In addition to the Citizen of the Year Award, the Chamber will be presenting awards for Charitable Business of the Year, Community Non-Profit of the Year, the Community Improvement Award, and Educator of the Year.

The Waynesville - St. Robert Area Chamber of Commerce is preparing for its annual Citizen of the Year Award to be presented at our Community Leadership Award Banquet.  This memorable event will be held on Friday, February 8, 2019 at The ARK Community and Sports Center with social hour beginning at 6:00 p.m. followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m.  This event is held to commemorate the hard work and dedication to community exhibited by our area leaders, non-profit organizations and civic groups, and announces the Citizen of the Year. In addition to the Citizen of the Year Award, the Chamber will be presenting awards for Charitable Business of the Year, Community Non-Profit of the Year, the Community Improvement Award, and Educator of the Year.

This year six outstanding volunteers have been nominated for Citizen of the Year.  The nominees for the 2018 Citizen of the Year are William “Kent” Burns nominated by University of Missouri Extension in Pulaski County, Marion Cottrell nominated by Pulaski County Humane Society, Bishop (Dr.) Willie J. Curry nominated by Shekinah Tabernacle Ministries, Luge Hardman nominated by Laura Schoephorster, CSM (R) Rick Morris nominated by AUSA (FLW – MID-MO), and Michael “Mike” Freeman nominated by the Pulaski County Salvation Army.  This award is intended to recognize individuals not for a particular year of service, but rather to recognize a person who has performed outstanding and dedicated service to the community and/or towards helping others over time in the Waynesville-St. Robert area.

For more information about the Citizen of the Year and the Community Leadership Awards Banquet please contact the Chamber office at 573-336-5121 or email 

William “Kent” Burns

Kent has been the Chair of the Pulaski County Extension Council for the past two years. He has served on the council since 2015 and has been an extremely important supporter of the MU Extension and Pulaski County. In 2016 his hard work and dedication was recognized when he received the Leaders Honor Roll award from Extension. This award is signed to honor outstanding community leaders and volunteers who have excelled in supporting, educating, and advancing MU Extension in their communities.

The army brought Kent to the area and he retired after serving his country for 20 years. He continues to serve the troops in his GS civilian job and the Waynesville/St. Robert, Fort Leonard Wood community through volunteer work. His tireless work for the community is evidence by the list of service in which he is currently involved; Chair at University of Missouri Extension, Pulaski County, Kent is a Board Director for the Waynesville-St. Robert Chamber of Commerce, Chair for the Fort Leonard Wood Retiree Council, President of the Waynesville High School Athletic Booster Club, Kent is Worship Master of the Waynesville Masonic Lodge #375, Advisory Board Member for the Pulaski County Assembly #78 International Order of the Rainbow for Girls and the Waynesville DeMolay Chapter, Salvation Army Bell Ringing Volunteer, part of the set up crew for the Missouri Special Olympics’ Summer State Games, he supports and hosts the MOCHIP (Missouri Child Identification and Protection Program) event in the local area, and an active member of the Signal Corps Regimental Association, Adjutant Genera’s Corps Regimental Association, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Scottish Rite and the Widows Sons Masonic Rider Association.

Kent also stays busy supporting the activities of his five children: Ashley, 23; Austin, 23; Colin, 16; Emma, 13; and Jackson, 8. His wife Jody along with the younger children are often present at a variety of events around the community.

When asked why Kent works so hard to support so many organizations, his reply was that he does it for the kids. He believes he should do anything he can to support the children in the community, especially those who face special challenges.

Marion Cottrell

Marion is a native of Flensburg Germany, she has lived in several location as a military spouse before settling in our area in October 2002. While living in Baumholder Germany, Marion was a board member of the 92nd MP Company FRG. She received the prestigious Heart of Victory Award for her volunteer service while there. Marion and her husband Sam have five children and six grandchildren. She plays an active role in the lives of her family members and in turn they are often found helping out at Pulaski County Humane Society (PCHS) functions.

Arriving here sixteen years ago, Marion hit the ground running as a volunteer. She has served as chaperone for Special Olympics bowling, basketball, and track and field. She has also been an assistant coach for the Sheltered Workshop Special Olympics team. She is noted for her photography skills and is behind the camera at Special Olympics, Sheltered Workshop, and PCHS functions.

Marion started fostering for PCHS in 2011 and was awarded the PCHS volunteer of the year award in 2013. She was appointed to the PCHS board in January 2014 and has served the past year as Board Vice President and Foster Coordinator for Dogs. Her time volunteering for PCHS is in excess of 40 hours a week.

