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Sen. Justus tours Callaway County

Flanked by Gracia Backer, State Senator Jolie Justus, center, meets with county officials and other new constituents at a meet and greet Thursday at the Kingdom of Callaway Chamber of Commerce. Due to redistricting, the Kansas City senator will represent Callaway and five other mid-Missouri counties  for the next two years.

Flanked by Gracia Backer, State Senator Jolie Justus, center, meets with county officials and other new constituents at a meet and greet Thursday at the Kingdom of Callaway Chamber of Commerce. Due to redistricting, the Kansas City senator will represent Callaway and five other mid-Missouri counties for the next two years. Photo by Dean Asher.

A crowd of about 30 city and county figures and citizens gathered at the Kingdom of Callaway Chamber of Commerce Thursday evening to meet their new state senator.

State Sen. Jolie Justus met with some of her new constituents after redistricting put the former Kansas City lawmaker in a district that includes Audrain, Callaway, Lincoln, Monroe, Montgomery and Warren counties.

Originally elected to Kansas City in 2006, Justus said it would be a challenge adjusting from one mayor and city council to six sets of county commissioners and dozens of individual cities and towns, but she was excited about getting to serve Callaway.

“It’s been a huge learning curve but I can tell you what I’ve found is that about 99 percent of the issues that you’re interested in, I’m interested in,” said Justus. “I think all of us are interested in things like job creation, moving Missouri forward, education, all of those things. I’m excited we agree on those things.”

Justus, a Democrat and the senate minority leader, said she had a close working relationship with the Republican majority in working on issues that were important to Missouri and its constituents as well.

Among those in attendance was Fulton Mayor LeRoy Benton who said he was looking forward working with the senator.

We’re excited for the new challenge of getting to know her and working with her,” said Benton. “We need to work in tandem for the betterment of the county.”

City Administrator Bill Johnson elaborated.

“She comes with years of experience,” said Johnson. “We’re getting a qualified, competent, experienced senator who hopefully is going to do good work and help the city do great things.”

Prior to the chamber event, Justus spent much of the day touring the county, including the Callaway Electric Cooperative and Fulton State Hospital. It was her first time visiting the mental health facility, where a pending state bond issue would fund new buildings for its aging structures.

“It was absolutely clear to me — not that it wasn’t before — but it is past time for the state to invest money in that,” she said. “I am excited about the work that they’re doing and I’m excited about what we’re going to be able to do when this bond issue gets past and we can get that hospital rebuilt.”

Justus said she will serve Callaway for two years before she is returned to Kansas City, and urged Callawegians to take advantage of her open-door policy with any questions or concerns.

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