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Biz 100

Meet the 2020 Biz 100

Our annual list of the most powerful and influential business leaders in southwest Missouri is back for year five.

By Jenna deJong | Art Direction by Sarah Patton

Nov 2020

Biz 417 2020 Biz 100


Fearless, powerful, unstoppable. Our Biz 100 are the most influential people in southwest Missouri. This year’s list introduces 21 new faces and our Person of the Year, President and CEO of CoxHealth Steve Edwards, plus highlights the latest achievements of returning honorees. These businesspeople are titans of their industries, and they are moving the region forward in more ways than one. Use this list as your business connection cheat sheet.  

METHODOLOGY

The Biz 100 is selected by Biz 417’s editors, publishers and advisory board members each May. We evaluate current and prospective honorees based on their individual business success, their impact on the local business community and their community involvement this year. Current honorees are eligible to appear again, but as people retire, leave the area or otherwise take a step back, they can be taken off the list. Leaders can come from any industry and hold any title; however, we are looking for people who truly can move the needle in one or more areas listed above. Some leaders on this list might prefer to avoid the limelight, but we have chosen to brag about them anyway. For more information or to tell us who we missed, visit biz417.com/nominate.

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“Steve
President and CEO, CoxHealth
Drury College (now Drury University), B.A. in political science; Washington University in St. Louis, Master of health care administration
For the past nine years, Steve Edwards has been CEO of CoxHealth. During his tenure, he oversaw the opening of dozens of clinics, as well as the opening of Cox Medical Center Branson and Cox Barton County Hospital in 2013 and 2018 respectively. This year he’s been a stalwart force during COVID-19. He left efforts to construct a 51-bed COVID ICU; he increased the hospital’s stockpile of N95 masks from 4,000 to 660,000 at press time. He’s coordinated response efforts alongside Mercy Springfield Communities, and he’s taken a public role alongside his Incident Command Team to increase education about the virus. He also avoided layoffs even while many hospitals let staff go. Read his full story here.
Biz 417's B-School with Person of the Year Steve Edwards on December 10
Architecture
Photo by About Faces
Rita Baron
Principal, Baron Design & Associates LLC
Drury College (now Drury University), B.Arch
There’s one Albert Einstein quote that Rita Baron lives by: “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” Her 17-year-old firm has clients in a variety of industries, including medical, financial, government, corporate, university, restaurant and hospitality sectors. In addition to her day job, she’s Chair of the Board of Directors at her alma mater, Drury University, and she is Chair of the Board of Directors at OakStar Bank.
NEW IN 2020: In addition to designing The Preston, an upscale 100-unit independent senior housing development in Springfield, Baron Design & Associates LLC broke ground on its new office building.
“Failure is an experience and it is never too late to try again.“—Rita Baron, Principal for Baron, Design & Associates LLC
Brad Erwin
President and Principal Architect, Paragon Architecture
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, B.S. in architectural studies, M.Arch
Paragon Architecture’s newly renovated headquarters was finished just as COVID-19 began impacting southwest Missouri. Though the timing wasn’t convenient, Erwin says the new facility still helped the team at Paragon Architecture “seamlessly transition to work from home.” The headquarters, located on West College Street, is complete with a community room designed around the unofficial Springfield flag, flexible workstations, a shaded back patio and work cafe. The team was finally able to move in mid-May. Erwin declined to disclose the cost of the project.
Arts & Entertainment
Photo by Alex Soloman
Beth Domann
Executive Director, Springfield Little Theatre
Stephens College, B.F.A. in theatre with an emphasis in directing
This year has thrown a lot of curveballs to the local arts and entertainment community, but that hasn’t stopped Beth Domann, who always tries to have a can-do attitude. She says she finds her biggest inspiration through Biz 100 honoree Jack Stack’s books and watching her performers find their voice and confidence on stage.
NEW IN 2020: Under Domann’s leadership, Springfield Little Theatre has partnered with Springfield Public Schools and launched an Academy of Fine and Performing Arts Magnet School for 50 fifth grade students for this academic school year. Domann also helped launch the Ozarks Performing Arts League, which aims to offset lost revenue from leading arts organizations.
Apply Now for Biz 417's Best Places to Work Presented by Penmac Staffing
AUTOMOBILES & TRANSPORTATION
Photo by Kristina Bridges Templeton Courtesy of Ozarks Technical Community College
Rick Hughlett
President, Rick's Automotive
Ozarks Technical Community College
Rick Hughlett is a fourth generation 417-lander who attended Parkview High School before moving on to Ozarks Technical Community College (OTC). In 1980, he and his wife opened Rick’s Automotive, and since then, the business has been awarded local accolades for its charity efforts including the Southeast Rotary Volunteer of the Year Award and National Philanthropy Day Outstanding Small Business of the Year Award. In 2017, OTC awarded Hughlett the Excellence in Business award.
NEW IN 2020: This year’s donations were to local organizations including the City of Bolivar’s Parks and Recreation department. The company also sponsored an event hosted by the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks.
Photo by Brandon Alms
Robert Low
President and Founder, Prime Inc.
University of Missouri
When CoxHealth announced its plans to build a “hospital within a hospital” for COVID-19 patients, Robert and Lawana Low, on behalf of Prime, Inc. stepped up to help. The two donated $700,000 towards the new COVID-19 unit at Cox South—a figure that covers all construction costs associated with the project. According to the release, “a shelled floor of the medical center was transformed into a 51-bed, ward-style Intensive Care Ventilator Unit designed to care for a possible surge of COVID-related illness.” According to an October 16 press release, CoxHealth has seen more than 1,000 patients admitted for COVID-19 in its hospitals.
 
Mark Walker
Chairman and CEO, TransLand
Drury College (now Drury University), B.A. in business administration and economics
Mark Walker is the second generation in his family to operate TransLand. He’s a big family man and says his greatest accomplishment this year was helping his wife fulfill a lifelong ambition to raft the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. “The occasion also allowed me to grow a beard for the first time in my life,” he says.
NEW IN 2020: Walker accompanied one of his professional drivers and decorated Vietnam War veteran to deliver wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery in December as part of the national Wreaths Across America program. “It was a deeply moving experience for Henry [Grider] and me as we watched volunteers line up to receive wreaths from the back of our trailer then in quiet reverence go place the wreaths on veterans’ graves.”
Brian Weiler
Director of Aviation, Springfield-Branson National Airport
Embry-Riddle University, B.S. in professional aeronautics; University of Central Missouri, M.S. in aviation safety
Perhaps the biggest achievement for Brian Weiler this year is keeping the Springfield-Branson National Airport open as southwest Missouri grappled with COVID-19. “The airport never closed during even the early days of the pandemic, including providing services to our tenants and the public,” he says. “We are weathering the most challenging times in my 30-year aviation career but have no doubt our best days are still ahead.”
NEW IN 2020: Since last year, the Springfield-Branson National Airport received a $3.7 million federal discretionary grant to complete some needed runway and taxiway pavement repairs and improvements.
BUSINESS CONSULTING & EMPLOYMENT SERVICES
 
Paula Adams
President, Penmac Staffing Services, Inc.
University of Missouri–Columbia, B.S. in home economics
Paula Adams is the second generation to operate her family’s business. As the leader of her company, Adams says some of her most valuable lessons were learned during the early days of her career. Adams says though some of that time she felt overwhelmed and stressed, decades later, the experience taught her how to be a successful leader.
NEW IN 2020: Penmac is currently in the process of adopting a new staffing software for the first time since 2011. This new software is mobile-friendly and has fully integrated text messaging, intuitive searching, easy import options and more. This fully developed, front-office staffing system will help with sales, recruiting and onboarding.
Photo by Gambles Photography
Samuel Knox
President and Managing Editor, UniteNews Publication, Minorities in Business
Nixa High School
One of the biggest lessons Samuel Knox learned was when a professional recommended he spend as much time as possible with his children, especially during their developmental years, and to save his public engagement for later in life. Knox takes this to heart, as he’s currently helping raise his grandson. When he’s not acting as a caregiver, Knox is juggling a few roles in the community, which include serving as the event coordinator for the Springfield Multicultural Festival and serving on the board of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce.
NEW IN 2020: This year, Samuel Knox joined the United Way of the Ozarks’ campaign cabinet for its annual fundraiser, Connect the Dots.
COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE
Photo by Brandon Alms
Christina Angle
Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Group Services, Erlen Group
Washington and Lee University, B.S. with special attainments in commerce
As a Springfield native, Christina Angle spent 10 years at PwC in Richmond, Virginia, and London, England. During that time, she worked on audits for multinational public companies in the consumer and industrial products sector. As the CFO and VP of Group Services at the Erlen Group, she joins the third generation in growing the real estate, aggregates and logistics companies. Outside of work, Angle is Vice-Chairman of Economic Development for the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce and is Vice President of the Board of Directors for Ozark Greenways.
“No business exists in a vacuum. Take every opportunity you can to learn about other businesses and industries; you will find out that they are all connected.”—Christina Angle, Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Group Services, Erlen Group
 
John F. Griesemer
President and CEO, Erlen Group
Purdue University, B.S. in industrial management and civil engineering
John Griesemer, cousin of Biz 100 honoree Christina Angle, is also part of the third generation to operate Erlen Group. In 2018, he took over as CEO when his uncle, Louis Griesemer, retired. In addition to his daytime role, Griesemer serves on multiple nonprofit and for-profit boards, including Guaranty Bank. He says getting an inside look at how other corporations deal with many issues is where he finds his biggest business inspiration.
NEW IN 2020: In the past year, the Springfield Contractors Association announced the Erlen Group as Developer of the Year.
 
