St. Francois County Prosecuting Attorney-Elect Melissa Gilliam speaks to Park Hills-Leadington Chamber of Commerce members last week. The luncheon meeting was held at Mineral Area College. 

Plans are well underway for the annual Park Hills-Leadington Chamber of Commerce’s Hefner Furniture Christmas Parade on Dec. 6.

During the chamber's monthly luncheon meeting last week, it was announced this year’s theme is “Christmas Musical Magic.” Parade participants are encouraged to decorate floats to reflect their favorite Christmas songs.

The evening kicks off at 6 p.m. with a Christmas tree lighting and music by Raelyn Winick, Central first graders and the fifth grade honors choir at Leadington Plaza in front of Hardee’s.

The parade begins there at 7 p.m. After the two-mile parade route, festivities will continue at the Park Hills Sports Complex. Grab free hot chocolate and visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus at the “Santa House.”

There will also be a Christmas tree lighting there with musical performances by Winick, the Central High School Concert Choir, and On Stage Performing Arts. There will be a number of vendors and activity booths set up.

The deadline for parade entries is Dec. 3. Vendors are also being sought. For more information call the chamber office at 573-431-1051.

The Fifth Annual Chamber Cares Holiday Drive for Children will continue through Dec. 18. This year community members are asked to donate personal care items to Central Schools as well as non-perishable food for Central’s Backpack Program.

There are several drop-off locations including the chamber office at 12 Municipal Drive in Park Hills, and the Daily Journal, located at 1513 St. Joe Drive.

During the Tuesday chamber luncheon, St. Francois County Prosecuting Attorney-Elect Melissa Gilliam was invited to speak publicly for the first time since defeating incumbent Jerrod Mahurin in the November election.

Gilliam, a Farmington graduate, began her legal career as a deputy district attorney in the Colorado Springs District Attorney’s office. After two years in that office, Gilliam went to work as a prosecutor in the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s office.

Until she left the office in 2016, Gilliam handled cases including drug and gun crime, property crime, violent crimes such as assault, kidnapping, robbery and murder and white collar crime. In 2016 she returned to Farmington, working for a local firm for a year before opening her own law firm in 2017.

Gilliam has spent 20 years practicing law, the vast majority of that time as a prosecutor.

She said she plans to focus on the future and has a list of things she wants to work on once she takes office in January. She said she knows that list will change and grow.

Rather than being “soft on crime” or “tough on crime,” she said she wants to be “smart on crime," using data-driven prosecution and collaboration from the community, including police officers.

She said one of her focuses will be on the drug court and there are misconceptions that exist now. She said drug court is not a “cake walk.” Rather, many defense attorneys steer clients away from drug court because it is very difficult to graduate the program. She said it is a really good program and there is room for a lot more drug court participants in St. Francois County.

She also believes victim advocacy services is lacking in the county. She has learned of a state grant to hire a second victim advocate for the office.

During the meeting, Mineral Area Overhead Door was the business spotlight of the month. The business began in 1978 and serves commercial and residential needs in the Parkland and beyond.

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