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Zac Burden: "Through these stories, you really get a sense of what Kirksville has meant to this region—to the entire state"

Zac Burden spoke with the Missouri on Mic team in Kirksville.

He's the mayor there, and he stopped by our booth at the farmers market in May, to talk about his love of the town and the community's history.

Missouri on Mic is an oral history and journalism project documenting stories from around the state in its 200th year.

Zac Burden: I serve as mayor, which is an elected position. We're actually elected to the council and we serve on three year terms.

There are five of us, and they're on staggered terms. And we select amongst the council members each year, one of us to serve as mayor.

So I'm in my fourth year as mayor.

We hire a city manager to do the day to day operations of the city and Mari Macomber serves in that role and does a fantastic job on that, and has for many, many years.

So the council position is a part time position.

And my parents predicted it at the time: they said, 'Oh, you're gonna fall in love with this town, you're probably gonna stay here forever. And shoot, you might end up being mayor someday.'

And they were just kidding. But that ended up being rather prophetic.

So I love this community. I've lived here for 23 years now, and it is most assuredly home.

You know, I'm really passionate about the history of Kirksville, the history of Northeast Missouri, the history of Truman State University, the history of A.T. Still and the university that he founded.

All of that has this beautiful interplay together.

There's just a really historically rich environment here.

And I'm really glad to see that we are continuing to do different projects that pay honor to that heritage and help people connect to what's going on today in our community through the legacy that was started all those years ago.

I serve as a member of the Kirksville Historic Preservation Commission in my capacity as a council member.

And we are always looking to recognize different residential, commercial and industrial properties that are historic in nature.

In fact, we just did a new designation as a historic property under the Kirksville listing for a beautiful home over on Illinois Street, the Evans house, and that was a really great opportunity.

"I think even people who have lived here for a very long time, will walk away not just with new knowledge, but with a greater appreciation for the history that really has impacted where they live."

But we're always looking for different ways to do that.

And one of them that I'm really excited about is a grant funded project that the city of Kirksville is able to work with, where we brought in a firm who did the research on a lot of historic properties, particularly in our historic downtown area.
And they actually created a script based off of the information that they collected.

And I got to do the audio recording for that those audio recordings are going to become part of an app that people can download.

And they can walk around with that in historic Kirksville.

And when they're in front of one of the properties, that's part of the project, that narration will go ahead and start to play.

And they can learn about sort of the roots of those particular properties, the people who made an entrepreneurial venture out of them or a different historical effort that happened.

And through these stories, you really get a sense of what Kirksville has meant to this region—to the entire state, to specific fields to specific industries.

I walked away learning some new things, just from recording the audio on that.

So I think even people who have lived here for a very long time, will walk away not just with new knowledge, but with a greater appreciation for the history that really has impacted where they live.

Grace Pankey is a student at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. She's a member of the Missouri on Mic team.
Rebecca Smith is a reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth desk. She was born and raised in Rolla, Missouri, and graduated with degrees in Journalism and Chemistry from Truman State University in May 2014. Rebecca comes to KBIA from St. Louis Public Radio, where she worked as the news intern and covered religion, neighborhood growth and the continued unrest in Ferguson, MO.