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SBJ photo by McKenzie Robinson

Editor's Note: These 12 People put change to work

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What a year it’s been. I’m a little lost for words.

I know Merriam Webster’s word of the year was pandemic and rightly so. But the word I’m stuck on is change.

With so many changes around us, one thing has not changed: our commitment to the 12 People You Need to Know editorial series. It’s back for a 14th year.

Sure, there’s been changes in the format – from a live interview over breakfast to livestreaming over Zoom and Facebook. We quickly made the change to a virtual event with the March 2020 interview with Toni Robinson of NAACP Springfield. A handful of us met in Springfield Business Journal’s office to put on the event for the virtual viewing audience. I’ll never forget that interview. Just me and Toni in front of a camera phone – run by SBJ Features Editor Christine Temple – instead of being in front of a live audience upwards of 100 people. It was monumental. SBJ leadership, along with those at annual event sponsor Arvest Bank, made the move days before stay-at-home orders were enacted in the city.

The very next month, we shifted to the Zoom/Facebook Live interview format with state Sen. Lincoln Hough – and haven’t looked back.

Naturally, the COVID-19 pandemic influenced our editors’ selections for the 2021 interview series.

Three are directly connected to COVID-19 work as leaders in health care and public health. And a fourth, Dr. Garima Singh, is in mental health, which emerged to no longer be a taboo topic – one of the positive outcomes of 2020.

Springfield-Greene County Health Department Director Clay Goddard has been front and center with information, and sometimes pleas, to steer the community in directions best for all. It’s safe to say he’s shouldered the stress of an entire city and county – in an utmost professional way.

Goddard told us in an interview just a few months before we came to know this coronavirus that a good day in public health is when nothing happens. Those have been scarce, yet Goddard was the right person for the job.

CoxHealth infectious disease specialist Dr. Robin Trotman became a trusted name as he worked on Gov. Mike Parson’s COVID-19 advisory panel. And think about this: Craig McCoy of Mercy moves to a new city to head the 9,200-employee health system just six weeks before Springfield’s stay-at-home orders. Talk about no time to adjust.

I look forward to hearing the stories of how they pushed through and what they’re dealing with throughout the year.

Also health related is John Lopez and his medical marijuana businesses. He won the race to become the first dispensary open in Springfield but also created niche businesses in cannabis security and to market the legalized weed statewide.

How about Betsy Fogle making waves to become only the second Democrat currently representing southwest Missouri? And she did it in recount fashion.

Then there’s commercial real estate broker Tom Rankin snagging Amazon for a distribution center in Republic. Might be the biggest business news of the year.

These 12 People have stories worth telling. I’ll leave the rest to your reading in these pages and tuning in to the livestreams.

But who knows, there may be more change in 2021 – like returning to in-person interviews over breakfast.

Springfield Business Journal Editorial Director Eric Olson can be reached at


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