
"Over the last three years my administration has delivered change that is enhancing prosperity and opportunity for all Missourians," said Blunt. "When I came into office our state was losing jobs at an alarming rate, and we embarked on a mission to bring quality, family supporting jobs back to our state.
"Our pro-growth, pro-jobs initiatives have succeeded in helping Missourians create nearly 90,000 jobs over the last three years," said Blunt.
Blunt said many people suggested he raise taxes to balance the state budget, but he was reluctant to do so. Instead of raising taxes, Blunt said he concentrated on reducing state spending and the size of the government.
"We went from losing 34,000 jobs in four years to creating 90,000 new jobs in three years," said Blunt. "More people paying taxes fuels economic growth without a tax increase."
In cutting spending, Blunt supported legislation that cut the percent of funds earmarked for some healthcare programs.
"Medicaid consumed 31 percent of the state budget," said Blunt. "That is almost as much as education. There were almost as many people enrolled in Medicaid as enrolled in Missouri schools."
Today, Medicaid accounts for 29 percent of the state's budget, which is still higher than many neighboring states, said Blunt.
Blunt also said that his administration made education the central part of the state budget. Over the last few years, funds have been increased $1.2 billion for kindergarten through post secondary education, said Blunt.
"We have doubled funding for the A+ program and quadrupled funding for needs-based assistance," said Blunt. "Over 36,000 students now receive needs based assistance."
Blunt joked on his recent announcement to not seek re-election as Missouri's governor but did not elaborate on his decision.
"Thank you all for being involved in the community and the chamber," said Blunt. "This is the organization in the community that promotes economic growth and job creation. By being involved you use your time and efforts to help in job creation. Thank you for the privilege of serving as your governor and God bless you all."
After Blunt's speech, Kelley recognized several community members, new chamber members, businesses that received 2007 beautification awards and individuals who volunteered to help with chamber activities last year.
"I think the chamber made significant accomplishments this year," said Kelley. "We were able to balance the budget without assistance. Years in the past we received contributions from the IDC or the City of Cassville. This year, we were able to balance it on our own, which was a success for us."
The chamber also sponsored 90 different chamber meetings, including four quarterly luncheons and 11 different community events, such as the Fall Festival and Chili Cook-Off, The Show and the Hillbilly Golf Tournament.
"We had some new ideas and events and some worked and some did not," said Kelley. "We had a very innovative and creative board this year, and I want to thank the board members for their assistance and cooperation. I challenge Susie and the new board to do even better in 2008.
"Susie already has some great ideas," said Kelley. "She will make an excellent president, because she will be very active and I encourage all chamber members to play an active part in the chamber during the coming year."
Kelley presented community service awards to Greg Beck for his direction of The Show, Hometown Sound and The Red Hots, and Bob Allen, Mark Smith and Randy Stockton for their leadership in organizing the Hillbilly Golf Tournament.
A special Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Tyne Rabourn, who is the A+ coordinator for the Cassville R-IV School District. Rabourn's recognition included a special slide show of photos from throughout her life.
"I am very proud to give out this award tonight," said Kelley. "I think this is a really outstanding recipient who has played a major role in the quality of life we enough in Cassville and Barry County.
"She has achieved many accomplishments in her personal and professional life, but most of all she has made a significant impact on our community in promoting the lives of others," said Kelley. "She gives her best each and every day and all year long."
Kelley also recognized Cassville Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Amy White and outgoing chamber board members Sid Allsbury and Lisa Schlichtman.
Toward the end of the event, Jacobs recognized incoming board members Mike McCracken, Jeremy Marple, Virgil Harrington and Donna Hayes, who will be joining Carolyn Bishop, David Payne, Angela Seymour, Bill Shiveley, Greg Beck, David Waugh and Richard Asbill on the chamber board.
Jacobs suggested all chamber members make a commitment to volunteering in the community through the chamber, local churches, schools and city and county government during the next year.
"We need to strive to improve our city, county and school districts," said Jacobs. "Many people don't realize how the city and county governments operate and I hope the chamber can be instrumental in this education process.
"We want people to speak of the chamber and community with pride," said Jacobs. "Thank you for the role that you are and will be playing in the chamber."
The Cassville Area Chamber of Commerce banquet meal was provided by Maggie Mae's. The Cassville High School FFA staff and students served community members attending the event. Rev. Lee Porch, of the United Methodist Church in Cassville, gave the invocation prior to the meal.