MRPC News Release

For immediate release
October 31, 2017

For more information, contact
Bonnie Prigge or Caitlin Jones at (573) 265-2993

Richards posthumously honored as outstanding volunteer at MRPC annual dinner in Salem

ST. JAMES—Neil Richards was posthumously presented an outstanding volunteer award at MRPC’s 2017 Annual Dinner Oct. 26 at the Salem Community Center @ the Armory in Salem, MO. Richard’s wife, Kathleen, and son, Kris, accepted the award on his behalf.

Each year, Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) honors residents of the Meramec Region who give to their communities by volunteering their time, talents and support. MRPC’s External Relations Committee selects award winners, after being nominated by an MRPC board member.

Richards was nominated by Caledonia Chairperson John M. Robinson III. For 60 years, Richards was the heart and soul of the news for Washington County. As owner, editor and publisher of the Independent Journal, he dedicated his life to telling the stories of others. Richards covered stories with honesty and objectivity. Aside from journalism, Richards served as president of the Washington County Library Board and grew the library’s services and facilities including the addition of a genealogy room and worked on the Bill of Rights display offered through the Missouri Humanities Council. Richards passed away on May 26, 2017, at his home in Potosi.

Other individuals recognized by MRPC for contributions to their communities were:

  • Henry and Mary Wansing of Vienna, nominated by MRPC chairman and Maries County Presiding Commissioner Ray Schwartze;
  • Bill Reynolds of Loose Creek, nominated by MRPC Board Member Dr. Don Claycomb;
  • Sean Wilson of Waynesville, nominated by Waynesville Mayor Luge Hardman;

Youth Volunteers:

  • Tyler Roberds, son of Tommy and Carrie Roberds of Meta, nominated by MRPC chairman and Maries County Presiding Commissioner Ray Schwartze;
  • Baylee Bilyeu, daughter of Kim and Greg Wilson of Salem, nominated by Dent County Presiding Commissioner Darrell Skiles;
  • Maxwell Butler, son of Tom and Lisa Butler of Belle, nominated by Belle Mayor Steve Vogt.

Community organization:

  • The Ya Ya’s of Belle, nominated by Belle Mayor Steve Vogt.

Local Agency Representative:

  • City Administrator Harold Selby of St. James, nominated by Mayor of St. James Jim White.

The Eugene E. Northern award, the highest honor given by MRPC for volunteers and community service, was given to Dr. Ted Ziske, 91, of Salem nominated by Dent County Presiding Commissioner Darrell Skiles. Dr. Ziske is a World War II Navy veteran, who has maintained his dental license and served the Salem area since 1954.
Meramec Regional Development Corporation’s (MRDC) Lender of the Year award was given to First State Community Bank. Don Thompson accepted the award on its behalf. First State Community Bank was honored for partnering with MRDC on a Small Business Administration 504 loan that provided financing for the construction of B&M Quick Stop in Mineral Point in Washington County.

Two staff members were also recognized at the 2017 awards banquet. Jodie Branson, an accountant II with MRPC, received her award for 10 years of service. Ryan Dunwoody, environmental programs specialist, was honored as MRPC’s employee of the year. Dunwoody joined MRPC in 2015 and works on many programs including hazard mitigation plans, commodity flow studies, environmental reviews, produces maps for a variety of plans and is involved in special disaster planning projects among other things.

The night included a reception that began at 5:30 featuring Red Moose Vineyards and music by Alter-K-Shon. Progressive Ozark Bank, Bank of Salem and Riverways Federal Credit Union sponsored the reception. A silent auction, which raised over $1,713 to offset the costs of the dinner, was held during the reception hour. Some 170 individuals were in attendance at the dinner, catered by Country Seasons Catering.

“Our Annual Dinner is the highlight of our year, as our board takes great pleasure in honoring some very deserving volunteers across our region, recapping some of the great projects that have occurred in our communities and taking a look at the contributions MRPC, as an organization, has made to our cities and counties,” said Bonnie Prigge, MRPC executive director.  “We really appreciate the hospitality, provided by the city of Salem and Dent County, our hosts, and a special thank you to Sherry Lea and Healthy Dent County for all their hard work to deliver a top-notch location for our evening. The support from local residents was amazing. It was certainly a great evening.”

Formed in 1969, MRPC is a voluntary council of governments serving Crawford, Dent, Gasconade, Maries, Osage, Phelps, Pulaski and Washington counties and their respective cities. A professional staff of 22, directed by the MRPC board, offers technical assistance and services, such as grant preparation and administration, housing assistance, transportation planning, environmental planning, ordinance codification, business loans and other services to member communities.

To keep up with the latest MRPC news and events, visit the MRPC website at or on Facebook at

Front Row: Maxwell Butler, with the Ya Ya's of Belle flanking the family of Neil Richards, wife Kathleen Richards and son Kris Richards Back Row: Harold Selby, Sean Wilson, Baylee Bilyeu, Mary and Henry Wansing, Bill Reynolds, Tyler Roberds, and Don Thompson. Standing in front of Thompson is Sarah Swindell, the daughter of Dr. Ted Ziske

Caledonia Chairperson John M. Robinson III (left) nominated Neil Richards to posthumously receive an outstanding volunteer award. The award was accepted by his son Kris Richards and wife Kathleen Richards. Don Thompson (right) accepted the award for First State Community Bank as Lender of the Year.

Return to MRPC Welcome Page

Return to MRPC Press Release Archive