Debra Shantz Hart
Principal, Housing Plus, LLC; Principal, DHTC Development, LLC; Principal, DHTC Construction, LLC
Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University), B.S. in economics; University of Missouri–Columbia, J.D.
As a former lawyer turned owner of a few different commercial real estate companies, Debra Shantz Hart’s impressive career is born of out great ambition. She spent 13 years as vice president and general counsel for John Q. Hammons Hotels and Resorts Inc., and she’s also a former chair of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce.
NEW IN 2020: In October, Shantz Hart wrapped up development on the Y Gardens, a project that will provide a portion of units for youth aging out of foster care. Shantz Hart says this project is the result of significant collaboration with a number of service providers and Family Life Community Services and will help with housing for an underserved vulnerable population in Springfield.
Photo by Patrick McWhirt
Matt Miller
CEO, The Vecino Group
University of Missouri–Columbia, B.S. in political science and Russian area studies
According to The Vecino Group’s website, every project the company touches must address a broader community issue. This appears to be true, as The Vecino Group is partnering with the Missouri State University Board of Governors to expand the Jordan Valley Innovation Center. Some of the firm’s previous work include Sky Eleven and Frisco Lofts. Miller started the firm in 1992.
NEW IN 2020: The Vecino Group continues to do good and give back to the local community by hosting voting registration events. In a Facebook post on September 22, the team had registered more than 100 people.
Biz 417's B-School with Person of the Year Steve Edwards on December 10
 
Patrick Murney
Owner/Realtor, Murney Associates, Realtors
Southwest Missouri State University (now MSU), B.S. in business
Patrick Murney’s biggest mentor is his father, who he says always had a positive attitude and cared for others. That is the same attitude Murney hopes to give to his clients, especially as his company adopts more technology into its operations in the coming years. “Technology has continued to permeate the real estate industry,” Murney says. “COVID-19 amplified our need to communicate with our clients virtually.”
NEW IN 2020: This year, Murney Associates, Realtors exceeded $1.1 billion in sales volume. In fact, the company has adjusted well to the changes that came with COVID-19. Murney says the company will continue to hold its internal meetings digitally due to its effectiveness.
 
Tom Rankin
Managing Director, SVN/Rankin Co. LLC; Owner, Rankin Development LLC
Southwest Missouri State University (now MSU), B.S. in finance
This year marks 30 years since Tom Rankin founded Rankin Company, a general commercial real estate brokerage that eventually became affiliated with national brokerage firm SVN. Perhaps the biggest industry change Rankin is currently eyeing is the industrial market, which he says is very active with distribution companies needing more space in order to respond to the ever-growing demand of the consumer. Whenever he’s in need of a little inspiration, he hits one of the area’s many trails for a run.
NEW IN 2020: Tom Rankin says his biggest accomplishment this year is working with the City of Republic and Drury University to continue developing Garton Business Park, a 160-acre warehouse and distribution project that is also rumored to house a future Amazon facility.
 
Stephanie Stenger
CEO, Springfield Land LP
University of Missouri–Columbia, B.S. in business administration; University of Southern California, J.D.
Stephanie Stenger began working for her father’s business in the 1990s, and now she and her brother operate Ron Stenger Companies, which encompasses Springfield Land LP. Stenger is laser-focused on building and improving the community, which is seen in her professional life as she develops neighborhoods, and in her personal life where she serves as the president of the Springfield Bar Association. She’s also the past president of the boards for Care to Learn and The Moxie Cinema.
NEW IN 2020: This year the team continued to work toward its new subdivision, Meadowood, on East Sunshine at Farm Road 197.
COMMUNICATIONS & MEDIA
 
Jeff Houghton
Creator and host, The Mystery Hour
University of Iowa, B.S. in communication studies
Jeff Houghton is known in the community as a dreamer that can make things happen. He formerly interned for the Late Show with David Letterman before moving to Springfield to start the popular syndicated late night show, The Mystery Hour which is now in its 10th season. Houghton is a four-time Emmy Award-winning television host and uses his talents to write, act and improvise. This year he also launched a new podcast called “The New Hip.”
 
Brian McDonough
Vice President and General Manager, KYTV/KSPR and The Ozarks CW
Wichita State University, B.A. in business administration
In October, KY3 launched a new daily lifestyle program called The Place, which airs on the station at 11:30 a.m. every weekday and is re-broadcast at 5:30 p.m. on the Ozarks CW. The team at KY3 recruited out-of-towner Melanie Steen, who hosts the show with Michael Gibson. The show focuses on highlighting the exciting people, places and activities in southwest Missouri. This new segment began in the wake of half the team’s major transition to remote work.
CONSTRUCTION
 
John Oke-Thomas
President and CEO, Oke-Thomas + Associates, Inc.
Drury University, B.Arch
Along with operating Oke-Thomas + Associates, Inc., John Oke-Thomas is a founding member and past president of Minorities in Business, sits on the board of directors for the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce and is a committee member of Forward SGF. One of the most defining moments in his career was his involvement in the reconstruction of Historic Washington Avenue Baptist Church.
NEW IN 2020: TThis year Oke-Thomas served as the vice chairman of public affairs for the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce.
Education
Amaka Agugua-Hamilton
Women’s Head Basketball Coach, Missouri State University
Virginia Commonwealth University, M.A. in sports leadership and administration; Hofstra University, B.S. in business management
According to Missouri State University’s website, Amaka “Coach Mox” Agugua-Hamilton became the school’s first female African American head coach and quickly put together one of the top debut basketball seasons in Division I history. Last season, she was named the Spalding Maggie Dixon Rookie Coach of the Year by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and the MVC Coach of the Year. She’s a 19-year veteran of Division I women’s basketball, but it’s her work off the court that makes an everlasting impact: She advocates for her team by running “Life After Basketball” where she partners with organizations to teach important life skills to young adults.
 
Tim Cloyd
President, Drury University
Emory & Henry College, B.A. in philosophy and political science; University of Massachusetts Amherst, M.A. in political science, Ph.D. in higher education
In 2016, Tim Cloyd began his tenure as Drury University’s president. Since then, he’s been focused on growing the organization. For Cloyd, this means taking on a long-term mindset and considering the “demographic cliff” coming in 2024. Cloyd says the university is preparing for a decrease of incoming freshmen that is largely due to a decline in birthrates. For inspiration in weathering tough times, Cloyd says he turns to local entrepreneurs and business books.
NEW IN 2020: Drury University launched a program called Drury GO, which is a complete revamp of the university’s evening and online offerings. The institution also broke ground on its new Enterprise Center, which will house the Breech School of Business upon its completion.
Photo courtesy Missouri State University
Dana Ford
Men’s Head Basketball Coach at Missouri State University
Illinois State University, B.S. in politics and government
When Dana Ford became head coach of the men’s basketball team at Missouri State University, he was “the fifth-youngest Division I coach in the nation (33) and helped guide the Bears to a third-place finish in the Missouri Valley Conference,” according to MSU’s website. He and his wife, Christina, are also founders of The Rebound Foundation, an organization that helps domestic abuse victims and their children find stable housing and a fresh start.
NEW IN 2020: This year, Ford launched a basketball program that allows children and young adults and the Springfield Police Department to interact in a positive way.
Photo courtesy of OTC
Hal Higdon
Chancellor, Ozarks Technical Community College
University of Alabama, B.S. in business; University of Southern Mississippi, M.Ed. in educational administration, Ph.D. in higher education
Dr. Hal Higdon has spent his life in higher education administration. His first position was with Alabama's Faulkner State Community College before moving on to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College where he worked for 13 years. In 2006, he became chancellor of Ozarks Technical Community College (OTC), and in the 14 years since, he’s become entrenched in the community through his involvement in local community groups.
NEW IN 2020: Ozarks Technical Community College saw a 15% increase in its summer enrollment. In the fall, it opened up its sixth and newest physical location, the OTC Republic Center, and it also broke ground on the $40 million Center for Advanced Manufacturing.
 
