Local officials weigh in on Obama visit

Written by Muleskinner Staff

Reporting by ANDY LYONS
(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) – Warrensburg has been buzzing this week as city and University of Central Missouri officials make preparations for President Barack Obama’s visit. As UCM staff readied the Student Recreation and Wellness Center this afternoon for the speech, city officials were doing their part to prepare.
“We are pulling out the red carpet to welcome the president; the community is supportive and excited about the visit,” said City Manager Paula Hertwig-Hopkins. “There is preparation going on for this event on multiple levels. A lot of work is in place to show the hospitality and warmth the community has to offer.”
Just like the university and the rest of Warrensburg, Mike Watts, president of the Johnson County Democrats, received word of the visit late in the week, making it tough to get things organized, but the group has been working to make their presence known. Watts said they will be having a celebratory dinner, and he has been encouraging local Democrats to buy JoCo Democrat T-shirts to identify themselves.
“We’re just excited right now; all of our plans aren’t set. All the information dumped in our lap Sunday,” he said. “We’ve had to switch some plans. We were going to do an outreach to get more county Democrats to go, but with the smaller venue we’ve had to adapt.
“We’re getting our base together and rallied, and we’re excited not only for the president but for the governor as well.”
The Johnson County Republican Committee, which represents the political views of the majority of Warrensburg residents, see Obama’s visit as a good thing for the town.
“It’s an honor for the university and a great thing for the community,” said Violet Corbett, chair of the committee.
Corbett declined to comment further, citing that she did not want to speak on the views of the president.
Not only do residents have opinions on the upcoming visit, but so do local political figures.
“It’s great news,” said state Sen. David Pearce, of Warrensburg. “When you have a president of the United States come to your community, it’s great news. It speaks well of our university and community.”
“I welcome President Obama to Missouri’s Fourth Congressional District,” said U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler in a statement from her office. “I hope that during his brief stay he will take the time to see the important military assets at Whiteman Air Force Base and visit with the citizens to hear their ideas on how to get the economy moving. The hard-working families of Missouri’s Fourth District are leading the way with a dedication to education, work ethic, entrepreneurship and common sense.”
Since Warrensburg is a predominately Republican area, it’s easy to assume that local politicians may not be on the same page as their Democratic president. However, several still see this as an opportunity.
“To me it’s very similar to when the governor comes to Warrensburg; it’s always good news,” Pearce said. “I don’t always agree with them, but it’s positive for the community. I assume the president is coming to highlight UCM and the Innovation Campus. We’re getting validation by the president of the United States to recognize the good things going on.”
And while some see party lines associated with this visit, UCM President Charles Ambrose doesn’t see it that way.
“College presidents are not red or blue,” he said. “We have had great support from all of our elected officials with the university’s initiatives that have made tomorrow possible. We are grateful for all of those who invest and support higher education because we know that our future is dependent on it.”
Many Warrensburg residents and members of the UCM community are excited and eager to hear Obama speak in their hometown about the economy and the Missouri Innovation Campus, but there is probably no one prouder about this opportunity than Ambrose.
“There is no adequate way for me to express the appreciation held for this campus, our faculty, staff and students for our collective commitment to students and their success, to service and our ability to work with others to meet the needs of those we serve, and to innovation and creativity that allows us not only to think about what we do best but how we will learn and teach in the future,” he said.
“This visit is a celebration of this community and an historic way to appreciate all those things that are best about this place, our purpose, and the people of UCM.”
Obama’s speech, which will focus on the economy, will take place in the large court area on the lower south part of the UCM recreation center, which is located at 500 S. Maguire St. Doors open at 1:45 p.m. and the speech is scheduled to start at 4:05 p.m. Tickets from Monday’s distribution are required for entry.
For security reasons, attendees are asked to not bring bags and limit personal items. No signs or banners will be permitted. All attendees will go through airport-like security.
Those attending are encouraged to park in lots 60 and 62, located east of Ellis Hall, 310 Christopher St. Parking is also available in lots 10, 29, 30 68, 32, 28, 11 and 50, which are near the James C. Kirkpatrick Library. Parking for the event is free.
A free shuttle will be available for those attending. Pickup locations will be at the east side of the JCK Library, the west side of the library and on the east side of Ellis Hall.
For those unable to attend the speech, there will be a live stream of the event in the Elliott Union rooms 236 and 238, as well as a live web stream via the UCM Media Network. digitalBURG will also be live tweeting the event. Follow the speech, and more via Twitter using #POTUSatUCM.
The buildings on campus that will be closed Wednesday are Lovinger, the Art Building, Art Annex, Wood, Martin, Humphreys, the Chapel, Diemer Residence Hall, Ellis Residence Hall (after noon) and Max B. Swisher Skyhaven Airport.