President to visit Poplar Bluff

Friday, September 3, 2004

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- Some say one person can't make a difference. But apparently two can.

U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson announced Thursday that President Bush will be coming to Poplar Bluff to attend a Bush-Cheney re-election campaign event sometime late Monday afternoon. Exactly where and when the president will appear will be finalized today, Emerson said.

Emerson said Bush is responding to an invitation from Hardy Billington and David Hahn of Poplar Bluff.

In June, the two put up signs, including a billboard along Highway 67 just north of town, pledging support of Bush and the U.S. troops fighting overseas and inviting the president to come to Poplar Bluff. Billington and Hahn then went door-to-door, hitting area businesses and fairs to collect 10,000 signatures on a petition supporting the president and inviting him to visit the city with a population of 16,651.

Upon meeting Billington and learning of the effort, Emerson later relayed the story to Bush-Cheney campaign officials. On Thursday at the GOP convention in New York, Emerson said Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman told her the president planned to visit Poplar Bluff on Labor Day. She immediately called Billington to tell him the news.

Billington said he'll have a chance to meet the president when he makes his stop. Although he and Hahn have been singled out, Billington's quick to share credit with those who signed the petition.

"I care about our president a great deal and so does our community," he said.

Emerson echoed Billington's enthusiasm, calling him and Hahn heroes.

"This is just tremendous for the community," Emerson said. "This is a tribute to those with the vision and commitment who made it happen."

Missouri is one of the states considered up for grabs in the November presidential election.

Billington and Emerson aren't the only ones getting ready for Bush's visit.

Capt. Dennis Long of the Poplar Bluff Police Department said all 43 officers have been activated to help with security on Monday. Long said details at this point are sketchy. The Secret Service will be in Poplar Bluff today to go over specifics.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Butler County Sheriff's Department will also be involved in providing security.

335-6611, extension 137

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