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After decades of good deeds, Callahan prepares to leave Boy Scouts
 Chloe Khaw  / 

Doug Callahan gives most of the credit for his career in Scouting to his mother. If it weren’t for her, he said, he wouldn’t have become an Eagle Scout, a scoutmaster or a Scouting professional for the past 37 years.

“My mother really wanted to have one Eagle Scout son, and I was the last one,” Callahan said. His two older brothers joined Scout troops but never attained the organization’s highest rank.

Callahan got a lot of pushing and nudging from his mother. Fortunately for him, he really liked the program.

Now, at 59, Callahan’s life is taking a major turn. He’s decided to leave Scouting after 52 years to become president of Tolton Catholic High School in September. Although he was torn between the two career paths, he believes it is a “higher calling” to be able to serve his church and the Catholic community.

It’s a bittersweet move. Scouting has defined much of Callahan’s life. It was through the Boy Scouts that he met his wife and came to Columbia, which he now considers his home.

agl5f5 / 

Amanda Lee


Doug Callahan observes his golfing partner’s swing on Monday at the Missouri Country Club. Callahan said he has been involved with Fr. Tolton High School “since the beginning,” and his daughter was the first homecoming queen.

Scouting wasn’t his initial career choice. Numbers had always come easy for him, and after he graduated from Georgetown University with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, Callahan found himself working for one of the Big Eight certified public accounting firms.

He wasn’t happy there.

Callahan had also become a scoutmaster at the time. Dads from his troop knew he disliked his job and told Callahan about a job opening in the St. Louis Scouting office. A paying career with the Scouts had never crossed his mind.

agl5f5 / 

Amanda Lee


Doug Callahan plays golf in a cub scouts fundraiser tournament on Monday at the Missouri Country Club. Callahan said he has been playing golf for the fundraiser for 20 years. “I’m good enough (at golf) to not embarrass myself,” Callahan said.

Callahan went ahead and applied for the position of district executive and got it. And that’s what started his career in June 1982.

“It was all by accident,” Callahan said. “Only because I was an Eagle Scout and a scoutmaster.”

Callahan has been involved with the Boy Scouts since he was 8; he initially joined as a Cub Scout.

Courtesy of Doug Callahan


Sean Callahan, 9, was a Cub Scout at Fairview Elementary School where his dad Doug Callahan was his den leader.

All his family members were involved when he joined. In addition to his older brothers, his younger sister was a Girl Scout, his dad was a Boy Scout volunteer and his mom was a den leader.

His son, Sean Callahan, didn’t take to Scouting as much. Although he earned his Arrow of Light, the Cub Scouts’ highest award, he found after a couple of years with the Boy Scouts that he wasn’t so fond of the outdoors.

“He likes sports, and camping and hiking just wasn’t something that appealed to him,” Callahan said.

Callahan said the Boy Scouts experience is not as “cool” now as it was when he first joined as a boy. Children and teenagers these days have more entertainment options, such as video games, year-round sports and other organizations.

The change has caused a decline in the number of Boy Scouts members. Recruiting volunteers has become tougher as well.

“Back when I was growing up, most moms were at home,” Callahan said. “These days, usually both parents work, so parents are busier. Their time is more consumed.”

Callahan recalled that it was on a Boy Scouts recruiting night in south St. Louis in 1987 that he met his wife, Sue Callahan. He was there to make a presentation, and she was just tagging along with her brother-in-law, who was a Cubmaster.

Courtesy of Doug Callahan


Doug Callahan, around age 9 or 10, posed with his little sister Pam Callahan, who was then a Brownie in Girl Scouts. When they were younger, Doug would be dragged along to Girl Scout camp by his mother, who was his sister’s group leader. He says his Boy Scout skills like building a fire were appreciated by the girls, though it was more of a chore than pleasure for him.

While Callahan was talking, someone in the crowd made a joke about interrupting the baseball game behind him. He looked down and saw an attractive young lady “heckling” him. He asked around for her name and had her brother-in-law introduce him.

