Chamber helps fulfill Columbia council members' dreams

Appreciation breakfast honors mayor, colleagues
Thursday, February 12, 2009 | 9:44 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser firing an assault rifle. Mayor Darwin Hindman tossing pizzas at Shakespeare's. Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade working on a locomotive. Second Ward Councilman Chris Janku helping steer an airplane above Columbia. Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala working the printing presses.

These scenes, many of which might seem pretty unusual for Columbia politicians, became reality this year thanks to the Columbia Chamber of Commerce's Columbia Dream program.

Every year at the Mayor's Appreciation Breakfast, the chamber presents the mayor and City Council with gifts to show appreciation for everything those unpaid elected officials do for the city, chamber President Don Laird said.

This year, organizer Tina Bernskoetter said, the chamber asked how it could help the mayor and council fulfill their dreams.

"We just wanted to do something special," Bernskoetter said.

Nauser said: "That was a fun thing the chamber came up with. I really appreciated them arranging all of that."

Nauser's dream was to visit a shooting range with Interim Police Chief Tom Dresner and toting firearms nearly as tall as she.

"I've been thinking about getting a concealed-carry permit for my own handgun," Nauser said. She said Dresner, whom she described as an accomplished marksman, seemed like the ideal person to show her the ropes.

Nauser said she fired a handgun, a fully automatic rifle and an MP5 submachine gun. She compared the thrill of shooting the MP5 to skydiving. Dresner had to prop her up to keep the weapon's recoil from knocking her down, she said.

"To have one of those in your hands — that was a different experience," Nauser said. "Those are pretty powerful guns, to say the least."

It took Wade awhile to decide on his dream, but he said he made the perfect choice in the end.

"The minute I realized that I had an opportunity to ride in the engine, there was no question what I wanted to do," Wade said.

Wade assisted the crew in the locomotive of the Columbia Terminal train during a freight run to Centralia and back. The crew even let Wade drive for a few seconds, he said.

"I was like a kid having their first train ride, except I was in the engine," Wade said. "It was an absolute delight."

Wade said his favorite part of the trip brought out the kid in him. "What kid doesn't get a thrill out of having the opportunity to blow a real train whistle?"

Hindman tossed pizza dough and created a custom pie at Shakespeare's Pizza.

Janku flew over Columbia with pilot B.J. Hunter, who let Janku steer the plane during a particularly safe stretch of air.

Skala said he'd always wanted to see The New York Times printed, so he chose to visit the Columbia Daily Tribune's press room.

First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz was too busy with preparations for the True/False Film Festival to choose a dream, and Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe chose to give her dream, a tour of the restored Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts, to constituent Susan Decker.

Those gathered at the Thursday morning breakfast watched a video of the council members' dreams becoming reality.

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