Skip to content

St. Francois County Mayors Tout Progress

Sending many thanks to each of the Mayors in St. Francois County for participating in last week's State of the County Address at Mineral Area College!

We appreciate each of you for updating us on the great things happening in each of your cities!

The State of the County Address is held annually on President's Day at Mineral Area College and is hosted by the Park Hills - Leadington Chamber of Commerce, Desloge, MO Chamber of Commerce, Bonne Terre Chamber of Commerce, Farmington Regional Chamber of Commerce, & Bismarck Chamber of Commerce 2023. The event features updates from MAC, each community's Mayor, and the county's Presiding Commissioner.

St. Francois County Mayors Tout Progress
Article Credit: Kevin Jenkins, The Daily Journal
Photo Credit: Kevin Jenkins

Due to the quantity of information shared by officials during Monday’s State of St. Francois County address at Mineral Area College, we are presenting the second in a series of three articles. The first, published Thursday, provided an overview of Mineral Area College. The following report provides summaries from city mayors. The weekend edition will feature the report from the presiding county commissioner. — Editorial Staff

About 120 community leaders from across St. Francois County gathered Monday morning in Mineral Area College’s Fine Arts Theater to hear the annual State of the County Address. The event was sponsored by state representatives Mike Henderson and Dale Wright, and presented by the Farmington Regional Chamber of Commerce, as well as the chambers of commerce for Bismarck, Bonne Terre, Desloge, and Park Hills-Leadington.

Seth Radford, Bismarck mayor; Erik Schonhardt, Bonne Terre mayor; David Shaw, Desloge mayor; Larry Forsythe, Farmington mayor; and Stacey Easter, Park Hills mayor provided the following summaries regarding their respective towns.
Mayor Seth Radford, Bismarck
Radford thanked everyone for the opportunity to share Bismarck’s news and noted it was the first time the city had been included in the annual event. said. “We’re a strong and thriving community. We’re getting better every day. I hope to not be a reactive community, be a more proactive community as we’ve always been in the past,” he said, adding that the reprised Chamber of Commerce is aiding the city’s progress.

Radford reported the city has seen strong business growth of “about 100%.
“We’re updating our downtown — our East Main Street has really come around. This has been a very integrated process. I’ve picked a lot of brains. I’ve worked with [former Desloge mayor and now County Commissioner David Kater] when he was the mayor. I’ve worked with [County Clerk Kevin Engler] and [Presiding Commissioner Harold Gallaher], all of them. I’ve worked with them and picked their brains.”
Radford took a few moments to talk about the town’s history and its pride in being a part of St. Francois County.
“You notice I wear bibs,” he said. “...We’re embedded rich in the train companies, Missouri Pacific, Union Pacific. We have a big history over there of trains and the facilities for the trains, and we’re very proud of that. We have the only active depot in this county... We preserve our old depot, which is going to slowly transition into a historical site — and we’re going to keep it as registered as a historical site. We’re slowly getting it upgraded for more of a museum-type place over time.
Radford said Bismarck is interested in promoting other communities, as their success is Bismarck’s success. “
“Our citizens over there promote the Pumpkin Fest in Caledonia. We promote the Labor Day Picnic in Desloge and Country Days over in Farmington, of course. We promote all the events. We definitely extend an invitation to all of our citizens to come out to promote your events, and we’re excited,” he said. “We want to become an event holder of our own, and that’s what we’ve been working on.”
Focusing on positive changes underway in his hometown, Radford said the council is working on ordinances, is reprising the Planning and Zoning Commission, and is working to remove derelict buildings around town.
“And we’ve improved our treatment plant facility. It’s a $5.5 million treatment plant facility,” he said. “We built one big enough to where, if we want to, we can extend out into the county and help treat county wastewater projects. And we’re working on upgrading our water facility so that way we can offer high-quality water to anybody in the county and the local area. We serve several citizens that are actually outside of the city. We’re starting to pick up several more at a downtime.”
Radford invited the crowd to visit.
“If anybody’s been through Bismarck within the last 10 years and hasn’t been back in the last year, go down Main Street... because it is a phenomenal difference,” he said. “We’ve got our airport, that was pretty much closed, up and running again, and we’re pushing now for aviation. Our airport manager, Justin Kitchell, is in attendance with us today... We have our chamber president, Brad (Brown). He’s always willing to reach out and pick ideas out from the other chambers — any ideas. We are open for ideas at all times. So, anytime anybody wants to come out, we invite all the dignitaries.”
Mayor Erik Schonhardt, Bonne Terre
“For those of you who don’t know me, I became the mayor about 10 months ago after Brandon Hubbard moved out of the city limits,” Schonhardt said. “I’ve been a teacher at North County for 22 years, where I teach criminal justice and government... I’ve only been given five minutes, so I can’t tell you about everything that’s been going on in Bonne Terre, so I’m just gonna jump right in with some of the highlights.