“So I invited her to the Cardinals game the next night, and then we went to dinner. ... And then six months later, I asked her to marry me, and less than a year later, we were married.”

His wife went into labor with one of their children during another Scouts meeting.

“So I said, ‘Folks, sorry. Gotta leave. Yeah, have to take my wife to the hospital.’”

After 17 years as finance director in the Scouts’ St. Louis office, Callahan in 1998 became Scouts executive for the Great Rivers Council, which spans much of the state and is headquartered in Columbia. He said there have been a lot of changes and challenges over the past 20 years.

One of the biggest and most recent changes is that Scouting is now open to everyone, no matter their sexual orientation or gender. His said one of his only regrets about leaving now is that he won’t be in the office when a bright young girl achieves the rank of Eagle Scout.

Callahan said he’ll always have fond memories of working with dedicated volunteers in Columbia.

“These are folks who run banks and run their own construction companies, but when you ask them to do something with the Boy Scouts, you ask them to be our president, they put in a lot of time. They put in a lot of volunteer time,” Callahan said.

Courtesy of Doug Callahan


Doug Callahan served as a camp director in 1987, when this photo was taken. The photo was taken around the time Callahan had announced his engagement to his future wife, Sue Callahan. His camp threw him an “engagement party” and gave him a book as an engagement gift.

He said being executive has also opened doors for him to work with “the captains of industries” who are from different careers with different capabilities and skill sets.

Many of the skills he’s gained from being a Scouts executive, such as building relationships and people skills, will translate to his new job. It’s about listening and finding out what people are interested in and what gets them excited, Callahan said, just like trying to match Scouts troops with the best Scouting programs.

“After 20 years, it won’t be easy,” he said about leaving the Boy Scouts. “But life goes on, and they always say the only constant is change.”

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

2020 Democrats target Trump gains in rural areas

DES MOINES, Iowa — They’re flanked by hay bales on otherwise deserted fields, speak atop countertops at small-town coffee shops and tour farms far removed from city centers. Democratic presidential candidates are trying to prove they can gain ground in rural areas that swung to President Donald Trump.

On Wednesday alone, three White House hopefuls — Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar — offered sweeping proposals that touch on everything from farm subsidies to rural broadband and health care. The trio of senators are among the parade of candidates who will fan out across Iowa this weekend to participate in the famed state fair and other events.

The focus on rural Iowa is a mainstay of presidential politics, sending candidates on a sometimes-awkward pilgrimage to the far corners of the state that holds the first-in-the-nation caucuses. But Democrats say the chase for the heartland is especially urgent this year as the party tries to win back some voters who supported Trump in 2016. A strong showing in Iowa, they say, could prove a candidate’s ability to make inroads in other rural communities across the country.

“If we don’t fight everywhere, we’re going to continue to lose in the places where we don’t show up, and it’s going to get worse and worse,” said J.D. Scholten, the Democrat who is challenging GOP Rep. Steve King again after nearly prevailing in the heavily rural northeastern Iowa district in 2018.

The challenge for Democrats is to rebuild the multiracial coalition across urban and rural areas that twice sent Barack Obama to the White House. His victory in the 2008 Iowa caucuses helped build momentum to claim the party’s presidential nomination. He later carried Iowa in the 2008 and 2012 general elections while also winning states with urban centers, such as Pennsylvania and Michigan.

In 2016, Trump ate into that path, carrying Iowa, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Some Democratic candidates are working to reverse those gains by offering ambitious changes to rural voters. Warren’s proposal on Wednesday would reshape the current farm subsidy system into a program that would break up big agribusinesses and guarantee farmers certain prices, which she said would raise farmers’ incomes and save taxpayer money.

Gillibrand’s plan includes a $50 billion block grant program for the Department of Agriculture to distribute to rural communities, among other planks addressing rural health care and infrastructure. Former Iowa Governor and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack praised her plan as “unique” for emphasizing a partnership between rural communities and the federal government, and praised it as placing a premium on “rural communities leading this effort.”

