Service is legacy for former Rep. Peter Myers
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
SIKESTON, Mo. -- Ask those who took a political lesson from Peter Myers what they came away with and you'll likely receive a pretty consistent response -- he taught them to stay calm.
Myers, 81, a former Republican state representative from Sikeston, died Monday; he was stricken with cancer. He was elected in 1998 to the 160th District, which included Scott County and parts of Cape Girardeau and New Madrid counties before redistricting; he served until 2006, when term limits ended that service. Before joining the legislature, he had been a longtime farmer. He also served as a deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Republicans and Democrats on Tuesday remembered Myers as a mentor, a friend and, most importantly, as "someone who left his community better than he found it," said state Sen. Jason Crowell, who served in the House and Senate when Myers did.
Myers, throughout his life, was highly involved in Sikeston civic life and served in positions as board member or commissioner in various statewide organizations, including the Missouri Farm Bureau and the Missouri Department of Conservation. Perhaps he was best known, however, for his expertise in agriculture. In the legislature, said Crowell and others, Myers' knowledge was applied well. For a time he served as chairman of the House agriculture committee.
"He was somebody who walked the walk and talked the talk," Crowell said.
Dee Cookson, chairwoman of the Scott County Republican Committee, who worked with Myers in his last elected position as a committeeman in Sikeston's Ward 1, called Myers "the reason she doesn't like term limits."
"Even when he was done, he had a lot of wisdom left to serve the legislature," she said.
Myers' seat has since been held by Ellen Brandom, who also had a strong friendship with Myers. In 2006, she called him the "honorary chairman" of her campaign because of the support he provided. Myers' friendship with Lanie Black, a former state representative and a Charleston Republican, also was prominent in his life, friends of Myers said Tuesday. The representatives often drove together to and from Jefferson City. Neither Brandom nor Black was reachable by phone Tuesday.
Cookson and the committee soon will need to appoint someone to fill Myers' committee post, but that really won't be possible, she said.
"As far as replacing him, you can't replace Peter. It's going to leave a big void in the Scott County Republican committee because of his character and friendship. No matter how bad things got, or how bad things looked, when Peter spoke, it was as if, well, 'everything's going to be OK.' He just had such a command of keeping people calm," Cookson said.
State Sen.-elect Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau, Tuesday offered condolences in a prepared statement.
"Whether as a legislator, deputy secretary for the USDA, local Republican committeeman, or any of the other positions he held throughout his life, he always served our state and our country honorably, and I know he will be fondly remembered for his service," Wallingford said.
Holly Rehder, a Republican just elected to represent Sikeston in the state house, said in a prepared statement, "Southeast Missouri was blessed to have the service of Rep. Peter Myers. He was a man of faith and character with the heart of a servant. A dear friend and mentor. He will be greatly missed."
Myers told the Sikeston Standard Democrat in 2006, as he was leaving office, that he hoped he would be remembered as "straightforward, honest, ethical and Christian."
He had all of those qualities, his friends said, but they best remember him as a mentor.
Crowell, elected to the House in 2000 at the age of 28, recalled Myers as a legislator whose counsel was available at all times.
"Back then, my blood was a little hotter; I moved a little faster," Crowell said. "Peter was the one who, during the General Assembly, would grab me by the collar and say, 'breathe, breathe.' It was always great advice," Crowell said.
Dennis Ziegenhorn, a Democrat who represented the 160th District before Myers and now is a Scott County commissioner, remembers hearing from Myers when Myers worked for the agriculture department.
"There was never a problem of politics. We just got business done. You take care of constituents first and worry about their politics later. He was someone who, I think, did that," Ziegenhorn said.
Myers' surviving family includes his wife Mary; five children; 11 grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; two sisters; and a brother.
Visitation will be 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Trinity Gospel Church in Sikeston. A celebration service will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at the church.
901 Davis Blvd., Sikeston, MO