John Jungmann
Superintendent, Springfield Public Schools
Missouri Southern State University, B.S. in education; Southwest Missouri State University (now MSU), M.S. in educational administration, Ed.S. in education; University of Arkansas, Ed.D. in educational leadership
“Push yourself and others to be more comfortable with being uncomfortable.” That’s the business motto Dr. John Jungmann lives by as he leads Springfield Public Schools (SPS). Jungmann says this year he is most proud of how SPS educators have responded to COVID-19 and getting to hand his eldest daughter her high school diploma in August.
NEW IN 2020: This academic school year will be John Jungmann’s last. He plans to retire from his role as superintendent of the largest school district in Missouri.
 
H. Wes Pratt
Assistant to the President/Chief Diversity Officer, Missouri State University
Drury University, B.S. in political science and history; University of San Diego, J.D.
H. Wes Pratt is dedicated to making southwest Missouri a more inclusive place. Missouri State University President Clif Smart appointed Pratt to his current position in 2016 where he is now responsible for executive level implementation of diversity and inclusion initiatives on campus and in the general community. Pratt is also a co-founder and president of Minorities in Business; a member of the local NAACP chapter; co-founder of The Gathering; co-owner of Pratt Consultants and was a part of the initial team that provided the bias-based police training program for the entire Springfield Police Department.
Apply Now for Biz 417's Best Places to Work Presented by Penmac Staffing
President, Missouri State University
Tulane University, B.A. in political science; University of Arkansas, J.D.
hings are always happening at Missouri State University under President Clif Smart’s leadership. The Student African American Brotherhood moved its headquarters to the university and the institution also launched scholarships in memory of George Floyd and David Dorn. It also received a $2.6 million grant that will help first-generation students succeed in high education.
NEW IN 2020: Last year, Missouri State University kicked off Onward, Upward, a historic $250 million capital campaign, and since then, the university has raised a record-breaking $22,663,988 from alumni and friends of the university. This year, President Clif Smart also chaired the Missouri Valley Conference Presidents Council, was elected Vice-Chair of the Missouri Partnership and joined the United Way of the Ozarks Board.
 
Carol A. Taylor
President, Evangel University
Evangel University, B.A. in education; Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, M.A. in cross-cultural communication; Florida State University, Ph.D. in multilingual/multicultural education
Before becoming president of Evangel University in 2013, Dr. Carol Taylor worked for Vanguard University, Biola University and Education Testing Service. At one time in her life, Dr. Taylor cared for her brother, father and mother during their end of life seasons. She says during this time, she was reminded “that as leaders our calling goes beyond our strategic planning to caring well for those we serve, and if we do both of those well, we create an environment where our organizations can thrive.”
NEW IN 2020: Taylor was supposed to retire earlier this year but decided to lead Evangel through a period of uncertainty as COVID-19 disrupted academic institutions across the nation. This meant setting up what she calls a “war room” where an executive team transitioned more than 800 classes to a remote, virtual format. She is now planning to retire in December.
“As leaders, our calling goes beyond strategic planning to caring well for those we serve, and if we do both of those well, we create an environment where our organizations can thrive.”—Carol A. Taylor, President of Evangel University
FINANCE & BANKING
Photo by About Faces Photography
Ann Marie Baker
Executive Vice President, Commercial Banking Division at UMB Bank
University of Missouri-Columbia, B.S. in business administration with an emphasis in banking and finance
The world of banking is a family affair for Ann Marie Baker. Her mother worked at the Bank of Atchison County for 13 years, and that legacy now continues as Ann Marie Baker has been an executive vice president for UMB Bank for the past six years. Baker says she finds her biggest sources of inspiration by surrounding herself with positive people who are energized and unafraid to share their thoughts.
NEW IN 2020: At the beginning of the year, Ann Marie Baker earned the 2019 Top Producer Award, which recognized her new business production which exceeded that of all peers across the UMB footprint the year prior.
Photo courtesy of Guaranty Bank
Shaun A. Burke
President and CEO, Guaranty Bank
Southwest Missouri State University (now MSU), B.S. in finance; University of Colorado, Graduate School of Banking
“Don’t procrastinate on tough decisions.” Shaun Burke says this is some of the best advice he’s ever received during his 37-year-long career in banking. He got his start with Boatman’s Bank, and now, Burke is at the helm of a 107-year-old bank that has 16 locations across Springfield, Joplin, Carthage, Ozark, Nixa and Neosho. During his tenure, he also served as chairman of the Missouri Bankers Association in 2018 and 2019, and last year, he led Guaranty Federal Bancshares to $1 billion in assets.
NEW IN 2020: This year, he became a grandfather.
Photo courtesy Heather Robbin
Paula Dougherty
Owner and Certified Financial Planner, Achieve Private Wealth of Ameriprise Financial
Missouri State University, M.B.A. in management, B.S. in marketing, finance and general business, minor in healthcare administration
Paula Dougherty recently celebrated her 25th anniversary with Ameriprise. When she’s not with clients, Dougherty is giving back to the community by serving on the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors and serving as a member and past-president of the Rotary Club of Springfield Sunrise, Missouri State University Finance and General Business Advisory Board and more. Her involvement is paying off: Last year Guaranty Bank and Achieve Private Wealth formed an alliance that provides Guaranty’s clients access to investment and financial planning services. One of her favorite quotes is: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”
John Everett
President and CEO, Legacy Bank and Trust
Drury University, B.A. in business administration
Some of John Everett’s early banking days were spent at THE BANK where he was a charter employee when it formed in 1997. This experience was a defining moment in his career. “[I] tried to learn as much as I could about every different function of the bank. We started with 12 employees, and I found myself having a hand in nearly every department of the bank,” he says. “It definitely gave me the background and experience that has propelled me for the rest of my career.” He eventually served as the company’s CFO before joining Legacy Bank and Trust as its chief financial officer. In 2009, he was promoted to his current position.
 
Robert Fulp
CEO, SFC Bank
Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University), B.S. in finance and accounting
Robert Fulp’s business motto is to be relationship driven, have a passion to be the best and deliver on promises. This is evident as this past year, Springfield First Community Bank (SFC) welcomed Tim Stack to its board of directors. Currently, Fulp and his team are closing in on their goal of $1billion in assets. Fulp is also currently serving as vice chairman of CoxHealth Systems.
NEW IN 2020: In light of a potential meat shortage, Robert Fulp and his wife, Cindy, arranged to purchase a steer and provide the SFC team with 1,000 lbs of meat. “Needless to say, the team was very excited to restock their freezers in time for the 4th of July,” Fulp says. “To be able to help my team is my proudest accomplishment.”
 
Doug Neff
Southwest Missouri Region CEO and Chairman, Commerce Bank
University of Missouri–Columbia, B.S. in business administration and finance; University of Wisconsin–Madison, Graduate School of Banking
Doug Neff moved to Springfield seven years ago and has since become an integral leader in southwest Missouri. He is a past chair of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce and was president of the board of directors for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield. He continues his community involvement as a board member of the Springfield Business Development Corporation and serves on the Foundation Board for Ozarks Technical Community College.
NEW IN 2020: Neff says his proudest achievement this year was assisting clients with the Payroll Protection Program while transitioning the Commerce team to a remote workforce. “We never missed a beat, and our teams executed flawlessly helping many businesses in our communities,” he says.
 
Robin Robeson
Executive Vice President and COO, Guaranty Bank
University of Missouri–Columbia, B.A. in communication
If you ask Robin Robeson if she always pictured a life in Springfield, her answer would be no. When she moved here in 1994 from Nashville, Tennessee, her plan was to live in Springfield for only two years. That all changed when she married her husband and got plugged into the community. For the past 26 years, Robeson has worked to help Springfield become the city that people purposefully move to or stay in. “I think we have made a lot of progress but still have much work to do, especially in the areas of diversity and inclusion,” she says.
NEW IN 2020: This year, Robeson was the Chair of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce. What she thought would be a year of in-person events and opportunities to advocate, network and meet new people was actually a year of helping the chamber and its members navigate uncharted waters.
 