Warren’s said her proposal, similar to programs the government used during the New Deal era and “gives us the tools to stabilize farm income where farmers aren’t getting prices at the cost of production, like commodity crops and dairy.” She added in an online post about her plan that her approach also would improve “food security by giving the government access to reserves if needed” and would cut down on overproduction.

Klobuchar is proposing an expansion of federal programs that help small family farmers and small business owners in rural areas, and those that incentivize farmers to engage in conservation practices. It encompasses some planks she’s already released in the past, like her plan to invest in rural broadband, and some she’s worked on during farm bill negotiations on Capitol Hill, like investing in clean energy and energy efficiency programs.

She also pledges to expand Medicare reimbursements for rural hospitals and increase access to childcare in less-populated areas.

“You need someone that understands ag, that also gets that that’s not the only thing in rural America, that there are a lot of other issues we have to tackle if we’re to move forward,” she said as she introduced her plan on Wednesday in Iowa as she highlighted her experience as a senator from Minnesota.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Rep. John Delaney, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and former Vice President Joe Biden have all released comprehensive plans for revitalizing rural America, which include planks focused on health care, agriculture reform, and investments in local economies and infrastructure. Other candidates have sought to tackle a single issue, like the rural health care policies released by Sen. Michael Bennet. Warren’s new farm agenda includes a section on health care, including new support for rural hospitals.

There’s considerable overlap within the field on the broad foundations for helping less-populous areas of the country. Nearly every candidate with a plan has endorsed stepping up antitrust enforcement against major agriculture monopolies, incentivizing farmers to engage in more environmentally friendly practices, renegotiating trade deals to be more favorable for farmers and investments in rural broadband.

But their pitches go beyond just policy. A number of Democrats in the field, like Hickenlooper, Klobuchar and Steve Bullock, tout their experience campaigning and crafting policy for rural areas.

“I refuse to cede the votes of rural Americans to Donald Trump,” said Bullock, the Montana governor who has made his success in a Trump-won state a centerpiece of his struggling presidential campaign.

Gillibrand, who was first elected to a conservative upstate New York congressional district, often highlights her rural roots. Warren frequently recalls her family’s struggle to get by financially during her childhood in the deep-red state of Oklahoma.

Some of the candidates have also made an effort to campaign beyond Iowa’s population centers, in places like tiny Malcom, a town of about 285 people where Sanders held a town hall, and Stanton, a town of fewer than 700 where Klobuchar spoke about her rural broadband plan.

Warren’s campaign has deployed a rural-focused organizer, who spends his days driving a pickup truck to the state’s smallest towns and holding town halls and coffees with locals, conversations that ultimately helped inform the candidate’s policy. Her pair of rural policy platforms included praise from advocates and experts in farm states, such as the president of the Texas and Nebraska Farmers Unions.

But some of Iowa’s most prominent rural activists warn that the candidates may be missing the mark.

Scholten said candidates are going too deep in the weeds on policy details without laying out a broader guiding “vision.”

“The way to win in rural areas is to show them a vision on how (the candidates) can improve on people’s lives,” he said.

Pointing to Sanders’ plan, a sweeping multi-part proposal, Scholten added, “when you have a 17-point plan, that’s good, but that doesn’t really resonate with someone in Hinton, Iowa. That was a huge dump of policies,” he said. “I know that policy and what it will do, but the average voter won’t.”

Former state Sen. Tom Courtney, now a local Democratic Party chair in a rural southeastern county, said the candidates need to “go to these audiences, but start talking more jobs, more health care, not just in platitudes.”

“Nobody’s doing that,” he said.

Protesters chant as Trump visits Dayton, El Paso

EL PASO, Texas — Aiming to play the traditional role of healer during national tragedy, President Donald Trump paid visits Wednesday to cities reeling from mass shootings that left 31 dead and dozens more wounded. But his divisive words preceded him, large protests greeted him and biting political attacks soon followed.

