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Senator retires after half century of public service

Roy Blunt’s name now marks multiple edifices in Queen City

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U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, a Springfield resident who cut his teeth on politics when he was appointed Greene County Clerk in 1973 and rose through the ranks to become a two-term member of the Senate, officially leaves his legislative office at noon on Jan. 3.

Though the nameplate on his Russell Senate Office Building door in Washington, D.C., will soon be replaced, locally, Blunt’s moniker will be a lasting part of several institutions.

On Dec. 15, a new clinic of the Jordan Valley Community Health Center, located at West Grand Street and Kansas Expressway, was christened the Roy Blunt Center for Family Health and Wellness. The center will open Jan. 3 to serve women and children.

Blunt, who is 72, is a member of the Congressional Community Health Centers Caucus, through which he worked to reauthorize and increase mandatory funding for CHCs like Jordan Valley, including a $4 billion procurement plus $65 million in discretionary funding in fiscal 2022 nationwide. Missouri health centers receive about $120 million in federal grant funding to serve 600,000 patients per year, according to Blunt’s office.

On Dec. 16, two more buildings were dedicated in honor of Blunt. On the Missouri State University campus, Temple Hall, the home of MSU’s College of Natural and Applied Sciences, was renamed Roy Blunt Hall.

Blunt, who was president of Southwest Baptist University for four years prior to his first election to Congress in 1996, served as the top-ranking Republican on the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, which funds health and education programs.

A release from Blunt’s office said through that committee, he prioritized resources for MSU. These included funding for renovations to Temple Hall, research at the Jordan Valley Innovation Center focused on the development of new defense technologies, and upgrades to the West Plains campus science laboratory.

JVIC, which houses MSU’s Center for Applied Science and Engineering and private-sector research partnerships, was previously named for Blunt, who secured $4.4 million for its construction in 2006, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.

Also on Dec. 16, the main terminal of the Springfield-Branson National Airport was renamed the Roy Blunt Terminal.

Blunt, a member of the Senate Commerce and Appropriations committees, supported the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that was enacted in November 2021 and provided $25 billion over five years for airport projects around the country. In 2020, he helped to secure a $7 million Airport Improvement Program grant for the Springfield airport.

Where it started
Blunt rose through the ranks from his Greene County Clerk position – to which he was elected thrice and served 12 years – to become a two-term Missouri Secretary of State. His election to the post in 1984 marked the first time a Republican had held the office in five decades.

Blunt successfully ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1996, when he was elected to the 7th Congressional District for the first of seven consecutive terms. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010 and is now wrapping up his second term.

In his farewell remarks to the Senate on Dec. 6, Blunt recalled his start as a county official in the Show-Me State.

“Missouri is where the country comes together,” he said, noting the state is where North meets South and East meets West, and it includes the population center of the United States.

Blunt encouraged his colleagues from both sides of the aisle to likewise come together.

“Finding someone on the other side to work with sometimes produces the most lasting results,” he said.

He offered examples of numerous bills he worked on with colleagues from both parties in the House and the Senate.

“You don’t have to agree on everything to work together. You just have to agree on one thing,” he said.

He recalled his stints as chair of presidential inaugurations, once for President Donald Trump and once for President Joe Biden.

“The founders didn’t promise a perfect union; they were in that place pretty reasonable in their anticipation of what we could do and what we could be,” he said. “But they did promise a more perfect union, and that’s the effort we continue to be a part of.”

Business wins
In an interview with SBJ following the naming ceremony at the airport, Blunt cited workforce gains as his biggest achievement for the business community.

“Obviously, tax policy and trade policy have been things I’ve been very interested in, but also I’ve been trying to do things that keep our workforce ready for future jobs as well as capable in the jobs they currently have,” he said.

Blunt helped to secure a $21 million Department of Transportation BUILD grant for work on the Grant Avenue Parkway project that links Bass Pro Shops with downtown via a multimodal corridor. He advocated for the 2019 allocation in a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

In the fiscal 2022 budget, Blunt helped secure funding for opening college and career pathways for students, rural economic development, apprenticeships, veterans’ employment and training, community college and workforce training grants, and youth workforce training.

Blunt also cited successes in keeping the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency West headquarters in St. Louis and moving the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture to Kansas City from Washington, D.C.

He said he worked to keep the economic vitality of southwest Missouri strong through transportation improvements.

Blunt has also worked to provide funding for mental health care during his time in Congress.

Dee King, chief of staff for Burrell Behavioral Health, said Blunt has been instrumental in providing access to care as well as acceptance of people with mental health needs.

“You can’t compare his contributions to anybody else in modern history,” she said. “He leaves a legacy in the mental health realm that’s incomparable.”

Under Blunt’s chairmanship of the Senate appropriations subcommittee that funds Health and Human Services, Burrell received $541,000 to expand its substance abuse and mental health treatment services in 2018, at which time Blunt said increasing funding for opioid-related programs was one of his top priorities.

Airport ceremony
In his remarks at the airport dedication ceremony, Aviation Director Brian Weiler said Blunt was instrumental in securing the $11 million American Airlines maintenance facility that opened a year ago. It was a deal that almost fell through during the pandemic, Weiler said.

“Few people realize how close we came to losing that project,” he said, adding that Blunt made multiple phone calls to get it across the finish line.

Blunt also had a hand in funding the Ozarks Technical Community College air frame and power plant mechanic facility at the airport.

“We’ve all heard about the pilot shortage, but there’s just as much of a shortage of qualified aviation mechanics,” Weiler said.

The 30,000-square-foot facility is in final design and expected to open within a couple of years, he said.

Blunt’s own comments at the ceremony reflected his identity as both a senator and a Springfieldian as he stressed the importance of the airport to the economy, with the facility already topping the 1 million passenger mark in 2022, the third time in its history.

“That’s a good number for our community, and a number that will continue to grow,” he said.

He said an airport is the front door to a community, as it sets the stage for visitors’ experience in southwest Missouri.

“You need a new airport about every 50 years, and we’ll see how long it takes to decide they need a new name for the airport, but I’m delighted to be associated with it,” he said.


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