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573 People of the Year

Every time we publish our 573 People of the Year issue, we get hundreds of emails inquiring how and why we chose the person.  Here is how it works.

Gold medal with red white and blue ribbon for the neck for "573 Person of the Year"

We believe we are honest and trustworthy purveyors of the 573 region.  We cover the people and places of the 573 without bias or agenda.  Simply put, we show what we see.  We tell stories of all the cool places we travel and the outstanding people we meet.  We help all our communities to present themselves in a positive light.   We pride ourselves on giving the underdog a voice.  Color, race, sex, age, religion, politics… if you have a passion for something, we will get you in.  You tell us what to feature and who is interesting.  That’s how people end up in the 573 Magazine.  

...a positive contribution to the 573 that is worthy of recognition...

A 573 Person of the Year is a different story -they are selected.  We look at hundreds of people we came across in the year and pick out whom we feel is the most deserving.  We ask ourselves, has this person made a positive contribution to the 573 that is worthy of recognition?  Does the honoree personify the 573 Magazine -passionate, driven, honest, giving, hard-working, innovative, unbiased…?  And lastly, is the honoree a nice person?  


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The 573 is thick with outstanding people.  Choosing a few to be a 573 Person of the Year is very, very difficult.  If you don’t see yourself listed as a 573 Person of the Year, just crawl out of that sunken sofa, turn that stupid device off, get out there and taste some reality for a change.   Explore your world in real time.  573 Magazine wants to get to know you.


Of course, you know we at 573 Magazine LOVE the arts. A young woman is making visual arts a big deal in Cape Girardeau. She's hardworking, smart and well-mannered.

Meet Sara Steffins—mother, artist and Director of the Cape Girardeau Arts Council.

I am an art enthusiast, and I’ve been the Director at the Arts Council for three years now. I am a St. Louis native, and moved to Cape Girardeau several years ago. When I am not at the Arts Council, I spend time with my husband John and our baby girl, Clara June, I also love crime documentaries and podcasts. I should be a part-time detective!

I have really enjoyed my time in Cape Girardeau, and I look forward to the future as I continue to spend my time here. From eating at the local restaurants, to shopping locally at one-of-a-kind shops, to hanging around downtown at music concerts, I truly call this community home.

...I work to provide a forum for the residents and artists of the SEMO region...

As Director, I work to provide a forum for the residents and artists of the SEMO region to explore, experience, and share in the diversity and excitement of the arts. I am involved in fundraising, educational art programs, and providing resources for artists. I actively promote the Arts Councils programs, accomplishments, goals and objectives.

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One of my favorite things is communicating with artists and showcasing their work in our very competitive solo exhibitions. The artists work very hard on their unique body of work. As a not-for-profit gallery, providing artists an opportunity to display their work and giving them that special moment to shine is so fulfilling. Whether national or local artists, it is a real honor to display the work of such talented individuals in our gallery!

One of my favorite exhibits is the Children’s Arts Festival. We just celebrated our 20th year of this festival and it just keeps on growing. The students are very excited to display their hard work. The festival showcases the work of local art teachers and their students. Providing a comprehensive education for our children, both within and outside of school, improves our country. Studies repeatedly show the positive effects of the arts as part of a well-rounded education. This year, we displayed so much art work that it covered the gallery like wallpaper! I want to give many thanks to our schools, teachers, and students for making this year's festival so successful.

Our goal is to support artists by providing an opportunity...

We have a couple new projects in the mix, and I think they will positively impact our community. For one, we want to establish a fine art market. We researched several other communities similar to Cape Girardeau who host an art market. Our goal is to support artists by providing an opportunity to sell their unique, one-of-a-kind art. A wide variety of art will be available, including paintings, prints, photography, pottery, wood items and fabric goods.

Another project we're considering is a Maker Space here in Cape Girardeau. A Maker Space will provide a creative space for our residents to develop new skills and explore their curiosity in a flexible and creative environment. More on these and other projects soon!


Have you ever met someone and you thought to yourself, "This person has IT." Sometimes it’s hard to put your finger on what exactly IT is. Is IT the way they carry themselves into a room? Is IT the way they stand straight and look you in the eye with interest when they speak to you? Or is IT something more subtle like possessing a great sense of fairness and morality?

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When I first met Cira Duffe, I got all those feelings mentioned above, but I’ve come to find out there is much more—Cira Duffe is a fighter, and she knows what she is fighting for—her kid. And there is much more to the way she fights. She fights to win and then moves on.

Don't be surprised to see Cira in the State Senate...soon.

In 2019, Cira ran for a local government seat. Right before the election, her opponent mailed out postcards accusing Cira of unsavory actions. According to her opponent, Cira and her daughter were residing with a convicted felon—a ruinous accusation towards any lawyer running for a job as a city prosecutor. Unfortunately, the smear campaign did its intended job, and Cira lost the election. This kind of public humiliation would crush most people, and yes, most people would demand retribution. But what did Cira do? She talked to her daughter, dusted herself off, and went back to work. Don't be surprised to see Cira in the State Senate or other government position soon.