“Bonne Terre had some really high-highs and a really low-low this past year. The highs we have had are similar to the highs the other cities in the county are experiencing, and I’m excited as mayor to see the other towns making progress just like we are. The low we have had, I wish upon no one. On March 17th, 2022, patrolman Lane Burns was killed in the line of duty. Also, during the shootout, Corporal Garrett Worley was critically wounded while protecting our city. Heroes from around the county immediately descended upon the scene. I would personally like to thank Dustin Cash of the Desloge Police Department for responding so quickly to save the life of one of our officers and the paramedics and hospital personnel who helped. These and all the other departments who rushed to the scene are heroes not only to me but to the entire city.”
Schonhardt discussed the new 1-cent sales tax, which the city is funneling to public safety. He noted the city increased officer pay, adopted a salary schedule and is buying crucial equipment for the fire department.
Schonhardt said recent grants have funded many improvements.
“One of the best things that’s happened for the city of Bonne Terre in this past year is that we have been awarded over $1 million in grants to improve our city,” he said. “This has never happened before, and it’s going to be fantastic to see all these results. Let me run through this list for you. We received a federal grant to help repave some of our major streets in town, including Division, Branch, Summit, and Longstreet. We received two grants from the Department of Conservation to improve Bonne Terre Lake. We were able to replace an aging dock, and by the end of the year, we will have completely redone the walking path around the pond. A beautiful, wide, concrete path will replace the aging one we currently have. We received a TAP grant to upgrade our sidewalks and lighting in our downtown area to revitalize it.
“Our police department received a grant for the purchase of ballistic vests for our officers. We’re awaiting word on a couple of other grants for our police and fire departments, and we’re optimistic about getting those. Much of this would not be possible without the passage of our city’s property tax that occurred a couple of years ago. We promised to go after grants using this money, and we’ve kept our promise. Besides receiving grants, the city has also decided to use a portion of its ARPA funds to upgrade some of the oldest water mains we have in the city. This will reduce water main breaks that are an inconvenience to everybody.”
Schonhardt spoke about other positive changes in Bonne Terre over the last 12 months, citing the replacement of the stone wall on Benham Street atop Vargo Hill, a third tornado siren being built, the chamber’s 15 ribbon-cuttings, and a developing industrial park that recently welcomed two important tenants.
“Finally, the city of Bonne Terre has made some internal progress. We hired a parks director, Kenny Farkas, to help improve the community parks and ball fields. All city employees have been placed on a salary schedule that’s open and transparent. We’re in the early process of updating City Hall with new signage and HVAC. These things may not get a lot of attention, but they’re important to the health of our city.
Looking to the future, Schonhardt said, “What are our plans for this year? To get all these projects that I’ve just talked about rolling and substantial progress made on them. We’ve sent out some of these projects to bid already, and others are in the pre-bid process. You’re going to see a lot of projects get started once the weather warms up, and it’s going to be a busy year in Bonne Terre... We’ve made a lot of progress, and we are going to continue building on that progress.”
Mayor David Shaw, Desloge
“We’re really proud of our city, and I think we’re proud of the things that we’ve been able to do, and I think we’re looking with bright eyes to the future,” Shaw said. “Last year, when I made this presentation, I was able to highlight the big improvements we had on the main Deloge Drive with the new lights and the streets, curbing and all that. And that was the end result of years of work that was done by my predecessor and his predecessor and other folks on the board of aldermen. In 2022, we took just a little bit different tact. We thought we’d better look at our infrastructure and make some improvements there so that we are prepared for the future and can meet it efficiently and effectively.
In 2022, Shaw said the city bought a number of trucks, but it also bought a mini excavator with all the attachments necessary to swiftly dig up a water line.
“So in one stop, we can take care of it all, from the digging to the rock-breaking, to the cleaning, to the refill, and then tamping it down. So when we pull out of there, we’re done, and we don’t have to impose on that resident another time.”
Looking to the future, Shaw said the two-year process of updating the city’s 20-year, comprehensive plan had begun, with help from Southeast Missouri Regional Planning Commission.
Shaw shared that the city’s building inspector, Terry Kitchell is focusing on derelict homes.
“I don’t know about the rest of the communities, but many of our derelict homes are owned by people who no longer live there. They’ve inherited their home through whatever, and they wind up renting them out. And unfortunately, renters don’t keep up property like homeowners do. And it’s a long, thorough process to try to get rid of some of these homes, but we’re making progress on that.”
