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Day in the Life with Raeanne Presley

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Branson Mayor Raeanne Presley is decked out in a bright yellow jacket on this Tuesday morning, and the color matches her cheerful disposition and the summer sunshine as temperatures rapidly move toward triple digits.

Her day kicks off with a meeting of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Team at 8:30 a.m. – just a few hours removed from a town hall marathon meeting about the proposed Branson Sports Entertainment Complex racetrack. She ducked out of that discussion at 11:45 p.m. with the morning in sight.

Presley is among a dozen people meeting at the Taney County Health Department to address alcohol and drug topics. She is an active participant in the meeting, asking several key questions and chiming in as the discussion progresses. Presley says leaders in Branson’s tourism-based economy like to focus on positives in the community, but the city faces the same challenges as other municipalities.

“We have social issues. We have poverty, and homelessness and drug abuse,” she says. “There’s no shame in any of those things, as long as you can show that you’re trying to address the issues.”

Before she leaves, Presley personally welcomes Michelle Eaton, a recovering addict, to the team. Presley then heads to the Branson Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau, where she drops off a folder and picks up a button-up Branson baseball jersey. She’ll don the jersey later in July to welcome visitors with the U.S. Sports Specialty Association’s 2011 World Series Fast Pitch Softball Championship and the Arkansas Society of Association Executives.

Presley takes the winding back roads to Highway 76 en route to the office of Branson Visitor TV, owned by Presley and her husband, Steve. Her role is primarily to weigh in on big-picture discussions and fiscal matters. Today, she’s meeting with Steve and their sons, Nick and John, who are video producers for the company. Daughter Sarah is at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn.

“This is the only way I get to see my children,” she jokes on the way in to the office.
Up for discussion today is Arkansas, and specifically, how featuring tourism destinations in that state might help entice regional visitors to Branson. “I don’t think anybody will go sideways if you talk about Eureka Springs, but you don’t want to go much farther,” she says.

Roughly half an hour later, Presley heads for her home, which is nestled behind her family’s Presley’s Country Jubilee theater on the Branson strip. She and Steve share a spacious personal office that’s divided into distinct his-and-hers sections. Presley takes the time to check a few e-mails – she gets about 100 a day, but probably 30 of them are what she calls “serious.”

Before long, it’s time to head to Buckingham’s Restaurant at the Clarion Hotel for a Branson Lakes Area Lodging Association luncheon. She seems to move effortlessly from task to task, reveling in the busy day.

Greeted by several lodging members, it takes a few minutes to work through the crowd. During the lunch, she gives a quick update of city news, telling the group that the latest retail tax collection figures are up 6.5 percent, bringing the annual volume 1 percent higher year-to-date through May, compared to 2010. Tourism tax, however, is down about 5 percent so far this year.

“That is the economic reality of where we are,” she says.

With a laugh, she deflects some good-natured ribbing because she and Steve are both wearing bright yellow at the luncheon, and later, she’s asked to draw two business cards for the door prizes.

“What, you want me to be Vanna White?” she jokes.

After lunch, Presley makes a quick stop at Ozark Mountain Bank, dropping off some paperwork for Alderman Mike Booth, senior vice president of lending at the bank, in preparation for the Board of Aldermen meeting that night.

Then she’s off to City Hall, where she talks briefly with Branson City Administrator Dean Kruithoff about the evening’s agenda. As mayor, Presley only votes when there are ties, but she wants to be ready to face any agenda items with an open mind. She also works hard to connect businesspeople throughout the community and this afternoon visits Salvation Army, where Maj. Robert Meyer, and his wife, Maj. Linda Meyer, are settling into their newest assignment with the organization. Presley suggests other groups they could partner with to help the less fortunate in Branson, and she invites them to a 50th anniversary celebration for Dick’s 5 & 10, noting that the Hartley family has long supported Salvation Army.

“Come out, and I’ll introduce you,” she says.

Presley heads home again, but doesn’t stay long, returning to Buckingham’s to help the CVB welcome a group of student music directors, and then making her way to City Hall for the 7 p.m. board meeting.

Among the items on the agenda, the board votes to spend $200,000 to buy the former Branson High School building downtown. The city has no immediate plans for the structure, but is pursuing redevelopment.

Presley says the city’s goal is to use the school in a way that will best benefit the neighborhood and the city as a whole. The meeting wraps at 10 p.m., and she heads home to work on payroll for the theater until about 1 a.m.

In just a few hours, she’ll be off and running all over again.

Second of four businesspeople to be featured in Springfield Business Journal's Day in the Life special series

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