The future of the local economy has been a hot topic in the community since the Army announced major job losses at Fort Leonard Wood occurring within the next fiscal year.

Editor's Note: This is the the part II of a series covering the Community Forum that took place Monday. 

The future of the local economy has been a hot topic in the community since the Army announced major job losses at Fort Leonard Wood occurring within the next fiscal year.

At Monday night's Community Forum, hosted by the Waynesville-St. Robert Chamber of Commerce, local leaders addressed the state of the local economy, anticipated changes, and plans for the future.

Pulaski County Presiding Commissioner Gene Newkirk, St. Robert Mayor George Sanders, Waynesville Mayor Luge Hardman, Maj. Gen. Leslie Smith, Command Sgt. Maj. Terrence Murphy, Waynesville R-VI School District Superintendent Judene Blackburn and Dorsey Newcomb of the Leonard Wood Institute and Sustainable Ozarks Partnership served as guest speakers for the event.

Waynesville-St. Robert Chamber of Commerce President Mike Dunbar hosted the forum and asked questions submitted by the public and the media.

What are community leaders doing to prepare for the future job loss on Fort Leonard Wood?

Fort Leonard Wood is expected to lose an estimated 1,000 military positions and 180 Army civilian jobs by fiscal year 2015.

Newcomb said that Sustainable Ozarks Partnership (SOP) is looking at opportunities to “diversify” the local economy.

“We are particularly interested in expanding the National Guard at Fort Leonard Wood and bringing more missions here,” Newcomb said. “That is something we have discussed.”

In March, Maj. Gen. Steven Danner, adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard, told Pulaski County Rotary members there are several ways to expand the Missouri National Guard at Fort Leonard Wood that would be cost efficient for the government and said he is working to bring more jobs to the area.

“We are also looking at other federal agencies that have talked about coming to Fort Leonard Wood,” Newcomb said.

Hardman said that the City of Waynesville has been anticipating job cuts for a few years now.

“We have been involved in SOP and the Joint Land Use Study — the things that make the story of Fort Leonard Wood a good story, “ she said. “The cities have worked hard over the last five years to improve the quality of life here. We want to be attractive to the Department of Defense. We need to seek new missions and we all know that.”

Newkirk said that the County Commission has a work force board set up to help people look for jobs and seek new careers. Newkirk also said that Pulaski County works closely with Meramec Regional Planning Commission to help bring jobs here.

Smith said that Fort Leonard Wood is holding quarterly job fairs to help those facing job losses find other careers. Smith also said that the community needs to do a better job of marketing the area to the thousands of people visiting for graduations on post.

“There are a number of people who come to Fort Leonard Wood for graduations and we need to leverage that,” he said. “ For those 200,000 people coming here, to convince them to stay another day. That is a narrative that we haven't done a great job of taking advantage of that opportunity.

Blackburn said the Waynesville School District is being more conservative with spending and watching the budget in anticipation of losing 400-700 students and 60-80 staff members in the next two years.

“We are being very diligent in not overspending as far as staff in the next year,” she said. “We are also being very diligent in servicing our debt.

Will new units be taking place of the units that are leaving?

Previously, the Army announced plans to deactivate the following Fort Leonard Wood units:

103rd Engineer Company 193rd Brigade Support Battalion 77th Engineer Company 94th Brigade Signal Company 156th Engineer Detachment 49th Engineer Detachment 94th Engineer Detachment 94th Engineer Battalion 4th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade HQ/ HHC Fort Leonard Wood will add 595th Engineer Company, according to a previous press release.

“In the short term, we are receiving one engineering company to replace those elements we are losing and we are looking at the Army National Guard bring additional capabilities here,” Smith said. “We are going to go through changes, we have to think about how we move forward and let's anticipate those changes and see where we have opportunities to grow from.”


Other Topics Discussed:


Will the panel members discuss the benefits, rewards, and drawbacks of combining the two cities?


“I will tell you that is a political hot potato and this girl will not be taking that on. I believe that both cities have our own identities, histories and cultures. We have taken on several initiatives throughout the last few years where we work together. George [Sanders] and I work very well together and that's how this is going to work. There are many twin cities throughout the country, we aren't a St. Paul - Minneapolis but we are Waynesville-St. Robert. “  -Waynesville Mayor Luge Hardman


“I think the two communities work well together. We work together on the youth programs and on a lot of activities. We help each other. This is a great community we have. We can work hand in hand and we don't have to join each other. -St. Robert Mayor George Sanders


Maj. Gen. Leslie Smith, do you intend on loosening day and night passes for trainees on Fort Leonard Wood?


“Night passes, no. Day passes, maybe. We have an obligation to cut back on sexual assault and sexual harassment. At stages, trainees are ready to have more day passes. We are looking at that as the weather breaks.” -Maj. Gen. Leslie Smith



Are there any updates on the roundabout on Route 66/ Highway 17 and T Highway?

“I'll remind the public that this plan includes a three-lane road from Ichord Avenue to Route 66 [in addition to the roundabout]. We have thousands of people who now live off of T-Highway. I am very convinced that this is a needed project. The engineers are out now and the engineering and land acquisition will take place this year.” Waynesville Mayor Luge Hardman



With a lack of ballfields in St. Robert and in Waynesville, youth programs are going to Rolla and Lebanon. Does this concern you? Are there plans to improve / increase our ballfields?


“Yes this concerns us because going outside of our area is dangerous, especially for the children. We have land available that we can do it and we are working on that and talking about that.” -St. Robert Mayor George Sanders


“In Waynesville, we are working on moving our ballfields to the Waynesville Middle School. We are going to make three or four new soccer fields in the lower area. The cities are working to make more land available for soccer and baseball.” Waynesville Mayor Luge Hardman