The president and first lady Melania Trump flew to El Paso late in the day after visiting the Dayton, Ohio, hospital where many of the victims of Sunday’s attack in that city were treated. For most of the day, the president was kept out of view of the reporters traveling with him, but the White House said the couple met with hospital staff and first responders and spent time with wounded survivors and their families.

Trump told them he was “with them,” said press secretary Stephanie Grisham. “Everybody received him very warmly. Everybody was very, very excited to see him.” Trump said the same about his reception in the few moments he spoke with the media at a 911 call center in El Paso.

But outside Dayton’s Miami Valley Hospital, at least 200 protesters gathered, blaming Trump’s incendiary rhetoric for inflaming political and racial tensions in the country and demanding action on gun control. Some said Trump was not welcome in their city. There were Trump supporters, as well.

In El Paso, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke spoke to several hundred people at a separate gathering. O’Rourke, a potential Democratic 2020 presidential rival, has blistered Trump as a racist instigator but also told those in his audience the open way the people of his home town treat each other could be “the example ot the United States of America.”

Emotions are still raw in both cities in the aftermath of the weekend shootings. Critics contend Trump’s own words have contributed to a combustible climate that has spawned death and other violence.

The vitriol continued Wednesday.

Trump’s motorcade passed El Paso protesters holding “Racist Go Home” signs. And Trump spent part of his flight between Ohio and Texas airing his grievances on Twitter, berating Democratic lawmakers, O’Rourke and the press. It was a remarkable split-screen appearance for TV viewers, with White House images of handshakes and selfies juxtaposed with angry tweets.

Trump and the White House have forcefully disputed the idea that he bears some responsibility for the nation’s divisions. And he continued to do so on Wednesday.

“My critics are political people,” Trump said as he left the White House, noting the apparent political leanings of the shooter in the Dayton killings. He also defended his rhetoric on issues including immigration, claiming instead that he “brings people together.”

Some 85% of U.S. adults believe the tone and nature of political debate has become more negative, with a majority saying Trump has changed things for the worse, according to recent Pew Research Center polling. And more than three quarters, 78%, say that elected officials who use heated or aggressive language to talk about certain people or groups make violence against those people more likely.

In Dayton, raw anger and pain were on display as protesters chanted “Ban those guns” and “Do something!” during Trump’s visit.

Holding a sign that said “Not Welcome Here,” Lynnell Graham said she thinks Trump’s response to the shootings has been insincere.

“To me he comes off as fake,” she said.

Dorothee Bouquet stood in the bright sun with her 5-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son, tucked in a stroller. She told them they were going to a protest “to tell grown-ups to make better rules.”

But in El Paso, where more protests awaited, Raul Melendez, whose father-in-law, David Johnson, was killed in Saturday’s shooting, said the most appropriate thing Trump could do was to meet with relatives of the victims.

“It shows that he actually cares, if he talks to individual families,” said Melendez, who credits Johnson with helping his 9-year-old daughter survive the attack by pushing her under a counter. Melendez, an Army veteran and the son of Mexican immigrants, said he holds only the shooter responsible for the attack.

“That person had the intent to hurt people, he already had it,” he said. “No one’s words would have triggered that.”

Local Democratic lawmakers who’d expressed concern about the visit said Trump had nonetheless hit the right notes Wednesday.

“He was comforting. He did the right things and Melania did the right things. It’s his job to comfort people,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, who nonetheless said he was “very concerned about a president that divides in his rhetoric and plays to race in his rhetoric.”

“I think the victims and the first responders were grateful that the president of the United States came to Dayton,” added Mayor Nan Whaley, who said she was glad Trump had not stopped at the site of the shooting.

“A lot of the time his talk can be very divisive, and that’s the last thing we need in Dayton,” she said.

Grisham, responding on Twitter from aboard Air Force One, sad it was “genuinely sad” to see the lawmakers “immediately hold such a dishonest press conference in the name of partisan politics.”

