For Immediate Release: Sept. 1, 2015

Missouri Highway Patrol Colonel Visits
Southeast Missouri

Col. Bret Johnson made a day long visit to several locations throughout the 25th Senatorial District Wed., Aug. 26. Those accompanying the colonel from the Highway Patrol General Headquarters in Jefferson City were Maj. Malik Henderson and Capt. Roger Whittler, as well as Capt. George Ridens and Sgt. Brad Haggett of Southeast Missouri Troop E.

The day began early at Mt. Calvary Church in Poplar Bluff, where Bishop Ron Webb hosted a tour of their beautiful sanctuary and the brand new Heartland Community Center, located next door. What a great facility it is with a gymnasium, breakroom and classrooms for young people and adults. They invite everyone to come tour the center filled with warm caring people and volunteers anxious to meet and assist you.

Our next stop was the SEMO Christian Restoration Center at Lake Wappapello. It was opened in 2001 through the determination and hard work of the Webb family, church members, and many volunteers. The mission is to give men and women (many of whom are veterans) a chance to come and put their life back together after suffering alcohol and/or drug abuse. What a testament of love the Mt. Calvary Church members and the many community donors have provided through their annual financial support. The restoration of the lives of many people has been witnessed over the last several years due to their compassion and support.

Then we traveled to Charleston to visit the Bowden Center. This great center accommodates young students and adults wanting to brighten their future. The center is filled with volunteer mentors helping with K-12 homework assignments and specialty training for adults. Lester Gillespie and his staff are making a huge difference in this community. The Colonel and staff addressed a large crowd of community leaders and described the role the Highway Patrol plays in safety, education and employment. Many questions were answered and all seemed to enjoy the enhanced community outreach the patrol began in 2013 in the 25th District.

Next on the agenda was the Divine Holiness Outreach Center in Caruthersville, which also helps K-12 students by providing a safe learning environment and mentoring program. Pastor Jamie, and his wife, Deborah Jones, hosted a community wide lunch at the center. Col. Johnson addressed the crowd of area pastors, education and civic leaders regarding the importance of community networking. Capt. Whittler discussed the many different employment opportunities in the agency and the Patrol’s enhanced Bootheel Outreach Program. Because of this, many young people are now considering a career in law enforcement. Three Rivers College is also offering assistance with many different career paths and training for the 21st century job market. By all accounts the lunch and subsequent question and answer period were a huge success.

Later, we were able to meet with Superintendent Jackie Johnson and tour several classrooms at Hayti Junior and Senior High School. The students were attentive and expressed interest in the community work and different job opportunities inside the Highway Patrol. Col. Johnson, Maj. Henderson, Capt. Ridens, Capt. Whittler and Sgt. Haggett all had the honor of addressing four classrooms stressing the importance of citizenship, education and making good grades. Each room was filled with energetic students and great teachers. We all came away very impressed with the school management and attitude of the students. It is definitely a good environment to learn in and encourages everyone to be the best you can be.

We appreciate the effort and travel of the Command Staff of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and leaders of the newly created “Recruiting and Diversity Division” for dedicating a full day to learn about and tour our district. Thank you to the many pastors, community leaders, education and public safety professionals for their input and attendance. The impact and networking will help our communities continue to grow and prosper.

Senator Doug Libla proudly serves the citizens of Butler, Carter, Dunklin, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Shannon and Stoddard counties in the Missouri Senate.