PALMYRA, Mo. -- Chris Kempke arrived in Palmyra Aug. 8 ready to meet people and get to work helping communities in Marion, Ralls and Pike counties. Since taking over for John Gulick as the local community engagement specialist in community and economic development for MU Extension, Kempke has been easing into his new position.
"I hope to be an asset," he said. "I'm excited about the partnerships I'll be able to work with."
Kempke, a Curryville native, comes to Palmyra from the MU Extension office in Scotland County. His mother is the Pike County clerk, and his father is a trooper with the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
"We're restructuring as an extension program. It's the same job (as in Scotland County), but some things have changed a bit," he said. "I'm proud of the work I was able to do in Scotland County, but the chance to move closer to home was a nice opportunity."
Although Kempke inherited some projects from Gulick, he's already working on a few different initiatives in Marion, Ralls and Pike counties. Some of what he is doing includes economic planning, and educating councils and boards on modern economic development strategies.
"Even if I don't have the knowledge to solve a problem, I can help find the resources. I might be serving with a board with a health care mission. We have health care experts at the university, and I can get them involved," he explained. "If resources are outside of Extension, such as the Department of Natural Resources or the state Economic Development Council, the goal is to be active in getting those pieces together."
Kempke said he will be spending the next couple of months meeting with people and understanding what community needs are. He also has been meeting with people in Illinois.
"There are opportunities to work across state lines with Quincy and Adams County and Illinois, too," he said. "We share workforces, retail, a housing market. All kinds of people drive across the river for work, retail and recreation. We don't live in a silo. Many of the issues we face are big enough to be addressed regionally."
Those wanting to contact Kempke can call him at 573-769-2177 or visit him at the Extension office in the Marion County courthouse, 100 S. Main St.