Central Bank of Boone County on Friday celebrated three women in power during its inaugural event recognizing women in leadership in Boonville.
Boonville City Administrator Kate Fjell, Boonville R-1 School District Superintendent Sarah Marriott and Boonslick Community Development Corporation Economic Developer Gigi Quinlan McAreavy were recognized at the event on Friday night at Central Bank’s west Boonville branch, just off Ashley Road.
Central Bank mortgage loan officer Sam Giroux said Boonville has strong women in leadership in every aspect of the community. They hope to make it an annual event to recognize more of the many women in leadership in Boonville, he said.
Marriott said she appreciated that the event shows her son that it’s normal for women to hold positions of power. She’s glad that reality is normal for him, and that he’s always seen it in his life, she said.
Marriott, who is currently in her second year as Boonville’s superintendent, said making sure public education is a viable option has always been her passion. People may choose to send their children to private schools, but having a strong public education system is essential to a community to thrive, she said. She saw that first-hand as a product of the Boonville school district, and wants to ensure that her students are getting all the academic and extracurricular opportunities they can, she said.
“I’m really looking forward to, I hope, several more years here,” Marriott said. “I think we’ve got a lot of good things to come.”
One thing she’s looking forward to is the projects funded by a bond issue voters approved along with a property tax levy hike in April. There are a lot of steps that the district needs to take before spending taxpayer money on the major projects like building renovations, but the plan is to “furiously” start some of those projects over next summer, she said. One thing she isn’t looking forward to is the winter weather and the possibility of having to call snow days.
Fjell recently took over as city administrator after Irl Tessendorf retired, but she’s been working for the city for about a decade now. She said she’s excited by the projects on the Kemper Military School campus that will be possible after voters approved a special sales tax in August.
The city has been trying to repurpose the campus since it bought the buildings after the school closed in 2002, and having the tax will allow the YMCA to expand and the Boonslick Regional Library to move to the campus from Main Street. Those are big steps toward reviving the campus, she said.
McAreavy started a month ago as the first full-time economic developer under a new partnership between Boonville and Cooper County. The city and county are each contributing to the not-for-profit Boonslick Community Development Corporation to employ the economic developer, allowing it to accept private donations and offer incentives that the city and county could not.
In her first month, McAreavy said she saw how much she has to learn about her new position. Among the many meetings she’s had, she spent time learning about the utilities in Boonville and Windsor Place, and she plans to look into utilities in the rest of the county soon, she said. She’s gone through several requests for information from companies looking for a place to locate, and realized that Boonville and Cooper County aren’t going to meet all the needs of every company.
“Sometimes you have to pass those up, move on, and look for another one to come your way,” she said.
She has a lot of ideas she’s eager to work on, like working with the Boonslick Technical Education Center and State Fair Community College to partner with industry to create training programs. When Gov. Mike Parson announced a $5 million grant program intended to increase rural broadband access, McAreavy reached out to cities and schools to see if they would qualify, she said.
“I really feel we’re all intertwined, education, business, city, everything is intertwined, and if we all work together and share our knowledge and expertise, I really think we can make this town pop,” she said.