In April 2015, Karen Best struck a chord with Branson voters to defeat eight-year incumbent Mayor Raeanne Presley in a 55 percent-vote victory to lead the live entertainment capital of the world.
Perhaps unknown to some, Best brought worldly experience to the role.
Best visited Oxford, England, in 2003 to serve on the Oxford University Round Table, an international organization designed to promote education, art, science, religion and charity through a vast forum of government officials, business professionals, school, college and religious leaders, and attorneys.
“We started discussing social issues, political issues and cultural issues with participants around the world,” Best says. “I was proud, honored and humbled when the citizens of Branson recognized the same leadership attributes in my character, as had the organizers of the Round Table.”
As mayor of Branson, Best seeks to put her work as an ambassador to work.
Her mantras include the “three e’s” of economic diversity, environment and excellence, as well as her personal mission statement she abbreviates as HOPE for helping other people excel.
“Values drive the way we live, work and play in Branson, all of which reflect the character of this community as collaborators on a mission to champion faith, family, friends, flag and our future,” she says. “I believe in progress while preserving the legacy of this region, one that we are most fortunate to embrace.”
Best brings those ideals to her role in helping shape a city undergoing a rebranding of sorts.
More than $350 million in investments are said to be entering the Branson market, from entertainment projects like Fritz’s Adventure and Bigfoot on the Strip to improvement initiatives like the $80 million New Branson 76 project and work on its downtown infrastructure.
When she took over the mayor’s seat, Best said she worked to move the city into a more inclusive mode rather than an attitude of “you can’t do that here.”
“While I can’t take credit for all of the above, I hope I can say I had a strong role in turning Branson around and creating a culture of success,” she says. “I wanted the city staff to feel empowered to serve their customers, community members to feel welcomed to share their ideas and visitors to feel the Ozarks hospitality so they could create positive lifelong memories.”
Best, who also leads the Best Team at Keller Williams Tri-Lakes Realty, believes the turn toward a culture of excellence is the best move for Branson.
Her office continually looks for new ideas coming into the market with help from other stakeholders while maintaining the city’s core values and supporting a philosophy of hospitality, teamwork and customer service.
“I am an advocate of the economic needs of the community and am committed to identifying and evaluating opportunities that will carry Branson into the future, thereby creating a better place for current and future generations,” Best says. “Building and maintaining an economically diverse and sustainable community is a key priority.”