Marion’s service embodies what the Pulaski County Humane Society strives to achieve…not only helping the animals but the people and their community. Often our organization receives animals from very rough conditions. Marion makes sure the humans involved in such situations are cared for as well. Marion is well known as our “puppy foster” and has taken in hundreds of pregnant mamas and litters over the past eight years.  This year alone she fostered 97 dogs and puppies. This not only involves 24/7 care, but contact with potential adopters. Of all the adoptions over the years, we have received nothing but exemplary comments about Marion from the adopters. They come from all over the country and they often adopt twice!  Not for a specific breed, but for a puppy raised under Marion’s care.

Bishop (Dr.) Willie J. Curry

Bishop Curry came to the St. Robert Community in 2000 due to military orders. He served twenty-one years as a Senior Non-Commissioned Officer, Heavy Construction Combat Equipment Supervisor, training, developing, and mentoring over 18,000 Armed Forces personnel and government employees during this tenure. Prior to and since Dr. Curry’s retirement, he has supported and continues to support the community throughout Pulaski County, St. Robert, and surrounding areas as the Founder and Senior Pastor of Shekinah Tabernacle Ministries, serving as Chief Executive Officer of ministry daily operations, various organizations, and outreaches.

Dr. Curry is a committed scholar who pushes others to elevate their minds and potentials as the Founding President/Senior Professor of Empowerment Bible University. Dr. Curry is also a board-certified Pastoral Counselor as well as a member of the prestigious Joint College of Pentecostal Bishops, Chief Operation Officer of Lighthouse International Worldwide Ministries Council of Churches, and Evangelistic Ministries International Fellowship. Since Retirement, Dr. Curry has continued his commitment to his community: 

In 2006, he completed his last deployment of Operation Enduring Freedom. For over a year following his return, with his family residing in St. Robert, Dr. Curry, stationed in Ft. Hood, Texas, traveled over 1500 miles weekly to support and uphold the community ministry (No longer commutes from Texas to St. Robert).  Dr. Curry has been honored by the Waynesville Daily Guide and was given an exclusive interview with the Springfield broadcasting network KOLR 3, recognizing his outstanding commitment and selfish devotion to the community. Under Dr. Curry’s leadership, STM has received the following honors: Friends to the City of St. Robert Award (2008), City of St. Robert Proclamation recognizing March 20 as STM recognition day (2017), and received five community recognitions of service correspondence from the Missouri State Representative Mr. Steven Lynch and past State Representative Mr. David Day.

Member of R-VI School District committees: the Governance Committee, The Citizens’ Advisory Committee, Diversity Team Committee, and the Wellness Committee. Dr. Curry also serves as the City of St. Robert Veterans Memorial Site Committee Chairman and as a Member of the Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Committee.

Dr. Curry is the founder/CEO of High 5 Community Development Corporation, instituted in 2011 to provide a framework of resources and partnerships with community organizations, promoting the involvement of citizens and businesses to combat community deterioration and improve the social welfare of local citizens and communities of Pulaski County. In 2018, the organization provided a wholesome daily meal, helping to alleviate the risk of hunger and enhance the overall well-being of the community. High 5 CDC sponsored the Summer Food Service Program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services providing nutritious meals to 3, 594 kids, ages 1 – 18 over forty-seven days (June 4 – August 10). Through its ‘Serving Those Who Serve’ outreach, 9,096 nutritious meals were provided to the community from August 2017 – May 2018. The meals were provided community pride and appreciation to Community Citizens, New Genesis Women’s Shelter, Good Samaritan Resource Center, Pulaski County 911 Center, Pulaski County Ambulance District, and our local fire/police departments within Pulaski County.  The organization also received a Certificate of Appreciation from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (2018).

That same commitment remains active as Dr. Curry has worked with various contractors and founded several profit/non-profit organizations.  Dr. Curry has also assisted several local veteran and non-veteran founded organizations in the validation and completion of federal and state applications as nonprofit organizations. Dr. Curry has dedicated his life and energy to the communities located in Pulaski County. As the founder of various faith and community-based organizations, Dr. Curry’ main goal is to empower our community of veterans’ dependents’, and citizens’ spiritual, economic and physical needs through his dedication and leadership to/of the entities: Shekinah Tabernacle Ministries, STM Christian Daycare & Preschool Academy, Empowerment Bible University, High 5 Community Development Corporation (High 5 CDC), Kingdom Citizens International Fellowship, and Looking Within Christian Counseling Ministry. 

