JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — As Gov. Eric Greitens, 43, completes his first year in office, more than a few things are on his mind.
He met with a small group of rural newspaper professionals Wednesday in his office to speak of his dreams, goals and accomplishments.
"Sometimes, it's a little hard to know how you're doing in your job, but then you get a kind word," he said.
Recently, that kind word came from his 3-year-old son after a shared lunch in the Governor's Mansion next door.
"He said, 'Good job eating lunch today,'" Greitens said with a grin. "We love this job."
Jobs, or the lack of them, was a concern of the governor when he took office last January.
"Our No. 1 priority when I came into office was, and is, jobs," Greitens said.
He said Missouri's unemployment rate has now improved. In October, the state's (preliminary) rate was 3.5 percent, according to the state Department of Labor and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"It's the lowest it's been in 17 years," he said.
In January, the unemployment rate in Missouri was 4.2 percent. In January 2007, it was 4.9 percent. In December 2009, the unemployment rate rose to a high of 9.8 percent, where it remained until February 2009, then began to fall sharply until now.
Greitens also said Missouri's economic growth has improved. According to Forbes' "Best States For Business," Missouri is ranked No. 21, with North Carolina and Texas leading the way and Alaska and West Virginia at the bottom of the list. Past years' results were not immediately available.
"Around the country, people are looking at Missouri as a good place to do business," Greitens added.
He said he and his staff are studying 40,000 pages of regulations put in place during the past 16 years and vetting them.
"In my first week (in office), we put an immediate freeze on non-emergency regulations," he said.
And while looking over the rules of government is beneficial, it's hard to beat meeting with constituents — "old-fashioned sitting down and talking," he said.
One of those first sit-down meetings was with officials at American Outdoor Brands Corp., which includes firearms company Smith & Wesson. In March, Greitens announced plans for that company to expand a facility in Columbia, Barrenfeld Technologies, acquired in 2014. That expansion will create jobs, Greitens said.
"They're making a major investment in the state of Missouri and hundreds of jobs," he said.
He also talked about a new steel mill he's pushing for in Centralia, and the need for increased broadband internet and decent cellphone service across the state.
"One conversation I never want to have again is, 'Hello? Can you hear me? Can you hear me now?'" Greitens said.
The governor also spoke of the 13,000 children in Missouri's foster care system, and said this year the Governor's Mansion is decorated with 13,000 stars — one for each child.
Other topics included fixing the child abuse hotline so out-of-state calls can be received, letting adopted children have access to their own birth certificates, supporting law enforcement officers and military veterans, and a new partnership between the Missouri National Guard and Israeli Defense Forces, "Tzahal."
"And we're pursuing regulations to remove all start-up fees for veterans to start businesses when they come home," he added.
Upcoming will be legislation to improve infrastructure — including transportation — in response to comments made at public hearings around the state.
"We have a committee looking at transportation," Greitens said. "Folks in Missouri have been investing their tax money. You'll see bills introduced this session."
Other topics Greitens touched on:
Health care: "We spend more money on health care than anything else." Greitens said telemedicine may be an answer Missouri could get on board with. "There's a lot of potential there — there's a lot of hope there. We need to reform the way health care is being delivered."
Farmers Bill of Rights: "We need to support our farmers and ranchers. It's our number one industry. We have 108,000 family farms. Let farmers farm and ranchers ranch."
Education: "We need to reorient the bureaucracy so money is actually getting into the classroom." (See the entire story in Thursday's Fulton Sun.)
Turning lettered highways back over to counties: "I have not seen a proposal on that. I heard it was mentioned."