Missouri Gov. Mike Parson made a couple of stops in St. Francois County on Monday, taking a tour of the US Tool in Farmington and a final stop at a political rally at St. Francois County Republican Headquarters in Park Hills.
Currently serving as the 57th governor of the state since the first of June, Parson, who prior to that was serving as the state’s 47th lieutenant governor, took office following the resignation of Eric Greitens.
Parson, 63, was accompanied on the plant tour by US Tool President Bruce Williams and his son, Brent Williams, who serves as the company’s vice president of operations. Other lawmakers on-hand were Missouri Senator Gary Romine, R-Farmington, as well as state representatives Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, and Mike Henderson, R-Bonne Terre. Several candidates for local office, along with business and community leaders, were also present and took part in a private meeting with Gov. Parson following the tour.
US Tool, located in the former Little Tikes Commercial Play Systems office and manufacturing building in the Farmington Industrial Park, was founded by the current company president’s father, Paul G. Williams in 1958 as U.S. Tool Grinding, Inc., the company grew to be the largest cutting tool reconditioning firm in North America. Today, US Tool employs more than 950 employees in facilities located across the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Along the way, Parson took a break from the tour at a number of worksites where he spoke with excited employees, shaking their hands and posing for more than a few selfies. The governor, who began his political career as Polk County sheriff and has been in the state legislature since 2005, appeared to live up to his reputation as a “people person.”
Watching the governor interacting with his employees was a smiling Bruce Williams who said, “It’s absolutely fun. We’re having a blast. I think the employees are really enjoying it because, you know, none of us get the opportunity to meet somebody like the governor — and everybody’s got big smiles on their faces and having fun. He’s got a great personality. He’s fantastic.”
Returning Williams’ compliment after the tour’s conclusion, Gov. Parson said, “A place like US Tool is huge for the state of Missouri. You look at companies like this and what they represent in the Farmington area especially, but really what it means to the whole state of Missouri when you have these kind of people here working.
“You’ve got 500-plus employees here and as you walk through here and get a chance to meet them, you begin to understand how much they appreciate their jobs and how much they appreciate working for this company. So, those are the things I really like seeing as governor.
“The other thing is how do I help businesses so that we make sure other people have the same opportunities people here have today? So, it’s important to be here today and get to see this facility first-hand and see what kind of operation it is. I’m very impressed by my first visit.”
Asked about his natural ability of getting along with people and how it’s helped to bring healing to the state after the difficult and divisive resignation of a governor, Parson said, “As far as the transition part — it took place, it was over with. Once I became governor, I focused on trying to do what was right for the state of Missouri.
“More important for me, ever since I came out of the Army when I served this country, I came to Missouri and said I’d never leave again. I love this state. I love the people of this state and to be able to shake hands with the employees today, frankly, was just as a big a deal to me as meeting the CEOs of the company — and I know they’re standing over here.
“But the reality of it is that I enjoy visiting with those everyday people out there because, for most of us, that’s how we all started. I don’t want to ever forget where I came from and so, it’s always good to meet with those people working hard every day raising families. They’re what makes Missouri go.”
Sen. Romine pointed out that it is the governor’s easy-going nature that’s making a positive difference among legislators in Jefferson City.
“The governor is just a very down to earth person,” he said. “He’s very pragmatic on his approach to issues and he’s not afraid to be out there talking to folks because he has nothing to hide. Gov. Parson is who he is.
“He has a sincere desire to see Missouri grow and be effective. That’s why he’s out here. The governor is trying to find out what is successful about business and industry, so we can bring other businesses and industry to the state.”