Additionally, Kitchell is working on a 100-year flood assessment and seeking ways to encourage compliance with city ordinances. Meanwhile, the city’s water department also kept busy last year.
“We had some success with the water department, where Paul Pilliard got on the internet and made a pitch for having shutoff valves within everybody’s home. I mean, whenever you’ve got a water problem, you wanna be able to get the water shut off pretty quick without calling from the water department.”
Shaw also mentioned that the water department is removing old four-inch service lines in a three-year project.
Moving on to public works, Shaw said the city completed a $2 million planning and engineering program that works on the Jackson Street renovation and our Roosevelt stormwater project. The town also is offering a trash service program.”
Shaw said public works completed State Street Project No. 1. “We couldn’t complete the entire State Street, but we did complete what we call Phase 1, which covers from the Walmart intersection down quite a bit.”
The city is hoping to soon begin phase two of the project, and take a look at the city’s stormwater infrastructure.
According to Shaw, the city’s volunteer fire department responded to 518 calls in 2022. Additionally, the department took part in 250 hours of firefighter training and added two rescue saws to its equipment inventory. In 2023, the city wants to upgrade the firehouse.
Shaw reported a second canine officer had been added to the city police department in 2022. Looking ahead, the department wants to upgrade its information technology department, continue providing “strong” training and education for its officers, evaluate the number of officers required for the force, and bring improvements to the police station.
Shaw reported the city’s parks and recreation department added a new basketball court in City Park.
“And despite the cold weather, it’s being used,” he said. “I saw some kids out there shooting hoops the other day. We also put in some new scoreboards and improved the fields at Brightwell Park.”
Mayor Larry Forsythe, Farmington
Beginning his presentation, Forsythe said, “I know most of you buy your electric from Ameren, but we do not. Electric utility rates were increased in 2014, and purchase power costs will have remained stable during the period, [with] the exception of extraordinary costs related to the southern winter storms that plagued Texas in that area. And we had to confront some money to help pay for that. Just so everybody knows, I think our share was like $2.5 million.
Forsythe said the Missouri Electric Commission is forecasting $78 a kilowatt hour, with an increase implemented in three phases: the first in April, the second in October, and the third in April 2024. “We’ve done everything we can to prevent these increases. But I do believe that everybody here is going to have an electric increase at one time or another.”
Forsythe noted sewer utility rates will also see a rise in April.
One of the biggest changes the city will experience in 2023 will be the utility payment office’s move from city hall to the former firehouse that, in recent years, had been the home of Big River Broadband.
“For those of you who have ever been to city hall in Farmington, you have to walk up the steps to pay your bill, and the elderly do not like that — and we do not like having the elderly to do that,” Forsythe said. “We will be purchasing that, and that will be our new utility and development services office.”
The city’s airport will get new airfield lighting in 2023 and trees and powerlines obstructing the runway will be removed, and “that’s a very costly, costly thing to do,” he said.
Forsythe reported improvements are underway on Weber Road, adjacent to Panera Bread.
“If anybody’s ever been to Panera Bread, it’s a nightmare, and we are going to try to fix that somehow,” he said. “We will get it done. We are putting in storm rains, and we’re going to do some rerouting of traffic, so just bear with us if you go to Panera Bread or Sonic. We also plan on resurfacing six miles of road this year on our local streets of the water system.”
The city will also begin renovating industrial groundwater storage.
“This is out by the UPS building on Industrial Drive,” Forsythe said. “It’s a million-gallon tank that has been sitting dormant. We are going to implement that and get that finished and get that back online. And we are installing generators on all of our key wells. That way, whenever the power goes out, the water won’t.”
The city of Farmington will also be following federal guidelines to check for lead water pipes that are still in use.
“How many cities have got the lead initiative from the government, the federal government?” Forsythe asked. “We are in contact with some groups in Little Rock, Arkansas. And it’s kind of funny because you buy this machine It’s a ground radar penetrating machine. It tells you what metal you have in the ground. But the funny thing about it is, it’s $70,000 for one machine. But when you’re done with it, what do you do with it? This is supposed to be implemented by 2024, so they give you a lot of time to get this thing done. We’ve got 6,500 services in our town.”
