Nick Edwards apologizes to visitors for a meeting that ran longer than expected, but there’s no need.
It’s his third day on the job as Joplin’s new city manager and he clearly has a lot on his plate. Just hours later (on March 18), city officials will announce an emergency ordinance designed to help curb the spread of COVID-19 transmission.
To say that it’s an eventful first week is a bit of an understatement.
“I use the pool analogy,” says Edwards. “Sometimes it’s best to jump in the deep end and get it over with. That’s what this is doing for me.”
A 2007 graduate of Missouri Southern, he was recently selected for the city manager’s post and began his duties on March 16. He was born in Joplin and graduated from Webb City High School in 1999.
After high school, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps. His four years of service included a year in Iraq. After returning home, he enrolled as a student at Missouri Southern although he didn’t immediately know what direction he wanted to go.
“My thought process was to take some basic classes and whatever seemed most interesting, pursue that,” says Edwards. “I had a government class taught by (former political science professor) Dr. Tom Simpson and he really captured by attention for politics.
“He was a former city manager (in Grenada, Miss.) and taught some of his classes from that perspective. I wanted to learn more … and pretty quickly declared my major as political science.”
While at MSSU, he made the Lions football team as a walk-on and played from 2004-06 as an offensive lineman.
“I really enjoyed my time at Missouri Southern,” he says. “I had a lot of great professors and the small class sizes attracted me.”
He graduated with his bachelor’s degree in political science and pursued his master’s in public administration at Missouri State University.
After completing his master’s in 2010, he began his job search – though it wasn’t the most ideal time.
“Local government doesn’t feel the effects of a recession for a year or two later,” says Edwards. “It was a tough job market and I was trying to get my foot in the door some place.”
He eventually accepted a position in Lee’s Summit, Mo., as a public works management analyst for the city. There, he was responsible for the departmental budget and accreditation activities.
“I was just so excited to have a job, I threw myself into it,” says Edwards. “I was hungry to learn, grow and take on new challenges.”
During his nearly 10 years with the city, he went on to serve in several capacities, including assistant to the city manager, director of administration and, finally, assistant city manager. When the position in Joplin opened up, he jumped at the opportunity.
“Joplin is my home,” Edwards says. “It’s a place that I’m passionate about and care about.”
As city manager, he serves as Joplin’s chief administrative officer – directing the planning, delivery and evaluation of all municipal services. He says he wants to help Joplin take “that next step forward.”
“The community I left 10 years ago isn’t the same as it is now,” he says. “Joplin has seen a tremendous amount of growth. I like to set ambitious goals. I want to help this city grow and advance the quality of life for residents, and to be a leader regionally and across the state for the way services are delivered.”