Despite protests in both cities, the White House insisted Trump had received positive receptions. One aide tweeted that Trump was a “rock star” at the Dayton hospital.

The White House did not allow reporters and photographers to watch as he talked with wounded victims, medical staff and law enforcement officers there, but then quickly published its own photos on social media and released a video of his visit.

There was discord in El Paso, too. Rep. Veronica Escobar, the Democratic congresswoman who represents the city, declined to meet with Trump. “I refuse to be a prop,” she said in an interview on CNN.

Visits to the sites of mass shootings have become a regular pilgrimage for recent president, but Trump, who has sometimes struggled to project empathy during moments of national tragedy, has stirred unusual backlash.

Though he has been able to summon soothing words and connect one-on-one with victims, he often quickly lapses into divisive tweets and statements — just recently painting immigrants as “invaders,” suggesting four Democratic congresswoman of color should ”go back” to their home countries even though they’re U.S. citizens and deriding majority-black Baltimore as a rat-infested hell-hole.

As the presidential motorcade rolled up to a 911 center in El Paso, it passed a sign aimed at Trump that said, “Racist go home.”

Elsewhere in the city, O’Rourke told several hundred people that his hometown “bore the brunt” of hatred from the shooting but could also hold an answer to the strife.

“The way that we welcome one another and see our differences not as disqualifying or dangerous but as the very source if our strength, as the foundation of our success — that needs to be the example of the United States of America,” O’Rourke said.

On the eve of his trip, Trump lashed out at O’Rourke, who had tweeted that Trump “helped create the hatred that made Saturday’s tragedy possible” and “should not come to El Paso.”

O’Rourke “should respect the victims & law enforcement — & be quiet!” Trump snapped back.

And on his flight between one scene of tragedy and the second, Trump said he turned in as another 2020 rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, excoriated him in a speech that slammed him as incapable of offering the moral leadership that has defined the presidency for generations and “fueling a literal carnage” in America.

Trump declared the speech “Sooo Boring!” and warned that, “The LameStream Media will die in the ratings and clicks” if Biden wins.

Trial over midwife clinic license to begin Thursday
 Tom Coulter  / 

The question of whether a mid-Missouri health clinic is exempt from a state licensing requirement governing birthing centers will come before the Cole County Circuit Court in a bench trial set to begin Thursday morning.

In the case, which began in May 2017, the attorney general’s office is arguing that Susan Wilson, a midwife who delivers babies at a medical clinic near Versailles, is operating a birthing center without a license.

Wilson said the clinic, which was built by Mennonites in 2017, is crucial for the neighboring Mennonite and Amish communities, as many of them don’t want to give birth in a hospital. Roughly three-quarters of her clinic’s patients come from those communities.

Gaylin Carver, the attorney representing Wilson, said the state is adhering to regulations that don’t align with the state statute.

By statute, birthing centers are considered a type of “ambulatory surgical center.” Those are defined as any establishment operated primarily for the purpose of performing surgical procedures or childbirths — a definition that Wilson argues her clinic, A Mother’s Heart, does not meet because more than half of the health care the clinic provides is unrelated to births.

Wilson said a Department of Health and Senior Services administrator told her in 2016 that as long as delivering babies made up less than half of her clinic’s revenue, it did not qualify as a birthing center. Since the clinic offers other medical services that generate more than half of its revenue, Wilson said she was told a license was not required.

Then, in 2017, the attorney general’s office filed a preliminary injunction against the clinic with the circuit court, arguing it was out of compliance with birthing center regulations.

When regulations conflict with the statutes they’re based on, Carver said the statute prevails.

“I don’t really know what the state’s argument is, to be honest with you,” Carver said.

In February 2018, the Cole County Circuit Court denied a motion by the state that would have forced Wilson to stop delivering babies for the clinic, pending resolution of the legal dispute over licensing.

Missouri has roughly eight other clinics offering midwife services that are not registered birth centers, Carver said.

The trial was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Thursday in the Cole County Courthouse before Judge Jon Beetem.

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.