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Blunt named former lawmaker to head DNR

January 25, 2005
By: Chris Blank
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY -Gov. Matt Blunt named veteran Republican lawmaker Doyle Childers to head the state Department of Natural Resources.

Childers was a moderate voice in his 22-year General Assembly career, with a record supporting clean water efforts, especially in the southwestern part of the state.

The Sierra Club, concerned who would lead the department charged with protecting natural resources in a state government dominated by Republicans, has some reservations but was optimistic given Childers' moderate record.

Sierra Club state chapter Director Carla Klein said the organization had worked with Childers on several issues and while heartened by these experiences and his work on ensuring clean water in southwest Missouri, she did not think the state's environment would improve on the watch of the 20-year General Assembly veteran.

"The Department of Natural Resources has always tended to lean toward business interests more so than what they're charged with, which is natural resources," Klein said.

Despite a moderately warm reception from the nation's largest environmental group, Childers said he was in line with Blunt's stance on balancing business and environmental issues.

"The DNR, in the past, has had a one-size-fits-all answer to the business community," he said. "I believe that it should be more flexible than that."

Blunt said the department had to consider business issues in its decisions because the balance between the environment and the economy had been "tipped away from job creation."

"Sometimes you'll see groups like the Sierra Club will be disappointed, and sometimes you'll see groups like the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups be disappointed," Blunt said.

Childers, who received degrees in science and education from Southwest Missouri State University and was involved in the first clean water study in southwest Missouri, said he anticipated water cleanliness and air quality in Kansas City and St. Louis would be the department's biggest issues.

Childers left the Senate after last session due to term limits and said his General Assembly service would be an asset because of the variety of issues discussed and the need to seek agreement among diverse opinions.

"I've been a part of the laws for the past 20 years so I have a better understanding of the issues in front of the department," Childers said.

The former lawmaker said increased efficiency is vital and suggested that Missouri might coordinate with other states on conservation issues. With a complex water flow pattern in the southwestern corner of the state that results in water draining between Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma, Childers said there might be an opportunity to coordinate conservation efforts among other states with the help of some federal dollars. He declined to specify details on any arrangement because it was too soon to address specifics of such a plan.

Prior to his legislative career, Childers was a science teacher at Reeds Spring High School and worked on infrastructural development in Central America for four years while in the Peace Corps.

The nomination must be confirmed by the Senate.