Often when there’s a change in leadership, you’ll hear the term, “There’s a new sheriff in town.” With the resignation of Gov. Greitens and the beginning of the Parson administration, it’s true both literally and figuratively. Before he was lieutenant governor, and before his service as member of the Missouri General Assembly in the House and then the Senate, Gov. Parson was the Polk County Sheriff.
Earlier this week, Parson embarked on a statewide listening tour. By all accounts, he did a lot of listening. He also began to identify policy areas where a Parson administration will differ from his predecessor.
Policy aside, Parson has — through his actions, statements and personality — significantly changed the tone in Jefferson City and throughout the state. He has increased the transparency of the office while beginning to reestablish ties between the executive branch and stakeholders. He’s open, engaged in governing and ready to listen. He’s speaking to the leadership of both parties and meeting with our congressional delegation. He got high marks for his visit to Kansas City where he agreed to spend a day reviewing the city’s challenges. And, he included a revealing caveat — he’d like Mayor Sly James to promise to visit rural Missouri.
From his comments on the tour, it’s abundantly clear that the new governor is concerned about infrastructure, strengthening rural communities and workforce development. Throughout his nine stops, these issues were omnipresent. In addition, it seems Parson understands that health care jobs are an essential part of the state’s workforce challenge, in general, and in rural areas in particular. He singled out shortages in behavioral health workers as particularly acute.
Although Parson made significant changes in the governor’s office staff, he has retained the state’s agency heads. This should provide stability and continuity while he develops his own agenda for the path forward. For stakeholders — including hospitals — this means that the partnerships with state government leaders can continue while the governor defines his priorities.
Time will tell whether Parson can deliver on his developing agenda. However, the best way forward for Missouri is to empower leaders who are comfortable opening a dialogue. Although it’s impossible to judge a governor’s success on the first two weeks, Parson is positioning himself to be transparent and willing to find consensus.
In his address to the General Assembly, Parson said, “I promise that the welfare of the people will be my guiding principle and sole consideration.” There was an echo of Sheriff Parson in those words. His challenges are real. However, if he can stay true to his guiding principle, Missouri will be much better for his tenure.
Send me a note to let me know what you’re thinking.
Herb B. Kuhn
MHA President and CEO
June 11, 2018
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Consider This ...
While the percentage of U.S. high school students who report using select illicit drugs (defined as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, inhalants, hallucinogens or ecstasy) is down from 23 percent in 2007 to 14 percent in 2017, nearly one in seven students report misusing prescription opioids.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention