Three Springfield Leaders, Past and Present, Have a Conversation on Collaboration

Oct 9, 2019

Since the first Community Focus Report For Springfield/Greene County in 2004 and every edition since, Blue Ribbons have been awarded to the community for Continued Collaboration, and on this edition of KSMU’s Making a Difference, two former city officials and the head of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, share  memories and insights of Springfield Missouri as a collaborative community. 

This panel includes Former Springfield Mayor Tom Carlson, (1987-1993 & 2001-2009) former Springfield City manager Tom Finnie, (1990-2006) and Community Foundation of the Ozarks President Brian Fogle. Their Conversation on Collaboration was originally broadcast on KSMU, Wednesday, 9 October 2019, one day ahead of the release of the 2019 Community Focus Report for Springfield/Greene County.

Tom Carlson Served As Mayor Of Springfield From 1987-1993 and 2001-2009
Credit Tom Carlson

Now in its 15th year, The CFR is a biennial report card for SGF/Greene County, awarding Blue Ribbons and Red Flags to corresponding successes and continued challenges in the community.  The CFR is supported by a five member coalition which includes:  The Community Foundation of the Ozarks; The Jr. League of Springfield; The Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce; The Springfield/Greene County Library District; and United Way of The Ozarks.

“The first big opportunity I remember with collaboration, was back in the 80’s,” said former Mayor Tom Carlson.   “We formed a group called The Coalition of Area Labor Management.  It consisted of representatives from The Chamber, Labor, The City of Springfield, Missouri State University, and City Utilities.   It did a good job, and lots of people worked together.  Not too long after that, Jim Anderson (SGF Area Chamber of Commerce President 1998-2004) took the job. We just had the first capital improvement sales tax proposal defeated, and we were taken back behind the woodshed, so to speak,” he said. 

“We came up with a second proposal that Jim Anderson and Tom Finne helped us pass,”  says Carlson. “That was unusual in those days because the Chamber managed that election for the City, and we developed a definition of collaboration which I always liked:  That We Can Do Together What We Can’t Do Separately," Carlson said.   

“There’s kind of a spectrum of collaboration,” says former Springfield City Manager Tom Finnie.  “From the early start of a Kumbaya moment, to a full blown contractual partnership, which is a whole different animal and is just plain damn hard work, and real risky, as we all can vouch for,” Finnie said. 

“I think most of us would agree,” said Tom Finnie, “The first full blown partnership was the Public Private partnership that created the two industrial parks.  There were 5 organizations involved, but the Chamber, City Utilities and the City of Springfield, were the three keys," said Finnie. 

Tom Finnie: Springfield City Manager From 1990-2006
Credit Tom Finnie

“This was on the heels of Zenith, closing,” said CFO President Brian Fogle.  “We lost all those jobs, and there was a lot of courage from those leaders to step up and fund the industrial parks, and it turned out to be huge for us.  Not only did everybody get their money back, but it created thousands of jobs which endure today, I mean it’s full!  But it wasn’t without a lot of risk, and folks with a lot less courage wouldn’t have gone on with it,” he said. 

“To your point Brian,” said Carlson, “I studied Chinese in college, and the Chinese character for Crisis, is two symbols together.  They are Danger and Opportunity, and you think back about those days, if Zenith hadn’t closed and put 1,500 people out of work, I don’t know if there’d been the impetus in the community to take on that whole effort. That was certainly the precipitating effort, and luckily, it worked out,” Carlson said. 

“The other thing I think wouldn’t have happened without the Partnership Industrial Parks, and the whole success of that, was Vision 2020,” said CFO President Brian Fogle.  “That was our comprehensive plan that started in 1994, with City Council and others saying We Really Want Citizen Involvement Here, and that’s hard for elected officials to do, but they turned it over , and what came out of that transformed our community,” said Fogle. 

“Because of that, we have The Springfield Cardinals, Jordan Valley Park and a better Downtown,” says Brian Fogle.  “All of that came out of Vision 2020, and the other thing that came out of that was The Good Community, which endures to this day.  We get together every month and talk about how to do things better.  Again, that helps makes and preserves the culture of collaboration,” Fogle says.   

“I’m intrigued by this whole process,” says Tom Finnie.  “It seems to me the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, institutionalized the whole idea of collaboration.  This is something that goes on and on, so institutionalizing it is really important,” said Finnie. 

“I would add to that observation,” says Tom Carlson.  “Without that, you have the newcomers coming in that are trying to figure out how things work in this community, so it’s very important you do what Tom Finne is talking about here, and institutionalizing the process. Without those parameters in place, it would be very easy for things to disintegrate,” Carlson said. 

“There is a culture within the community now, including Leadership Springfield, which includes a session on How Springfield Works, and expectations of collaboration,” says Brian Fogle.  "The Community Focus Report, with its Blue Ribbons and Red Flags is something we talk about very openly, and I think what makes the CFR successful is, very deliberately, we’ve said this is going to be an unvarnished document that shows the good and the bad, and that’s what we’ve done since then,” Fogle said. 

Brian Fogle is the president of Community Foundation of the Ozarks.
Credit CFO / Submitted

“I think what has made the CFR work, is there are a lot of people who work on that,” says Brian Fogle.  “It’s a very collaborative document. Each area of focus has its own committee, they look at what’s going well, or not going well.  And then the five entities which put the CFR together, we’ve been partners since the beginning, and will continue to be partners.  So I think it does demonstrate collaboration in the community, even to put out the CFR, and I think why it continues today, fifteen years later, is because we all work together, hold each other accountable, and are very open and honest about what is going well and what is not going well, in our community,” Said Brian Fogle. 

The 2019 Community Focus Report will be released to the public at 9am Thursday, 10 October, inside the Springfield Art Museum. 

You can read the 2019 Community Focus Report by clicking here.