Gary Schafer
Managing Partner–Southern Missouri Offices, BKD LLP
Southwest Missouri State University (now MSU), B.S. in accounting
Gary Schafer’s at the helm of BKD LLP and oversees the firm’s presence in Springfield, Branson and Joplin. Through his 23 years of experience in public accounting, Schafer says he gets his best business inspiration from his clients. “The opportunity to work with innovative entrepreneurs and outstanding business leaders and managers is one of the best things about being in public accounting,” Schafer says.
NEW IN 2020: “This year, I've learned a lot of new technical things about changing regulations and technology to make me a better advisor for my clients,” he says. “However, personally I've grown much more from participating in a program designed to help leaders be more inclusive and effective at managing diverse individuals and teams.” This program is called Inclusion 360.
 
Joe Turner
President and CEO, Great Southern Bank
Drake University, B.S. in business administration; University of Missouri–Columbia, J.D.
Joe Turner’s biggest mentor is his father, Bill Turner, who was also the person to convince Turner to leave the courtroom to join the banking world. The best piece of advice his father ever gave him was the importance of communicating with the people you work with. “He’s always said people are down on what they’re not up on,” Turner says.
NEW IN 2020: Great Southern Bank’s loan balances are up $307 million and the bank’s deposit balances are up $500 million. “The current environment continues to be challenging on both a personal and professional level, but our associates have shown their resilience, and I’m profoundly proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Turner says.
FOOD & BEVERAGE
Photo courtesy of Askinosie Chocolate
Shawn Askinosie
Founder and CEO, Askinosie Chocolate
University of Missouri–Columbia, B.A. in political science, J.D.
“I believe that life and business are all mixed up together.” Those are the words of Shawn Askinosie, former lawyer turned chocolatier. Since he founded Askinosie Chocolate in 2006, it’s easy to see how Askinosie has put those words into action. Askinosie Chocolate is known for building relationships with communities overseas from which it sources ingredients.
NEW IN 2020: Earlier this year Askinosie Chocolate helped fund a preschool in Mababu, Tanzania, which is where it sources some of its cocoa beans. This year, Shawn Askinosie also became a grandfather.
Photo by Brandon Alms
Lyle Foster
CEO, Big Momma’s Coffee and Espresso
Brown University, M.A. in sociology; Yale University, M.A. in religion; University of Missouri–Columbia, Ph.D. in educational leadership
In addition to operating his coffee shop, Lyle Foster is an assistant professor at Missouri State University, a community activist, and a newspaper writer for UniteNews Publication.
NEW IN 2020: Foster has added quite a few projects and titles to his resume this year. He joined Greene County in administering $34 million in federal CARES Act funding, and he is also moving forward with a soul food restaurant in Springfield called Queen City Soul Kitchen.
 
Sam Hamra
Founder and Former Chairman, Hamra Enterprises
University of Missouri–Columbia, B.S./B.A. in business administration, LL.B.
This year and last, Sam Hamra and his wife, June, worked with the Harmon-Meek Gallery in Naples, Florida, to donate more than 25 valuable paintings by well-known artists to local universities and colleges.
NEW IN 2020: One of Hamra’s biggest achievements this year was seeing the completion of The Kitchen, Inc.’s new Sam F. and June S. Hamra Family Support Services Building. This new building offers additional office space and allows The Kitchen, Inc. up to 25% growth.
Biz 417's B-School with Person of the Year Steve Edwards on December 10
 
Sally Hargis
Vice President/Chair of the Board, Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Co.
University of Missouri–Columbia, B.S. in home economics journalism
What was started by Edwin C. ‘Cookie’ Rice Sr. and a few other family members is now a major manufacturing enterprise run by his granddaughter, Sally Hargis, and her father, Edwin C. Rice Jr. This year, Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Co. hit a major milestone: The family legacy celebrated 100 years in business. “Working collaboratively with our leaders, we have continued doing business as part of essential infrastructure while still holding true to our vision and values,” Hargis says.
 
Andy Kuntz
President and CEO, Andy’s Frozen Custard
Though the business is named after him, Andy’s Frozen Custard actually got its start in Osage Beach when Andy’s parents, John and Carol Kuntz, began offering the treat more than 30 years ago. Now their son, Andy Kuntz, is at the helm of the business and oversees more than 85 locations spanning across 14 states.
NEW IN 2020: To wade through COVID-19, Andy’s Frozen Custard added painted cones to its walk-up windows marking six feet between each space and began bagging to-go orders. The company also began offering contactless payments through its app all in an effort to increase health and safety precautions. It also launched new items in its online store like hats, shirts, decals and more.
Photo by Vivian Wheeler
Jeff Schrag
Owner and Founder, Mother’s Brewing Co.
Publisher, The Daily Events
Kansas State University, B.S. in journalism and social sciences
Since opening up shop in 2011, Mother’s Brewing Company has become a beloved staple in southwest Missouri. When the brewery posted a candid call for help, the community stepped up. It’s safe to say that this year brought a lot of changes, including Jeff Schrag’s new taste in beer: “I have moved away from India Pale Ales as my beer style of choice and am now grabbing craft lagers.”
NEW IN 2020: This year, Mother’s Brewing Company launched its Mother’s Industry Support Fund that awards grants to people who lost their job due to COVID-19 or to local businesses in the hospitality industry.
James Tillman
Managing Member, First Watch
Ozarks Technical Community College
James Tillman’s life changed when he was told to “make money while he sleeps.” Though he had grown up in poverty and took a job at an early age, he earned his GED and went on to Ozarks Technical Community College. His first venture in real estate was buying and remodeling a mobile home and renting it to his brother. Today, Tillman is the managing member of more than 25 companies including hands on management of seven First Watch restaurants in Springfield, Joplin, Osage Beach and northwest Arkansas. To decompress, he visits his lake house near Table Rock Lake.
Health Care
 
Teresa Coyan
Vice President of Public Affairs, CoxHealth
Missouri State University, B.S. in business management; Webster University, MBA
Teresa Coyan is passionate about getting people engaged in local and state issues. During the last election cycle, Coyan decided to lead the charge that would make CoxHealth a Greene County polling site. For its first election, CoxHealth hosted over 1,000 voters in the November 2018 election. In addition to her role at CoxHealth, Coyan was appointed by Governor Michael Parson to serve on the Missouri Department of Health’s Mental Health Commission in 2019.
NEW IN 2020: This year, Coyan’s leadership continues: She led efforts that advocated for Missouri’s medicaid expansion and ensured CoxHealth would be a polling site throughout 2020.
 
C.J. Davis
President & CEO, Burrell Behavioral Health
Culver-Stockton College, B.A. in psychology; University of Central Missouri, M.A. in clinical and counseling psychology; Forest Institute of Professional Psychology, Psy.D. in clinical psychology
C.J. Davis’ 25-year career in the mental health industry has proved successful as Burrell Behavioral Health continues to see a 20% increase in services year over year. As COVID-19 has increased the need for access to mental health, C.J. Davis and his team at Burrell have delivered. This year, Burrell added a 24/7 Behavioral Crisis Center for psychiatric and addiction emergencies and began offering virtual services. This past year, the organization witnessed an increase in overall clients served, new clients served and number of employees.
“Steve
President and CEO, CoxHealth
Drury College (now Drury University), B.A. in political science; Washington University in St. Louis, Master of health care administration
For the past nine years, Steve Edwards has been CEO of CoxHealth. During his tenure, he oversaw the opening of dozens of clinics, as well as the opening of Cox Medical Center Branson and Cox Barton County Hospital in 2013 and 2018 respectively. This year he’s been a stalwart force during COVID-19. He left efforts to construct a 51-bed COVID ICU; he increased the hospital’s stockpile of N95 masks from 4,000 to 660,000 at press time. He’s coordinated response efforts alongside Mercy Springfield Communities, and he’s taken a public role alongside his Incident Command Team to increase education about the virus. He also avoided layoffs even while many hospitals let staff go. Read his full story here.
Biz 417's B-School with Person of the Year Steve Edwards on December 10
 
Brent Hubbard
President and COO, Mercy Hospitals Springfield Communities
Oklahoma State University, B.S. in management and marketing; Southwestern Oklahoma State University, MBA
Brent Hubbard is only 20 years into his career, yet he’s already taking the region by storm. Over four years ago, he became president and chief operating officer of Mercy Hospitals Springfield Communities and before that, he served in leadership roles with Mercy at Arkansas and at other health care institutes in Texas, Tennessee and Oklahoma. He also flexes his leadership abilities by serving on the board of directors for the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Council of Champions, and Missouri State University’s Jordan Valley Innovation Center and is a member of the Healthy Living Alliance Board.
 
