Invest in our children. Children are the future of our community, and we can’t take that for granted. Get involved. Support our public schools. Volunteer for Big Brothers, Big Sisters. Not all children are lucky enough to have a happy and healthy home life, but as a community we can fill in those gaps. Our collaborative and loving spirit is what makes Springfield great, and every child deserves a strong foundation.
Normalize mental health. On a plane, you have to put on your own oxygen mask before you can help others. Your mental health is the same way. Life can be tough and it’s OK to admit that. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Find a therapist you trust and talk to them about the good, the bad and the ugly. We all win when our community is happy and healthy.
Stop trying to impress anyone but your 10-year-old self. During my first campaign, I would turn on the TV and radio or open my mail and see unkind and untrue things about myself everywhere I looked. At first, it really bothered me and kept me up at night. Then I thought about 10-year-old Betsy, and about how proud she would be that I am fighting for a better Missouri. I promised myself that night to stop worrying about what other people think and to focus only on making the little girl who believed in a loving world proud.
Love Springfield, and scream it from the (Vantage) rooftops. Springfield is the best place to live! I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I choose to live in Springfield and will do so for the rest of my life. I’m proud to call it home. Support our local businesses and the people and places that make Springfield unique. My hope is that everyone can find the same joy in Springfield that I have found. I want everyone to know the Springfield that I know: a Springfield that is loving, welcoming and supportive.
There’s always room for compassion (and coffee!). You are never too busy to be nice. You are never too busy to sit down over a cup of coffee and build relationships with the people who share your community with you. No matter what your job title is, you should enter into each interaction with the compassion it deserves. Job titles change, income levels fluctuate and friends come and go. You know what never leaves? The little voice in your head asking yourself if you have led your life with compassion and empathy.
Don’t be afraid to poke the bear. Change doesn’t happen on its own. Sometimes it requires discomfort, friction and gentle and not-so-gentle nudging. If you are met with roadblocks, don’t quit. Most of my accomplishments in life have come after people telling me, “You’ll never be able to pull that off.” Prove them wrong.
Hold your elected officials accountable, and run for something. There are so many decisions that impact your day-to-day life being made by people in city hall, Jefferson City and Washington, D.C. No one knows your community better than you do, so hold your elected officials accountable, ask a lot of questions and pay attention to the laws being passed on your behalf. Ask yourself, “Does this person represent my Springfield?” If not, don’t be afraid to put your name on the ballot and do it yourself.
Your budget is a moral document. Where you put your money matters. If you are a CEO, pay your workers well knowing that they are the backbone of your business. When your family is Christmas shopping, consider spending your money at locally owned businesses instead of large corporations headquartered in other states. These decisions add up and can be the difference between a small business thriving or having to shut its doors.
Enjoy and preserve the Ozarks. We are so fortunate to live near so many lakes, rivers, caves and trails. Go out and enjoy them and do your part to preserve them. Put down your phone, stop checking emails, grab your family and friends, and hit one of the beautiful hikes or floats at your fingertips. There is no pride in overworking yourself. Take time to enjoy the beauty around us.
You are not an island. The last year and half living through a global pandemic has shown us how interconnected we are. What happens to one of us happens to all of us. We need to care about the issues that impact our community because one day those issues will impact you. Crime, poverty, mental health, public health and education are all community issues that require a community-driven response.
Read the profiles of this year's honorees.