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Vantage Point

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Looking Backward and Forward

All of us in state government were stunned by the tragic and untimely death of Gov. Mel Carnahan. He departed suddenly, but not without leaving us a legacy of accomplishment.

As a member of the governor's cabinet, I can only repeat what so many others have said. The governor was a public servant of the very highest ardor remarkable leader who made our state a better place.

Personally, what I remember most about Governor Carnahan is how gracious he was to my wife, Janet, and me when we first came to Jefferson City. From the outset, we were treated as full members of the "official" family, even though, in those days, the governor really didn't know me at all.

The first time we dined at the Governor's mansion, Janet got the opportunity to sit next to Gov. Carnahan, and I recall how impressed she was with his wit and with his insight into a number of issues, especially education. It was a great experience for both of us.

But beyond possessing a gracious heart, Mel was also, of course, a superb governor. From a conservation standpoint, he did many things that moved our mission forward.

The acquisition of the Columbia Bottom Conservation Area near St. Louis, for example, might never have happened had not Gov. Carnahan instructed his staff to play a key role.

The governor also understood the importance of convincing the right people to serve, and, in fact, appointed all four members of the current Conservation Commission. These appointments continue to have tremendous impact.

Because he realized early on that a sudden influx of chip mills would seriously impact Missouri's timber resources and water quality, the governor formed the Chip Mill Committee, which the Conservation Department co-chaired. This committee's work is now complete, and I believe our report is going to result in concrete action by either the next administration or the legislature.

Mel Carnahan wrote a brilliant chapter in Missouri history. All of us owe him a great deal.

We look forward to working with Senator-elect Jean Carnahan on some important conservation issues that weren't finalized by the last Congress, including the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA.)

As the state's first lady, she's been very active and interested in preparations for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial celebration, which runs from 2004 to 2006, and in learning more about the Missouri River.

She took time last summer to join one of our education workshops for a day. We traveled on a river barge with about 40 teachers to experience the river and learn about its fish and wildlife and the many changes it's undergone since that historic expedition. I think her interest will translate into solid support and, ultimately, wider public appreciation of our state's forest, fish and wildlife resources.

Jerry M. Conley, Director

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