Austin O’Reilly
Founder and CEO, Dynamic DNA Laboratories
Texas Christian University, M.A. in molecular biology
This year Dynamic DNA Laboratories made a name for itself by filling a critical need in the community: The lab began partnering with health institutions and operating as a high-capacity local test center for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The lab is led by Austin O’Reilly, who previously worked as a forensic DNA analyst processing crime scene evidence for a crime lab in southeast Florida, and then as a neuro-research scientist for the Center of Biomedical and Life Sciences at the Jordan Valley Innovation Center. These experiences prepared him for launching his own health and wellness genetic testing lab in 2015, which now specializes in molecular, cell and microbiology services.
Photo by Brandon Alms
Robin Trotman
Infectious Diseases Physician and Medical Director of Infection Prevention, CoxHealth
Wake Forest University, Fellowship, Infectious Disease
Dr. Robin Trotman has quickly become a local leader as southwest Missouri fights to control COVID-19. Trotman was one of seven doctors added to an advisory committee that updated Governor Michael Parson and state leaders about the current situation and potential vulnerabilities with the state’s health care system. In addition to his role with the state, Trotman has continued to be on the forefront of the COVID crisis by working with CoxHealth to advocate for interventions proven to reduce transmission of COVID-19 and has released videos about CoxHealth and the regional and national situation, as well as diagnostics and treatments.
Insurance
Tim Connell
Owner, Connell Insurance, Inc.
Reeds Spring Public School
This year Connell Insurance made numerous new hires including Nathan Connell, Mindy Teeter and Tara Newtown, but perhaps the most newsworthy were Jeff Seifried, who previously worked as the president and CEO of the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and CVB, and Randy Brashers, former president of ITEC Attractions. These new hires can be partly attributed to the success of Tim Connell, who is currently at the helm of the 50-year-old insurance firm. The secret to his success is beginning each day at 4 a.m. with an early-morning walk as he listens to motivational speakers.
Trevor Crist
CEO, Nixon & Lindstrom Insurance 
Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University), B.S. in communications
Trevor Crist joined the team at Nixon & Lindstrom Insurance in 2002 after making a cold call to President Luke Nixon regarding his interest in the insurance industry. Now he’s known as a local titan, but it’s his charity donations that are also making a big impact: He’s donated to two of his alma maters, Eugene Field Elementary and Missouri State University. Both donations have funded significant updates.
NEW IN 2020: Last year, Crist joined the board at Systematic Savings Bank, and this year he’s witnessing the growth firsthand. “Working with regulators to aggressively accomplish established benchmarks, Systematic Savings Bank had regulatory scrutiny lifted in early 2020,” Crist says. “These accomplishments allowed us to receive approval for a public offering and the current proxy vote process.”
 
Gordon Kinne
President, Med-Pay, Inc.
Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University), B.S. in political science
Gordon Kinne founded Med-Pay, Inc. less than a decade into his career, and now the business is a family affair: His son, Marshall, also works for the company as its director of compliance. As he’s continued to grow the company, he’s found that the best business motto is to let people make mistakes. “Allow for people to make mistakes and disappoint you, but be fair with them and give them another chance,” he says.
NEW IN 2020: This year, Kinne is serving Greene County as the CARES Act Relief Fund Advisory Council Chair.
Photo courtesy of Ollis Akers Arney
Richard Ollis
CEO, Ollis/Akers/Arney
City Council Member, City of Springfield
Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University), B.S. in finance
Richard Ollis lives for collaborating. As a member of City Council, Ollis has helped launch a Quality of Place initiative, which includes development projects like daylighting Jordan Creek, expanding the IDEA Commons and developing the Grant Avenue Parkway project. He also transitioned his workforce to working fully remote while serving clients without interruption. “Our biggest failure is failing to listen to all perspectives before developing/implementing a project,” he says.
NEW IN 2020: Ollis continued his mission to collaborate with as many groups as possible by getting elected to the Missouri Association of Independent Agents’ board of directors.
LAW
 
David Agee
Partner, Husch Blackwell LLP
Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University), B.A. in finance; University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law, J.D.
David Agee has spent a lifetime in law where he has worked as a partner of Husch Blackwell for more than 18 years and before that, Neale & Newman for 22 years. Though he has extensive experience, he still manages to find inspiration in the problems and puzzles he’s required to solve each and every day.
NEW IN 2020: Husch Blackwell transitioned its 18 office locations across the country to a fully virtual remote workforce in a three-day time period.
 
Crista Hogan
Executive Director, Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association
George Washington University, B.B.A. business economics and public policy; Tulsa University, J.D.
For the past 19 years, Crista Hogan has worked for the Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association, an organization that has been deeply rooted in southwest Missouri since 1903 and has more than 900 lawyer members.
NEW IN 2020: In response to CARES Act and CDC eviction moratoriums, Hogan has moderated a series of webinars to help Springfield landlords and community renter assistance agencies unravel legal issues.
Photo by Brandon Alms
Christa Moss
Assistant United States Attorney, United States Attorney’s Office
College of William and Mary, J.D.
Since graduating summa cum laude from Oral Roberts University in 2009, Christa Moss has fast-tracked to success. She started her career as an Assistant City Attorney for the City Attorney's Office in Kansas City, Missouri before moving to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she practiced civil defense litigation as an Associate Attorney at Latham, Wagner, Steele & Lehman P.C. In 2017, she and her family moved to Springfield, and in 2020, Moss was officially sworn into her current position where she defends the United States in civil litigation.
 
Randell Wallace
Partner in Charge, Kutak Rock LLP
Drury College (now Drury University), B.A. in business administration and political science; Vanderbilt University, J.D.
During his senior year at Drury University, Randell Wallace applied to multiple law schools and received an acceptance letter from Harvard Law School only to be informed that it was a mistake. “It taught me that events usually happen for a reason and will work out for the best if you simply allow them,” Wallace says.
NEW IN 2020: This year, Wallace is working toward closing a large merger and acquisition.
MANUFACTURING
 
Bobby Allison
Flunky, Custom Protein Corp.
Bobby Allison’s reach in the community extends far and wide and his charity efforts have deemed him a local philanthropist. He’s frequently supported Missouri State University and in 2016 was selected by the school’s board of governors to receive its annual Bronze Bear Award. He’s been a past board member of Care to Learn, and supported the Betty and Bobby Allison Ozarks Counseling Center as well as the Springfield-Greene County Park Board.
NEW IN 2020: This year, Sporting Springfield announced it’s beginning its first phase on its new training facility, a project that’s also been supported by Bobby Allison. According to a press release, the new facility will have 5-6 grass fields.
 
John Gentry
CEO and Chairman of the Board, Positronic Industries
Georgia Institute of Technology, B.S. in chemical engineering
According to his LinkedIn profile, John Gentry began his career with Positronic Industries in 1978. The company, according to its website, is a global manufacturer of highly reliable electronic connectors known for distinctive core capabilities. Gentry also serves on the board of trustees for Ozarks Technical Community College.
NEW IN 2020: In addition to transitioning some of its workforce to a remote format and limiting its travel, the company began releasing frequent webinars to continue to spread word about its products.
Apply Now for Biz 417's Best Places to Work Presented by Penmac Staffing
Photo by Brandon Alms
David Humphreys
President and CEO, TAMKO Building Products LLC
University of the South, B.A. in English; University of Miami, J.D.; New York University, LLM in taxation
David Humphreys is at the helm of Tamko Building Products LLC, one of the country’s largest independent manufacturers of residential and commercial roofing products. According to the company website, the business started in Joplin in 1944 and now has multiple locations across the United States. and employs thousands of people.
NEW IN 2020: According to a press release, the company “provided the roofing for the recently completed Schuber Mitchell Homes for Hope project in northwest Arkansas. The home was sold, and the profits go toward fighting global poverty by providing micro-loans to entrepreneurs in developing nations.”
 
David Moore
President and CEO, Paul Mueller Co.
Middlebury College, B.A. in physics; University of Chicago, MBA
Paul Mueller Co. was founded in 1940 and employs nearly 1,000 employees across the globe with operations in Osceola, Iowa, Groenlo, Netherlands, and Vietnam. The company is a family legacy run by David Moore, the grandson of original founder Paul Mueller.
NEW IN 2020: Under Moore’s leadership, Paul Mueller completed a large pharmaceutical project for a global provider of medicine. “We have adapted to changing market demands in the wake of a global pandemic and are in a hiring phase right now,” says Christine Daues, marketing strategy manager.
 