Luge Hardman

Luge Hardman hails from Mena, Arkansas, nestled in the Ouachita Mountains. Luge found the love of her life, her husband Paul, through another of her great loves, education, when she relocated to Waynesville in 1971 for a teaching job. Luge and Paul welcomed two children, and as she and Paul were building a family, Luge was also building a strong community presence. That commitment to community initially lead her to volunteer opportunities, beginning with Old Settlers’ Day and Benny Doolin’s heliport and gazebo projects. Early on, Luge was also a fixture at the Old Stagecoach Stop, both as a docent for Saturday tours and a valued board member.

Luge taught for thirty years, instructing and inspiring thousands of students in the Waynesville Schools. She also served two decades as adjunct instructor for Drury University at both their St. Robert and Fort Leonard Wood campuses. During her Career, Luge was recognized for her dedication with a variety of honors, including “Teacher of Merit” (Missouri Historical Society), “Teacher of the Year” (Missouri Council of Social Studies), and “American History Teacher of the Year” (Daughters of the American Revolution). As WHS National History Day teacher, Luge consistently lead successful teams to stat competition and took two teams to nationals.

Luge was an active member of teachers’ sorority Kappa Kappa Iota as well as one of the first female presidents of Phi Delta Kappa, an international professional education society, ever elected in Missouri. She served on numerous education committees, for three of which she helped write standardized tests used statewide.

Luge’s passion for improving Waynesville through local government took root in the 1980’s, when she served on and was eventually elected chairwoman of the Waynesville Planning and Zoning Commission, which helped establish early building ordinances protecting Waynesville’s citizens. Luge began serving on the Waynesville Park Board in the 1990’s, became chairwoman there as well, and lead the Board to national recognition as “Small Park Board of the Year” in 2006. She has further improved Waynesville’s parks by helping add pavilions, secure a grant to build the Walking Trail, and facilitate the addition of the Spray Park. While mayor, she has led the community efforts to build an accessible playground in Roubidoux Park and community stage. Luge has always recognized the value of a well-run park system made available to and enjoyable for all citizens.

In 2003, Luge shifted focus from her distinguished career to a life of volunteerism when she retired from teaching. She was elected to Waynesville City Council and served nine years. During her tenure, Luge spearheaded the Downtown Beautification Committee as council representative and led an effort to obtain a $250,000 grant for new sidewalks and lighting downtown, re-invigorating the area. She also worked with local financial institutions to purchase the town square clock and championed causes such as certifying Laughlin Park as a stop on the National Historic Trail and constructing Trail of Tears exhibits.

In 2012, Luge was elected mayor of Waynesville and represents the City in various volunteer positions as well as on local and statewide committees. She served as the Honorary Chairman of the Salvation Army Tree of Lights and is board member for the Missouri Municipal League. A warmly-welcomed fixture at military functions, Luge revers and has strengthened Waynesville’s crucial ties to Fort Leonard Wood.

Luge Hardman has helped transform Waynesville in her years of service as an educator, volunteer, and city official, and continues to focus on quality of life issues as she wraps up her local government career. Contagious enthusiasm and a ‘can-do’ spirit, love and care for citizens of both Waynesville and the world, and the deeply-felt impact she’s made as a neighbor, mentor, and friend make Luge an essential part of the town’s foundation. Luge Hardman found her people when she found Waynesville, where she continues to proudly serve and live among them.

CSM (R) Rick Morris 

Rick’s selfless service to our community and incredible leadership to a myriad of areas throughout our community have made a positive impact and will be felt for years to come. Rick is the Epitome of the Citizen of the Year. Rick served twenty-three years in the US Army and retired as a Command Sergeant Major. His service to our Community didn’t start when he retired; it started when he was leader in the MP School moving her with the BRAC 95 move in 1999. Rick’s involvement with organizations like the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club (He was the President and Vice President from 1999-2003) and bought it back to life with events that helped Soldiers and families: Inaugural events such as Adopt a Highway, Food Drives, and other events that impacted and addressed the needs of Military Families. Rick organized and stood up the Ozarks Chapter of the Military Police Regimental Association (MPRA) and doubled the membership of the National Association by organizing an effective membership routine that inspired new MP’s to join, this enabled the MP Memorial Grove to flourish into the beautiful grounds that it is today. Rick also jumped in and assisted the Association of the US Army (AUSA) in their events and helped connect community members to Military units. Rick also was and continues to be involved in the Sergeants Major Association that continues to positively impact our community and families. Rick is decorated Combat Veteran of Afghanistan and retired from the Army in 2006 and chose our community as a place to call home. 