According to Forsythe, the city plans to allow other St. Francois County cities to use the equipment at no charge.
“Come and get it. I mean, we’re all here for one purpose, and that’s to make it. If $70,000 puts a dent in our pocket, I know it’s going to put a dent in somebody like Bismarck’s pocket. So if you want to use it and we’re done with it, we’ll be more than happy to let you come and get it. We appreciate it.”
Forsythe informed the crowd the city’s police and fire departments are fully staffed, but buying new trucks to replace older equipment could cost $1.5 million.
Mentioning the city’s proposed 3% tax on the use of recreational marijuana that will be appearing on the April ballot, the mayor said, “We’re gonna turn around and hopefully put this back into the school system because this is where the money should go back. If the adults are dumb enough to smoke, then we need to figure out how we can prevent the kids from not doing what their parents did. And I’m hoping this will do that.”
Forsythe asserted the homeless shelter has been a good asset for the city.
“The normal person does not understand what a homeless shelter is,” he said. “They just think it’s a pain in the butt. But it’s a very, very good thing to have because there are some people that are not as fortunate. They just need someplace to go, and that prevents them from sleeping in a cardboard box.”
As far as construction, Forsythe said, “We have two more big apartment complexes coming. One is a 26-acre, and one is the Dunning Farm, which will be a 72-building complex. So, Farmington’s growing, so just keep up — and Popeye’s is still coming.”
Mayor Stacey Easter, Park Hills
“I actually became mayor after my predecessor, John Clark, was running back in May,” Easter said. “It’s been a challenging time, but we’ve made some improvements, and I’m pretty excited about that. We do continue to see some growth in new businesses. We also see some growth in new single homes being built within the city. As Dr. Gilgour mentioned, MAC has some exciting things happening here with the Early Learning Academy and the Workforce Innovation and Education Center. We are hopeful of opportunities along our 67 corridors for development in the next year or so.
“Some accomplishments that we have within the city include our work towards public safety and making it a priority. We have purchased a new fire truck along with other equipment to make sure the department has some resources that they need. Our police department received eight [Flock Safety] cameras that have been placed throughout our city. Those cameras are meant to deter crime if you’re not familiar with them. They can also aid other cities in the apprehension of people entering our city and going to other cities as well.”
According to Easter, the city worked with the Central R-3 School District to provide two additional school resource officers for the campus.
“So, now Central R-3 schools have four total school resource officers and one resource officer for each campus all day, every day in their district. So that is something phenomenal, and we’re very proud to make happen this year. Our Prop P funds have allowed us to get additional raises for our police officers, along with purchasing other equipment that they desperately needed.
“Our utility department has seen some challenges this year, and we’re working with them to improve water quality and sewer capabilities within our city. These things include restoring our water plant that is aging, and I’m hopeful that soon we will see the purchase of equipment that will allow the repair and replacement of existing water lines.”
Easter said the city’s biggest project is the building of a new pool and water center.
“We have wrapped up the final details of the design and are now in our bid process,” she said. “The bids are due to go out back March 9th, with an opening date on that day as well. This will be a public opening, so anyone is welcome to attend if they wish. It will be at city hall. We are still on track for a Summer 2024 opening.
“Our Senior Center is undergoing a kitchen remodel that actually begins today. The staff is beyond excited to have an area that will allow them to do their jobs more effectively. You may not realize it, but our Senior Center provides meals for neighboring cities as well as Park Hills residents. Holly Buxton and her staff prepare almost 400 meals a day, with most of those being delivered to residents by volunteers. The search for a new city administrator is still ongoing as we continue to actively search for an individual that would be a great fit for Park Hills. We understand that this is possibly one of the biggest decisions our council will make.”
Concluding her presentation, Easter said, “The Council and I are trying to change the culture within our municipality by opening the lines of communication between all levels of the city government. We are expressing the importance of having the right person in key positions and never settling.
“We’re focusing on empowering our department heads to lead and be led, so they become more valuable each day to us. We feel our employees are the heart of our city, and we are striving to be better and do better for them. It is an absolute honor to serve my city, and I continue to thank you all for listening today.”

**Article by Kevin R. Jenkins is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-783-9667 or

Find the original article at:

Scroll To Top