Joe Reynolds
President, Central States Industrial (CSI)
Missouri State University, B.S. in accounting
Soon after graduating from Missouri State University, Joe Reynolds joined the staff at CSI in 1992 before moving to Digital Monitoring Products, then back again. Throughout the years, he has encouraged the leadership team to review various books focused on business. One of these this year was The Sales Coach’s Playbook by Bill Bartlett.
NEW IN 2020: This past year the team made a few new hires to its business development team including Business Development Leaders Connor Menown and Casey Waters, Corey Vance and John Riley.
Photo by Brandon Alms
Jack Stack
President and CEO, SRC Holdings Corp.
Elmhurst College, B.S. in business
It’s no surprise that Jack Stack lives by the motto that “every failure sets you up for future success if you learn from it.” He and his partners turned what was once a failing business into a thriving local corporation using his open-book management style, The Great Game of Business. He’s used his time to mentor many business professionals in the community, including Biz 100 honorees Erlen Group’s John Griesemer and Springfield Little Theatre’s Beth Domann.
NEW IN 2020: This year SRC Holdings Corp. was awarded the 29th annual Txemi Cantera International Prize in Bilbao, Spain. It also welcomed Mike Kelley to its executive staff.
NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS
Amy Blansit
Photo courtesy Missouri State University
CEO and Founder, Drew Lewis Foundation, Inc., Solely Jolie and Blansit Investment Group, LLC; Instructor of Kinesiology, Missouri State University
Drury University, B.A. in exercise physiology; Adelphi University, M.A. in exercise physiology; A.T. Still University, Doctor of Health Sciences
Amy Blansit is a woman of many trades. She’s an instructor, philanthropist, entrepreneur and community leader, but that’s not to say she’s been without failure. Blansit attributes her layoff from Drury University as a catalyst for her success now, claiming the experience launched her career with Missouri State University and allowed her to dedicate time to develop the Drew Lewis Foundation. “It was the best thing that ever happened to me professionally.”
NEW IN 2020: This year the Drew Lewis Foundation has helped distribute $435,000 to help maintain stability in housing, utilities and employment, and food to more than 250 families in southwest Missouri struggling as a result of COVID-19.
 
Rob Blevins
Executive Director, Discovery Center of Springfield
Missouri State University, B.S. in professional/technical writing with a minor in business legal studies
Rob Blevins made history when he and his team kept the Discovery Center of Springfield open during the COVID-19 pandemic and turned the facility into a daycare. Prior to this year, one of the most defining moments of his career was in 2019 when NASA selected him for its NASA Social program and invited him to Kennedy Space Center to participate in the abort test for the Orion spacecraft—the very vessel that will soon return humans and take the very first woman to the moon and will one day take humans to Mars.
“Find the intersection of doing good and doing well: That's where you can find sustainable partnerships.”—Rob Blevins, Executive Director of The Discovery Center of Springfield
 
Hal Donaldson
President and CEO, Convoy of Hope
San Jose University, B.A. in journalism; Bethany University, B.A. in biblical studies
Journalist turned philanthropist Hal Donaldson decided he had seen enough suffering in the world when he decided to launch Convoy of Hope in 1994. The organization is a faith-based nonprofit that leads humanitarian initiatives across the United States and around the world. Donaldson says one of the most defining moments of his career was meeting with Mother Teresa in Kolkata, India.
NEW IN 2020: According to an October 6 press release, Convoy of Hope has distributed more than 125 million meals in response to COVID-19.
 
Brian Fogle
President and CEO, Community Foundation of the Ozarks
University of Mississippi, B.B.A., M.B.A.
Brian Fogle was a longtime banker before switching industries and joining Community Foundation of the Ozarks in 2008. The organization has grown under his leadership, especially this year when it launched the COVID-19 Response & Recovery Fund. The nonprofit made its first grants on April 1, and since then, it’s made more than $2.9 million in relief and recovery efforts in its 58-county footprint.
NEW IN 2020: Brain Fogle is known around town for still using a flip phone, though that soon could change. “I’ve actually thought about buying a smartphone in 2020. It is an unprecedented year,” he says.
Biz 417's B-School with Person of the Year Steve Edwards on December 10
Photo by Brandon Alms
Brandy Harris
CEO, Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield
Missouri State University, M.S. in early childhood education and family development
Drury University, B.A. in speech communication
Brandy Harris began her career at her alma mater, Hillcrest High School, before earning her first position with Boys & Girls Clubs in Lawrence, Kansas, in 2011. Since then, she moved back to Springfield to work at its local location as program director before moving up the ranks to her current position. Outside of work, she serves on the Mayor’s Commission for Children and is a member of the Cox Young Professionals Council and a Queen City Sertoma member. In the past year, Harris was named Captain Springfield and a CEO of the Year nominee by The Center for Nonprofit Leadership.
 
Francine Pratt
Executive Director, Missouri College Access Network Director, Prosper Springfield
University of Phoenix, B.S. in business management
Francine Pratt’s motto is “just do it,” and she definitely walks the talk. Last year, she attended the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s Community Leadership Visit to Lexington, Kentucky, where she got the idea for “Tough Talks,” a community collaborative that hosts events in order to ignite positive change. The first session was in October and focused on racial disparities. Pratt says the best advice she’s been given was to continue persevering, even when someone says no. “Repackage your presentation, stay consistent and be willing to crawl before you walk,” she says.
NEW IN 2020: One of her proudest accomplishments this year is helping Springfield complete 83% of the action items and endorsements from the Impacting Poverty Commission’s October 2015 Community Call to Action Report.
“Repackage your presentation, stay consistent and be willing to crawl before you walk.”—Francine Pratt, Executive Director of Prosper Springfield and the Missouri College Access Network
Toni Robinson
President, Springfield NAACP
Evangel University, B.A. in multimedia journalism
The death of Michael Brown in 2015 is what ignited Toni Robinson’s social justice career. While a student at Evangel University, Robinson engaged the institution in the 2015 MLK March. After that, Robinson connected with the Springfield NAACP and only a few years later, at age 25, Robinson was elected president. Robinson has continued advocating for the Black community but collaborating with the Springfield Police Department and City Manger Jason Gage to reduce the traffic stop disparity index, among other things. In addition to their day-time role, Robinson is a residential caregiver at the Arc of the Ozarks and has served the disability community for 7 years. They’re also currently studying for the LSAT and plans to attend law school next fall.
PUBLIC & ELECTED OFFICIALS
 
Roy Blunt
U.S. Senator for Missouri
Southwest Baptist University, B.A. in history; Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University), M.A. in history
History teacher turned public servant Roy Blunt was the first in his family to graduate college. After teaching, he worked as Greene County Clerk, and held numerous office positions before getting elected to the United States Senate in 2010.
NEW IN 2020: BAs Chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee that funds health and education programs, Sen. Blunt helped lead efforts to expand COVID-19 testing capacity and accelerate vaccine development.
Jason Gage
City Manager and CEO, City of Springfield
Missouri Southern State College, B.A. in political science, University of Missouri, M.A. in public administration
On August 1, 2018, Jason Gage became the City of Springfield’s 13th city manager. According to the City of Springfield’s website, Gage is responsible for approximately 2,300 full- and part-time employees, a $315 million annual budget, and $1.4 billion in assets.
NEW IN 2020: In June, Gage drafted a resolution to formally condemn the actions by police officers in Minneapolis that caused the death of George Floyd. “This resolution is very direct and on point, as intended,” Gage said in a press release. “It allows all of us to collectively be intentional with regard to our thoughts concerning this horrific incident and what that means for our community and organization.”
Gary Gibson
General Manager, City Utilities
Missouri University of Science and Technology, B.S. in mechanical engineering
As the man in charge of a community-owned utility company that serves 320 square miles and more than 118,000 customers, Gary Gibson’s advice to business owners is to give back to Springfield. After 28 years with City Utilities, Gibson was selected to fill the general manager seat last year. He also serves on the board of directors for the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce and formerly served as Chair of the Board for Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Ozarks.
“There is always more than one ‘right’ way to accomplish a goal.”—Gary Gibson, General Manager of City Utilities
Clay Goddard
Director, Springfield-Greene County Health Department
Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University), M.S. of public administration
What began as an internship in 1996 has turned into a 24-year career with the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, and out of all of those years, Clay Goddard’s most defining moment is working through COVID-19. “I've been in this business for 25 years, and I had hoped that my capstone would be the work we were doing around behavioral health and substance use or work we had planned on doing around early childhood and social determinants of health,” Goddard says. “Instead, I’ve become the local public health face for a global pandemic.”
 
