As 2010 begins with a frigid blast of winter weather, we take time to look back on the past year and reflect on all that has been accomplished. Despite a stalled economy, a war being waged in Iraq and Afghanistan and a new president, Barry County has managed to weather 2009's rollercoaster ride better than most communities across the United States. I think this area's conservative approach to spending combined with our local citizens' hardworking lifestyles and common sense attitudes have proven a good defense against the financial problems that have marked 2009 for so many. Barry County has not been immune to layoffs, foreclosures and declining sales tax revenue, but I do believe our local governments, our local households and our local businesses were better prepared for 2009's economic slowdown, and when those tough times did come, there were resources in place and neighbors ready and willing to help their family and friends in need.
As I look back on the past year, there are several highlights that make 2009 a year to celebrate.
* The Cassville Wildcats established a legacy as a football powerhouse by winning their second state championship in back-to-back seasons. The term "Wildcat Nation" was born as thousands of Cassville fans made the trip to the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis to watch their Wildcats claim another state title.
*. The City of Cassville completed a comprehensive plan that charts a blueprint for growth over the next 30 years. City leaders were able to engage a large segment of the public in the planning process, and the result of this collaborative effort is a workable plan that fits the unique needs and vision of Cassville and its citizens.
*. Barry County Drug Court celebrated its first graduation, marking a huge milestone for a program that is proving itself to be an effective alternative to traditional justice. Drug court offers a very real solution to this community's battle against drug abuse and the crimes related to it. The community's willingness to support the program has been phenomenal and helps ensure our local drug court will remain viable until funding to expand the successful program can be secured.
*. The Crowder College Cassville Center moved to its new, larger location, giving more young people access to a college education. The Cassville campus also received word in December that its proposed nursing program had received final state approval further expanding the programs available locally.
*. A new sidewalk was constructed between the Cassville intermediate and high school campuses providing local youngsters with a safer route back and forth from school.
* Barry County's tourism industry, which encompasses Roaring River State Park and Table Rock Lake, benefitted from high gas prices and tighter pocketbooks. It seemed like more people choose to enjoy their vacations closer to home, and local communities benefitted from their proximity to the natural Ozarks beauty.
* This year was also marked by the continuation of local festivals and projects that serve to bring people together to celebrate community. Some of the festivals that saw growth this year included the Cassville Fall Festival and Chili Cook-off, Shakin' in the Shell Fest, the Strawberry Festival in Washburn and the annual Wheaton Barbecue that was highlighted this year by the opening of the new Wheaton Depot Museum.
All in all, Barry County held its own during 2009 and enjoyed a few triumphs. On a personal note, 2009 was the year that our newspaper family grew to include the Monett Times and we launched Connection, a new community magazine. These changes have kept us busy and our staff has once again risen to the new challenges. We are looking forward to a more prosperous 2010 and continue to be thankful that we live in an area that seems poised for an economic comeback.