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2018 Men of the Year: Harold Bengsch

Greene County Commission

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A saying that has adorned Harold Bengsch’s office door throughout his career serves as his guide in life and business: “There is no limit as to what can be accomplished when it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.”

That motto is evident throughout Bengsch’s 45 years in public health and 14 years as an elected official. He’s currently a Greene County commissioner.

Bengsch’s leadership helped establish the Jordan Valley Community Health Center, the Child Advocacy Center and the joining of the county and city health departments.

He says he serves on no less than 26 state and community boards and committees at any given time. And the 83-year-old is showing no signs of slowing down. He is one of the founding members of the Community Mental Health Alliance which debuted in May.

After serving two decades as the director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, Bengsch filed for a seat on the county commission two days after retiring in 2004. He’s now serving his fourth term in office.

During his decades long tenure at the health department, he says his greatest accomplishment was establishing the Jordan Valley clinic. But, true to his motto, he says he didn’t do it alone, citing a partnership between the medical and business communities.

Bengsch says “the critical nature of what was at stake in the form of acute community need” and the “unbelievable, intense community collaboration, without which the project would have never occurred” are the factors that make this his proudest accomplishment.

According to those who know him, it’s rare to hear Bengsch boast about his accomplishments. 

“That’s Harold – quietly and humbly making Springfield better for many, many decades,” says Brian Fogle, president of Community Foundation of the Ozarks.

Bengsch grew up on a grain and dairy farm in Christian County. He began his education at a one-room schoolhouse and went on to receive his bachelor’s degree in agricultural science from Missouri State University and a master’s in public health science from University of Missouri.

Bengsch has chaired the Missouri State Board of Health and served as president of the Missouri Milk, Food and Environmental Health Association, as well as the International Association for Food Protection. In 2001, he received the Missourian Award, and in 2004, he was honored by MSU with an honorary doctorate of public affairs.

“Wherever there is a positive change and advancement, especially on public health issues, Harold’s fingerprints are there,” Fogle adds.

He cites Bengsch’s leadership in the 1980s during the AIDS epidemic as an example of his servant leadership. “Before we understood the cause and cost of AIDS, there was a stigma associated with the disease,” he says. “As the director of our Health Department, Harold may have been the only person in our community who could address such a controversial topic for what it was: a public health issue.”

Bengsch says “influencing and helping others to achieve their capacity of personal attainment and success is the highest level of satisfaction one can enjoy.”

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