Elijah Haahr
Speaker of the House, Missouri House of Representatives
Attorney, Kutak Rock LLP
Missouri Western State University, B.S. in History, B.S. in Government and Public Affairs; University of Missouri School of Law, J.D.
For the last eight years, Elijah Haahr has held office in the Missouri House of Representatives. During that time, he’s advocated for lower taxes and advanced transportation options. His work is getting noticed—he’s been featured by Forbes and The Wall Street Journal.
NEW IN 2020: Before there was a reported COVID-19 case in Missouri, Haahr created the Special Committee on Disease Control and Prevention as a proactive measure to keep state staff safe.
Photo by Harrison Sweazea
Lincoln Hough
Senator, Missouri Senate
Missouri State University, B.S. in political science
In addition to owning and operating Hough Cattle Company for the past 20 years, Hough has spent his career in the public eye. He was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in 2010 and served three terms before getting elected to the Missouri Senate. He’s a graduate of Hillcrest High School, and when he’s not working, he enjoys spending time outside fishing, hunting and boating.
NEW IN 2020: One of Lincoln Hough’s proudest accomplishments this year is working with fellow colleagues to secure funding for Launch, the online course program provided to school districts across the state through Springfield Public Schools.
Mary Kromrey
Executive Director, Ozark Greenways, Inc.
Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University), M.S. in health promotion and wellness management; Arkansas State University, B.S. in communications sciences and disorders
Mary Kromrey joined Ozark Greenways, Inc. in 2016, and a year later she was promoted to her current position. This past year was a major milestone for Ozark Greenways because it officially connected a now consecutive 7-mile stretch called the Fulbright Spring Greenway, which had been in the works for the past 17 years. The $500,000 project was once the site of a landfill and superfund site and is now the home of a beautiful mile-and-a-half stretch of paved trail for walkers, bikers and runners just north of Springfield.
 
Ken McClure
Mayor, City of Springfield
University of Missouri–Columbia, B.A. in history; Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University), M.A. in history
Ken McClure was a former city council member before getting elected as Springfield’s mayor in 2017. He was reelected in 2019, and plans to run for reelection in 2021. Throughout his tenure, he says he receives the most inspiration from other business owners as they continue to wade through uncertainties of the pandemic.
NEW IN 2020: McClure says one of the toughest moments of his career was when he issued the “stay-at-home” orders earlier this year. This year he was also awarded the 2020 Government Excellence Award from Missouri State Unviersity’s Board of Directors.
Abe McGull
City Council Member, City of Springfield
University of Missouri, J.D.; Southern University, M.A. in mass communications
Abe McGull was elected to represent Zone 2 on the City of Springfield’s City Council in 2019. He had previously served as the mayor of Pleasant Valley, Missouri, and is now an assistant United States attorney with the Department of Justice (DOJ). In 2009, the DOJ asked McGull to work as a Resident Legal Advisor (RLA) in Iraq. For 14 months, McGull served with distinction as the RLA in Kirkuk, Iraq. Upon completion of McGull’s DOJ tour, the United States Ambassador to Iraq, James P. Jeffrey, awarded him the Department of State Meritorious Honor Award for expeditionary diplomacy in a hostile and dangerous environment.
 
Matt Morrow
President and CEO, Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce
Southwest Baptist University, B.S. in communication, MBA
In the early days of his career, Matt Morrow was an award-winning small market radio broadcaster and station manager, and at one point he held a position with U.S. Senator John Ashcroft in Washington, D.C.
NEW IN 2020: The Chamber presented more than 14 virtual programs to support members and developed other original resources for the business community such as a Returning to Work Guide and an FAQ program and guide that helped hundreds of additional small businesses apply for grants from the Greene County CARES Act Relief Fund.
 
Governor, State of Missouri
Wheatland High School
As the 57th Governor of Missouri, Michael Parson is known throughout the state as a champion of infrastructure and workforce development. His career in public service began in the early 1990s when he was elected Polk County sheriff.
NEW IN 2020: This year, one of his proudest achievements was passing and signing into law HB 1511 and 1452, which allow license reciprocity for military spouses relocating to Missouri with their active-duty partners, and HB 66, which creates a Pretrial Witness Protection Fund.
 
Crystal Quade
District 132 Representative, Missouri House of Representatives
House Minority Floor Leader, 100th General Assembly
Missouri State University, B.S.W.
Before getting elected to public office in 2016, Quade worked in Springfield at Care to Learn. Locally, she is involved in the League of Women Voters of Southwest Missouri.
NEW IN 2020: Much of Quade’s platform focuses on affordable childcare, and one of her sponsored bills includes HB 1478, which makes changes to the Hand Up Program and is “intended to more effectively transition persons receiving state-funded child care subsidy benefits,” according to the Missouri House of Representatives website.
 
Tim Rosenbury
Director of Quality of Place Initiatives, City of Springfield
Mississippi State University, B.Arch
After 30-plus years with architectural firm BRP Architects, Tim Rosenbury shifted his career to start a new endeavor with the City of Springfield. His new role is focused on developing plans, policies and projects that achieve public placemaking excellence, raising the bar for capital projects and promoting placemaking to the development community. Within the first year, he and his team kicked off the Grant Avenue Parkway project, a $25 million redevelopment of Grant Avenue from Wonders of Wildlife to downtown. He also launched the first phase of the Jordan Creek Renewal, which is daylighting the creek, and continued to work with city leaders on developing Forward SGF.
RETAIL
 
Audrey Garard
Owner, Grooms Office Environments
Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University), B.S. in marketing, minor in sales and advertising
Audrey Garard’s career with Grooms Office Environments began two years after graduating from what is now Missouri State University when she joined the company as a sales representative for Springfield. She continued working her way up the career ladder as sales manager and chief operating officer before she and her husband, Jonathan, purchased the company from Olin Grooms. Her reach in the community includes a position on the advisory board for Care to Learn; she’s a board member of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce and she also volunteers at Safe to Sleep.
Apply Now for Biz 417's Best Places to Work Presented by Penmac Staffing
 
Johnny Morris
CEO and Founder, Bass Pro Shops
Drury College (now Drury University), Bachelor of Arts and Sciences in business
Johnny Morris already has an impressive portfolio between Top of the Rock, Big Cedar Lodge, Payne’s Valley Golf Course, Finley Farms and Dogwood Canyon. This year, he added one more project to his to-do list: He purchased “the former Dogpatch USA theme park property—a beautiful 400-acre natural setting, in northern Arkansas’ Newton County,” according to a company press release. Morris and his team are still in the early stages of development planning. “We are very excited to have the opportunity to restore, preserve and share this crown jewel of Arkansas and the Ozarks so everyone can further enjoy the wonderful region we call home,” Morris said in the release.
 
David O’Reilly
Chairman of the Board, O’Reilly Auto Parts
Drury College (now Drury University), B.A. in business and economics
What began as one store and 13 employees in 1957 is now a major auto parts retailer with more than 5,500 stores in 47 U.S. states and 21 stores in Mexico, according to the company’s website. At the helm is third generation David O’Reilly, who started working at the family business full-time in 1972.
NEW IN 2020: This year O’Reilly Auto Parts witnessed changing trends within its industry as a result of COVID-19. In a transcript from the Goldman Sachs Global Retail Conference, company leaders reported that the company saw its do-it-yourself business pick up after stimulus payments were made. The company’s leaders are quoted saying this was largely due to more people maintaining the vehicle they had rather than buying a new one.
 
Jeff Russell
President and CEO, Russell Cellular Inc.
Bruno Pyatt High School
Jeff Russell began selling Alltel Wireless phones from the trunk of his car after a career in turkey farming. Now Russell Cellular is one of the nation’s largest Verizon authorized retailers with more than 600 stores across 37 states. Jeff’s wife, Kym, is a co-founder of the business, and last year the family business grew to include their daughter, Layton Alsup. Now both of their children work alongside Russell in a leadership role.
NEW IN 2020: In the past year, the staff at Russell Cellular moved into their new 40,000-square-foot home office building, which allowed more than 100 corporate team members to work under one roof, which Russell says facilitates greater collaboration and bolsters the company’s family culture.
“Treat your business as a big business even when it’s small.”—Jeff Russell, President and CEO of Russell Cellular Inc.
 
