BOLIVAR, Mo. -- Friday will be a big day for the people who live in Bolivar, Missouri, as one of their own is sworn in as the 57th governor of Missouri.
Mike Parson started off decades ago as a gas station owner, where he served his customers by pumping their gas as the children ran in to get treats from the candy counter. The gas station is long gone, but there are plenty of people in the town of just over 10,000 residents who still remember those days.
“I think Mike is the perfect person to be the governor of the state,” Vonna Jones said. “He has a sweet disposition. He is kind. He has common sense.”
Jones has known the future governor for more than 35 years when only a couple thousand people lived in Bolivar.
Mike, as they called him, still owns a cattle farm not too far from town.
“I saw him in church Sunday, and I can’t tell you of a better person to hold that position thank Mike,” Gretchen Pulley said.
She's known Parson ever since his wife worked as a receptionist for Pully’s husband, who owned the radio station in town.
When Parson became a politician and made the 114-mile trip to Jefferson City, he took his friends along with him.
"He asked if I would come to Jefferson City and do some paintings of some areas he liked. I am a watercolor artist,” Pulley said. “I thought, 'Oh, what an honor that would be.'"
Service is a word used a lot to describe Parson. After the gas station, he served as sheriff of Polk County.
Parson hired current Polk County Sheriff Dany Morrison in 2000 when he started his career in law enforcement. Morrison described his first boss as a hands-on leader who knew how to motivate his deputies to do the best job and always had their backs.
“One time I needed backup on a call and was trying to apprehend a suspect,” Morris said. “He actually showed up and helped me out on the situation. It was nice to know that not only did he send his deputies, but he came himself to help me out.”
“This is actually his desk that he sat at was right here, and now he is sitting at the governor’s desk, so I am pretty excited for him," Morrison said.
Bolivar attorney Jay Kirksey lived next to Parson for years. He described Parson as, “Andy Griffith from 'The Andy Griffith Show' because he knew everybody and applied common sense while being tough.”
Kirksey believes Parson’s good-ole-boy attitude has helped him in his career in Jefferson City and will serve the people of Missouri well as governor.
“If you are smart, and you have common sense, and you have a heart, which Mike has, you can’t ask for better,” Kirksey said.
When their Mike becomes Gov. Parson on Friday, it will be an historic moment for the residents of Bolivar, who have a pride that blankets this town with hope.