Rick has been a shining example of a Veteran, a Business Leader/Owner and Volunteer. His involvement and results have been nothing short of stellar. 

Rick has been a Leader in our Chapter for the past 12 years: he has helped develop the Warrior in Town Program, The Warrior in Need Program and numerous other programs that help our Community and Soldiers and families in need. He’s involvement has helped raise over $250,000 in support to Warriors. From working numerous weekends volunteering building an elevator on a Veterans house, to assisting victims of the tornado that swept through post, Rick was always out-front ensuring that families were taken care of. While Rick was president of the Chapter we were recognized as the Best Chapter in the Army. In 2014, Rick was awarded the Sergeant Major of the Army Bainbridge Medal for his impact. 

Rick has been on the Tourism Board for the past eleven years and has been the president for the past four. He has been an inspiration in showcasing Pulaski County and led actions for our marketing programs such as billboards, the digital sign, and he organized the Hotel and Lodging Association. He routinely travels to DC and our State Capitol to advocate for our Community and his recent efforts helped repeal actions that were devastating to our hotel owners, soldiers and families. 

Rick and the company he leads are 100% engaged in Chamber events; they have repeatedly won the Chili cook-off, they have been recognized as Charitable Business of the Year and he has been named outstanding Contributor of the Year. He inspires his employees to volunteer and lead; his team is always ready to support and lead events. 

Rick was the Honorary Chairman in 2015 and led the effort to raise over $85,000 during the Tree of Lights Campaign. He continues to assist and volunteer to this incredibly worthy cause. 

Rick has been the Chairman of the Committee of Fifty since 2014 and continues to advocate for promoting the strength and expansion of Fort Leonard Wood. 

Rick has been a leader in the Sustainable Ozarks Partnership (SOP) and strong voice for sustainability for our region. Rick travels frequently to visit with Army Leaders, Congressional delegates and other agencies to showcase our community and identify opportunities for growth. 

Rick is involved in other organizations such as Pulaski County Growth Alliance (PCGA), Rotary Club of Pulaski County, Waynesville R-VI Schools, Rick has volunteered with the Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) and mentors through his personal experiences in business. He has also been a judge for the District and Stat Competitions. Rick has mentored aspiring entrepreneurs on business planning and development and helped newcomers be successful.

Rick has been a champion for our community and is a proud member who tirelessly gives back to make our community the best!

Michael “Mike” Freeman

When the Salvation Army asked this young man if he would be the honorary chairman for the 2017 ‘Tree of Lights’ he accepted and hit the road running. He did not just give his name to this endeavor, he made phone calls, wrote letters, visited community businesses, made Facebook pleas, he and his family rang bells at Christmas on the Square and at Wal-Mart and they marched in the Christmas parade for the Salvation Army. The results of this tireless efforts and dedication, led to the Pulaski County Salvation Army setting a record of over ninety-seven thousand dollars in donations. This would enable us to serve many families in Pulaski County. This man was Mike Freeman.

Mike came to area in June 1984 to accept a job as sales consultant with Sellers-Sexton automobile dealership. Shortly after he arrived, he married his high school sweetheart, Marie and they have enjoyed thirty-four years of marriage. God blessed this marriage with a daughter Molly and husband Justin, and a son Ivan and his wife Tiffany with grandchildren Gunner and Brylee.

Mike has three loves; loving and serving God, caring for his family and loving his community with a commitment to make it a better place. Mike serves as a worship leader at Westside Baptist Church. He shares his love for God in music not only at his church, but throughout the Ozarks with the gospel group the “Covenant Quartet”. Spreading the love of Jesus for each of us is his number one priority. 

Mike believes you can show God’s love through serving your community. He is a member of the Waynesville-St. Robert Chamber of Commerce, where he has served as president. He is a member of the Rotary Club where he routinely participates in their service projects and is long time member of the Committee of Fifty which promotes the Fort Leonard Wood Community. Many charities and organizations from the Ford Test Drive Program, Project Teach, and Cash for Touchdowns at Waynesville High School have been coordinated and promoted by him for Sellers-Sexton. Any program in which Mike participates benefits tremendously from Mike’s enthusiastic endorsement and “hands-on” involvement.