Megan Stack
Foundation & Philanthropy Advisor, Bass Pro Shops
University of Colorado Boulder, B.A. in Sociology and Psychology, University of Washington Evans School, M.A. in Public Administration
Megan Stack is following in father and Biz 100 honoree Johnny Morris’ footsteps as she continues to develop Finley Farms. When complete, the property will include a restaurant, chapel, urban farm, coffee shop and more, some of which is already open.
NEW IN 2020: Though The Workshop at Finley Farms had to close for a couple months, it came back strong with new hours and a new menu featuring new toasts with tons of toppings like heirloom cherry tomatoes, basil mayo and marinated mushrooms.
TECHNOLOGY
Photo courtesy of Stephens Photography
Thomas Douglas
CEO, JMARK Business Solutions, Inc.
Bolivar High School
Thomas Douglas lives by the motto “level up,” and the phrase is a perfect fit. Douglas is at the helm of one of the fastest growing private companies in America, according to the Inc. 5000, and his business is focused on helping other companies adopt large-scale security protocols and implement efficient technology strategies.
NEW IN 2020: In addition to helping numerous companies transition to a work-from-home environment, the staff moved into their newly remodeled headquarters on East Republic Road in November.
 
David Foss
President and CEO, Jack Henry & Associates, Inc.
Minnesota State University Moorhead, B.S. in computer science
According to a January SEC filing from Jack Henry & Associates, Inc., David Foss entered into a retention agreement and received restricted stock units amounting to $4 million. The shares vest at 2021–2023 market prices. According to the SEC filing, “the retention agreement is intended to incentivize Mr. Foss to remain as the company’s chief executive officer and president through the vesting period of the RSUs and thereby ensure his continued employment as a key leader of the company.” David Foss joined Jack Henry & Associates, Inc. in 1999 and became president in 2014.
 
Doug Pitt
Founder and Co-Owner, Pitt Technology Group; Owner and Developer, Pitt Development Group LLC; Founder, Care to Learn
Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University), B.S. in communications
There’s no doubt that Doug Pitt is a businessman, but he’s also a philanthropist. In addition to founding Care to Learn, Pitt was the first ever Goodwill Ambassador for the United Republic of Tanzania. In the past, he’s served in local board positions including Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ozarks.
NEW IN 2020: This year Care to Learn and The Mystery Hour, hosted by Biz 100 honoree Jeff Houghton, teamed up to host a virtual fundraiser raised $43,000. Doug Pitt was one of the guest speakers of the show.
TRAVEL & TOURISM
 
Gordon Elliott
President and CEO, Elliott Lodging LTD.
Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University), B.S. in accounting
When Springfield Public Schools announced its reentry plan for the 2020-2021 school year, Gordon Elliott and his team began working with Biz 100 honoree Rob Blevins and the Springfield Discovery Center of Springfield. Elliott Lodging provided an off-site facility for a Learning Support Care program, which supports 300 students and holds 30 classes a week, according to a press release. Elliott Lodging also partnered with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks and Biz 100 honoree Brian Fogle to reduce the cost of enrollment.
Photo courtesy Silver Dollar City
Jack Herschend
Co-founder and Co-owner, Herschend Enterprises
Jack Herschend started Herschend Enterprises with his brother, Peter. For the first 50 years of the company’s history, he worked as its chairman, president and CEO, according to the company website. He continues to live with his wife, who he met at Silver Dollar City, in Branson surrounded by the natural environment he fell in love with years ago.
NEW IN 2020: This year, Jack Herschend and Silver Dollar City were mentioned in a National Geographic travel article. The story was written by a woman exploring her mother’s roots in the Ozarks and mentions the land that now houses the amusement park.
Photo courtesy of Silver Dollar City
Peter Herschend
Co-founder and Co-owner, Herschend Enterprises
University of Missouri–Columbia, B.S. in business
Peter Herschend worked alongside his brother, Jack, as the company’s executive vice president of marketing and as vice-chairman as per the company website. Peter was inducted into the Missouri Public Affairs Hall of Fame in 2018.
NEW IN 2020: Late last year, Herschend Family Enterprises announced it would operate and manage Callaway Resort & Gardens’ resort and garden operations in Pine Mountain, Georgia, and expand its operations.
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Mary Kellogg-Joslyn
President, Chief Operating Officer and Co-owner, Titanic Museum Attraction
Mary Kellogg-Joslyn's career has reached far and wide. Her resume includes experience working with The Walt Disney Co. and for CBS, each for 20 years, where she earned Emmy awards.
NEW IN 2020: Because of COVID-19, the teams in Tennessee and Branson couldn’t hold their usual annual memorial event on the anniversary of when the Titanic sank. Instead, the team switched to a virtual format, which included speeches from the descendants of some of the Titanic passengers.
 
Billy McQueary
Co-owner, Hotel Vandivort
William Jewell College, B.S. in computer science
Billy McQueary and his brother, John, both worked for McQueary Brothers Drug Co. downtown, and now the two siblings work alongside John’s wife, Karen, to operate Hotel Vandivort and its V2 expansion, which includes Vantage Rooftop Lounge & Conservatory. According to the company website, the two brothers wanted to give back to the downtown area that housed their previous family business for four generations.
NEW IN 2020: In July, Hotel Vandivort celebrated five years.
 
John McQueary
Co-owner, Hotel Vandivort
Missouri University of Science & Technology, B.S. in computer engineering
John McQueary likes to live by the words “make this a place you want to live,” so that’s what he and his wife, Karen, and his brother, Billy, decided to do by opening a boutique hotel in downtown Springfield. Before this endeavor, John worked as a programmer for his family’s business before it was acquired in 2008. The hotel and its operations are now downtown staples.
NEW IN 2020: Hotel Vandivort’s V2 expansion and Vantage Rooftop Lounge & Conservatory opened just a few months before the pandemic hit, making this year “a failure to learn from,” McQueary says. “It has caused us to operate more efficiently and find new sources of business, both of which we can carry past the current situation.”
 
Karen McQueary
Co-owner, Hotel Vandivort
Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University), BFA in public communications
Karen McQueary, and her husband, John, enjoy traveling, which is part of where the two got the idea for Hotel Vandivort. To research what they wanted, they “ate and drank and slept” their way through New York City to decide on what kind of guest experience they wanted to offer in Springfield. Karen continues to think of Hotel Vandivort, The Order and Vantage Rooftop Lounge & Conservatory from the guest perspective. She’s largely focused on interior design and guest experiences.
NEW IN 2020: In light of COVID-19, Karen, John and Billy McQueary brainstormed how to cater to the new needs of their customers. This year, they introduced touchless menus at Vantage Rooftop Lounge & Conservatory.
Photo by Amy Pennington
Tim O’Reilly
CEO, O’Reilly Hospitality Management, LLC
Westminster College, B.A. in economics with an emphasis in English and political science; University of Missouri–Kansas City, J.D.
Tim O’Reilly has had a career in law for 23 years in addition to leading O’Reilly Hospitality Management, LLC. He’s currently building BigShots Golf Entertainment Centers in Springfield & Fort Worth, Texas, with both slated to open in early 2021. This year he also joined the board of directors for Springfield First Community Bank.
NEW IN 2020: This year the company was approved to build The Moxy Hotel Springfield in the historic Medical Arts Building on South Street.
Photo courtesy Silver Dollar City
Brad Thomas
President, Silver Dollar City Attractions
Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University), B.S. in human resources and marketing, MBA
Brad Thomas’ 29-year career with Silver Dollar City would be incomplete without his biggest mentors Jack and Peter Herschend, who he says have forged a lasting culture based on loving coworkers and serving visitors. It’s evident Thomas takes this to heart, as he says his biggest inspiration comes from studying successful businesses whose culture comes from caring for and rewarding employees.
NEW IN 2020: The design team at Silver Dollar City successfully completed and opened Rivertown, which includes the $22 million Mystic River Falls, a $4 million barbecue restaurant and Cinnamon Bread Bakery. This year the park was also USA Today’s #1 Top Theme Park in the USA.
Photo by Lifetouch Photography
Craig Wescott
CEO and Co-owner, The Track Family Fun Parks
Baylor University, B.B.A. in accounting, M.B.A.
In 2016, Craig Wescott and his team changed the skyline of Branson when they purchased the former Navy Pier ferris wheel and brought it to Branson. Wescott added the wheel to the list of attractions within The Track Family Fun Parks, which was all in an effort to bring more joy to customers. “When I see families smiling and making memories with each other, that’s all the inspiration our team and I need to keep making our business better,” he says.
NEW IN 2020: In an effort focus more on family and his business, Craig Wescott retired from the Branson Board of Education after 10 years and finished his chairmanship of the board of directors for the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce & CVB.

Biz 417's B-School Featuring Person of the Year Steve Edwards

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Join us as our Person of the Year sits down for an in-person interview with Biz 417 Publisher Logan Aguirre during B-School presented by OTC Center for Workforce Development.

During the event, you'll learn how to leverage strategic goal setting for success and gain leadership advice as Edwards reflects on leading a health system of 12,000 employees through a pandemic and so much more. B-School is additionally sponsored by American National.

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