Jason Smith visits new FEMA shelter at Bakersfield School

Times photos / Bruce Roberts U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, second from right, visited Bakersfield School’s newly completed FEMA safe room building Friday. Missouri Rep. Karla Eslinger, second from left, also visited the facility that day. Bakersfield High School principal Doyne Byrd, left, and Bakersfield superintendent Dr. Amy Britt, right led the elected officials on a tour of the three-year-old school and the newly completed FEMA building.

Times photos / Bruce Roberts The 4,800-square-foot FEMA building is designed to protect students, teachers and community residents in case of a tornado.

U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, who represents Missouri’s 8th District, which includes Ozark County, visited Bakersfield School Friday to check out the newly completed FEMA safe room building. Smith also held an impromptu town-hall-style meeting with high school students during the visit. 

Also visiting the school was 155th District State Rep. Karla Eslinger of Wasola, a former teacher and school administrator. 

Bakersfield superintendent Dr. Amy Britt and high school principal Doyne Byrd gave the officials a tour of the district’s new high school building, now in its third year of use, before showing off the new 4,800-square-foot FEMA building, which is designed to protect students and teachers in case of a tornado. The thick-walled concrete building can hold 657 people, according to Britt, who said the building is designed to automatically open when a tornado warning is issued for Bakersfield so that local residents can also seek shelter there. “We’ve tested it. It works.”

After touring the buildings, Smith, from Salem, spoke to BHS students and told them of his admiration of their school’s Future Farmers of America program.

“Bakersfield has always had an outstanding FFA program,” Smith told the students. “I remember that from my time in FFA in high school.”

Smith told the kids he hadn’t planned on going into politics, but it was actually an FFA project that got him interested when he was in high school. He said the city council where he grew up refused to allow his FFA project because they considered it a “business venture.” 

“I thought it was unfair, so I challenged them,” Smith said. He said that event changed his course in life, and he decided public service was what he was meant to do. 

“I was just a small town boy who didn’t come from a political family... in fact I’m not sure my parents really know what I do,” he joked. 

“I still love FFA and rural Missouri, and I have several animals, including a donkey named Hillary,” Smith told the students, who laughed at the donkey’s name. 

Smith’s visit wasn’t all fun and games. He faced some tough questions from some of the students, including Brady Jones, who asked Smith what he thinks of the “Green New Deal,” a proposal by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.). 

“It’s garbage,” Smith said. “It’s a war on rural America. Do you realize that the Green New Deal would essentially prohibit every tractor we have in Missouri?”

Smith took questions from students for about 30 minutes before heading out to his next stop on a whirlwind tour of part of the Eighth District. 

Ozark County Times

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