Remembering Boone County Presiding Commisioner Ed Robb

Monday, September 26, 2011 | 5:26 p.m. CDT; updated 6:49 p.m. CDT, Monday, September 26, 2011

COLUMBIA — People who knew Ed Robb, the Boone County presiding commissioner who died Saturday, remember him as a kind and intelligent man who loved numbers and cared deeply for the county he served. Here are some of their thoughts:

Monica Kuster, commission secretary

"I don't like a lot of people," Kuster said with a chuckle. "But (Robb) was hands-down my favorite."

While most people who knew Robb remember his passion for numbers and economic theory, Kuster remembers that he collected clocks and decorated his office with photographs he had taken himself.

Kuster glanced tearfully at a musical clock that began to chime and sing when it hit the top of the hour.

"That was his clock, you know," she said. Kuster said that when she visited Robb's wife, Rosa, to pay her respects on Sunday, more clocks adorned the house than she could count.

Since the first day of Robb's term as presiding commissioner, Kuster said they "just clicked."

"We were just instant friends," Kuster said.

Kuster said she knew Robb hadn't been feeling well the past few weeks, but Robb would never complain or stay home from work.

"The days he came into work feeling the worst, he'd tell the best jokes," she said. "I think he spent the last couple of months not worrying about the doctors and making every day the best."

Skip Elkin, Northern District commissioner

"I'm still in the numb phase of things," Elkin said Monday morning.

Elkin spoke calmly, and the only emotion he was able to describe was sadness.

Elkin described Robb as a kind and gentle individual but said he would miss Robb's sense of humor and fellowship most.

"He always brought levity to every meeting we were in," Elkin said.

Robb's vast knowledge of economics and budgets will be sorely missed, Elkin said, adding that a newly appointed presiding commissioner will have a difficult time matching Robb.

"As a local government official, to have the opportunity to work with a world-renowned economist was such a great opportunity," Elkin said.

The commissioner said he hopes to continue the dialogue in Boone County discussing a home rule government, an agenda most passionately championed by Robb.

Larry Grossman, friend and campaigner

Grossman had been a close friend of Robb's since his first campaign for state representative in 2004.

"He was a much better legislator than a politician," Grossman said. He said some people might describe Robb as gruff, but Robb actually was just shy.

"I think he was just speaking his mind from the direction he was coming, and it came off gruff because he's not a politician," Grossman said.

Grossman recalled a time during Robb's 2006 campaign for state representative when he spent an entire day crunching numbers for proposed changes in K-12 education funding. Robb excitedly called Grossman later that night, having figured out that the formula chosen to allocate funding for education gave Columbia more money than any other school district.

"That's the kind of thing that would excite Ed Robb, more than calling for a donation or being involved in what's going to go on radio or what's going to go on TV," Grossman said.

Grossman said that though Robb wasn't involved in the state legislature anymore, he still would do work for them just because he liked it and enjoyed working with numbers.

"Anytime there were numbers involved, it really didn't matter whether it was balancing the campaign checkbook or projecting the budget, Ed was just in his glorious time when he could use numbers and his abilities to come up with a solution," Grossman said.

Grossman said he was mourning and wishing the best for Robb's family.

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Scott Swafford September 27, 2011 | 10:35 a.m.

The city of Columbia issued this statement about Ed Robb's death on Tuesday morning:

The city of Columbia is saddened by the passing of Boone County’s Presiding Commissioner Ed Robb and extends deep sympathy to the Robb family.

Mayor Bob McDavid remembers Mr. Robb as a consummate professional who was committed to close communication and collaboration between the city and county.

“Ed was dedicated to improving the lives (of) Boone County citizens, whether they lived in the city of Columbia, smaller towns and villages or in the countryside. We will miss his wise counsel and the spirit of partnership he fostered between city and county government,” McDavid said.

McDavid also expressed condolences to the Robb family for their sudden loss.

“We owe much to the family for sharing Ed with us, and they are in our hearts during this difficult time,” McDavid said.

Posted by Scott Swafford, Missourian city editor

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