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Photo Essay: My Day with Rita Baron

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Rita Baron was crossing back and forth across Springfield on June 11, which is probably nothing new for the principal of Baron Design & Associates LLC. My day with Baron, part of Springfield Business Journal’s annual Day in the Life series, was certainly not one spent hanging around her architecture office.

She did put in a midmorning appearance at the office for a staff meeting, but was off and running for much of the rest of the workday. That included a walkthrough of OakStar Bank’s new operations center in Chesterfield Village, followed by an afternoon visit to Forest Trails, a subdivision she’s co-developing. Her role as chairwoman of Drury University’s Board of Trustees brought her on campus for a late-afternoon meeting that helped provide a taste of the variety of professional hats Baron wears on any given day. Read the full story.

At her office, Baron reflects on starting her firm 15 years ago – a move she says was motivated by fear that no one would hire a seven-month pregnant woman for a new job. “I had to bite the bullet and say I’m going to take the risk. Looking back, it was worth it,” she says. “No regrets.”

While walking through OakStar’s operations center, for which her firm served as project architect, Baron and co-worker Tricia Berry take a few moments for fresh air on one of the roof access areas for bank employees.

Baron speaks with pride about her firm’s staff, several of whom have been with her since the beginning in 2003. Co-workers Zach Spoering and Cecily Laney even graduated with her in 1999 from Drury University.

She also is fascinated with OakStar’s adjustable desks from Grooms Office Environments, continually raising and lowering them. In one of the offices, she chats with SBJ photographer Jessica Rosa, who I learned is no stranger to photographing Baron. Rosa has known Baron for years, having taken portraits of her, husband Keesag and daughters Zomor and Zabelle.

On the other side of town, Baron checks in on her development at Forest Trails subdivision east of Hickory Hills Country Club. Only a couple of houses are complete and occupied, but she’s sold 15 lots so far. She inquires – perhaps jokingly – if I’m interested in one. Most of the houses are 4,000-6,000 square feet, she says, which I can safely note is significantly bigger than my needs at this time. Maybe someday.

Her meeting at Drury University gives me the opportunity to visit my alma mater – always an enjoyable experience – and to check out President Tim Cloyd’s office in Burnham Hall for the first time. A vivid, wall-sized painting of John Lennon is impossible to miss, and there’s a cool melted clock that sits mere feet away from the desk where he, his executive assistant Bonnie Wilcox and Baron met that day to discuss board business.

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