The Ozark Action Coalition (OAC) held their first official meeting last Wednesday, Feb. 8, in the Phelps County Democrats' headquarters. The group made their first key decisions, including deciding on their name, while developing their plan for moving forward.

Individuals passionate about starting the group gave a presentation last month at the potluck held by the Phelps County Democrats. Dave Schott and Beth Pross collected ideas from those gathered, and encouraged interested individuals to attend the meeting on Feb. 8.

Those interested Phelps County residents filed into the Democrats’ headquarters on Pine Street to share their ideas and take what was discussed in January even further. After officially deciding on their name, the coalition shifted into forming individual committees to more efficiently achieve their goals.

These smaller action groups included committees on Education, Environment, Civil and Human Rights, and Healthcare. Each one is an umbrella term, encompassing smaller yet equally important issues the group wants to tackle. For example the Education committee will be acting on public and higher education, while addressing the issue of privatizing education that has arisen over the past few months. The committees will meet regularly  to find ways to properly and efficiently act on these issues.

Dave Schott, one of the members of the steering team, has been appointed to keep meetings running smoothly. He has high hopes for the future of the coalition based on plans that are still in the early development stage. He likes the enthusiasm shown by those in attendance.

“I think we did a reasonable job making some important decisions…and having a framework for moving forward,” he said in regards to the meeting on Feb. 8. “We’re getting closer to where we want to be.”

Dave Schott and the rest of OAC encourage anyone to attend the meetings of the full coalition in the future, which will take place on the 8th of each month. Rather than designating a day of the week, having a specific date allows members who have regular weekday commitments to attend meetings on a more fluid schedule.

The coalition is a non-partisan group, according to Dave Schott. He and the other members want anyone who desires to see positive action to join, regardless of political affiliation.

“The Ozark Action Coalition is a regional umbrella organization for addressing issues that citizens are concerned about,” said Schott. “The non-partisan group is looking to unify people and help coordinate actions that can be taken in response to these concerns.”

Schott said if people feel like they don’t have a way to connect, they should feel free to join OAC. The group wishes to become a regional coalition, reaching across the larger Ozark area to join with other like-minded groups to share resources and better achieve their goals. In the coming months, the individual committees will decide on the actions they wish to take in order to make their voices heard. These actions can take place on the local level, raising awareness in local towns, or they’ll be taken to the federal level, bringing their actions to the view of their elected officials.

The meeting on March 8 will take place in the multipurpose room in the Phelps County Courthouse in Rolla. Anyone interested in taking part in the coalition or it’s smaller committees are encouraged to attend. Interested individuals can also reach out the the groups Facebook page, listed as the Ozark Action Coalition.