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Meet Cira Duffe—mother, Top 100 Criminal Defense Attorney and one of the 573 People of the Year.

I grew up in a family of seven children. My parents occantionaly accused one child of the transgressions committed by another sibling. It was us against them. I am not sure if I had a keen sense of justice from the get-go, a strong sense of self-preservation or if I just thrived on proving my parents wrong, but I was always the one who defended my brothers and sisters against wrongful—and even rightful—accusations. At a young age, I decided that I would become a lawyer. Goal-oriented, Type A and a blessing to my parents, I marched down my chosen path with single-minded determination.

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Aggressive Legal Action and Defense

"Aggressive Legal Action and Defense" is my mantra. This is my promise to stand for my clients against their opponents, aggressively if needed, and without backing down.

My Daughter is everything to me. She's my reason for being. In many ways, I practice law to provide for her, the least of which is to give her an example of a stable, compassionate and professional person. I juggle the competing demands of work and parenting with varying levels of success and failure, but always with commitment and perseverance.

I work out to stay healthy, reduce stress and to connect with my inner BEAST!!! Working as a trial attorney, managing a busy law practice and being a full-time mom is a demanding gig. I work out so I can meet the physical and mental demands of both jobs.


One of my most favorite things about being the editor of 573 Magazine is it is my job to observe the changes the area undergoes—and I try hard to understand how those changes affect the people who call the 573 their home.

It's one of those thankless jobs that most people do not know even exists...

The changes in Jackson, Festus, Ste. Genevieve, Cape Girardeau, Ironton, Perryville, Farmington, and others have been significant these last five years. A big part of those changes rests on the shoulders of people who hold a near-impossible job: City Administrator. It's one of those thankless jobs that most people do not know even exists. Operating mostly behind the curtain with consistent problem solving, city administrators rarely get any recognition but always get the blame. They have to be smart, hardworking and possess thick, REAL thick, skin.

...he is definitely a 573 Person of the Year

There is one standout City Adminastor I have been watching for years. He has been working hard to make his city a great place to live and visit. He and his cohorts have done a great job with Perryville. With a mix of street-smarts, fairness and hard work, he is definitely a 573 Person of the Year.

Meet Brent Buerck—City Administrator for the City of Perryville.

I have a beautiful wife named Chrissy, and together we are raising our three sons, Jack (fourteen), Alex (twelve) and Max (nine). We were both born and raised in Perryville, but had worked in Jefferson City for about eight years. We have now been back in Perryville for ten years. Chrissy works for the Bank of Missouri, which is based here in Perryville. Our boys attend Immanuel Lutheran School.

Being a city administrator is challenging at times. Perryville is approaching 9,000 residents. It is impossible to make everyone happy every single time. To counter that, we work hard to think bigger and make the best decision for the community as a whole. If we keep that in mind and do the right thing, things generally work out in the end.

...we try to make things better for those who will come after us...

The most rewarding part of my job is contributing to and impacting the community I love and call home. Being able to do so is absolutely awesome. Perryville has a long history of great local leadership and economic success. More often than not, we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. Furthermore, we try to make things better for those who will come after us.

...I still think the best for Perryville is yet to come.

I have been blessed to always work for great mayors and very supportive boards. These are regular folks who, together with county leadership, love Perryville and want to make it better. They have trusted us, as staff, to be creative and solve problems. Together, we have successfully courted big industry, worked to recreate a thriving downtown, landed higher education programs, made incredible improvements to the park system and strengthened the city’s infrastructure for generations to come. Despite all the progress we have made, I still think the best for Perryville is yet to come.

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There is always something new in Perryville, and our local tourism industry is thriving—it has even won recognition from several Missouri State awards. At this point, our limiting factor is a small population. The city just finished working with the Perryville Development Corporation to open a brand new subdivision with beautiful homes, four of which are just about done. We are adding housing and growing, but our population is not yet filling the number of great jobs we have here in Perryville. I have a hunch this will continue to be our focus in the upcoming years.


Have you ever met someone who is liked by everyone? You can’t put your figure on it, but it’s right there in front of you. I would bet a large number of the people reading this know Carisa, without even mentioning her last name. I mean how can you not know Carisa? Everything she touches has an almost magical magnetic attraction – and that is NOT an exaggeration. THAT’S it—it’s her magnetic attraction that gets people behind her. I mean, who doesn’t want to be part of something cool?

Meet Carisa Stark—an inspiring visionary, talented businesswoman and amazing human being.

Running and owning several businesses in the area including J-Street Brew Co (co-owner with executive Chef Matthew Ruesler), several beautiful airBnBs, and Mary Jane Burgers & Brew, Carisa has been a prominent figure in Perryville and the 573 community for quite some time now. With her hands this full, you’d think she’d be spent, but not this whirlwind of wow. Carisa’s newest venture has made its way down to Cape, and it is already changing the game with Mary Jane bourbon + smokehouse.

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My grandmother is Mary Jane Buchheit, who later became the namesake of two of my restaurants. I have two amazing parents, Sherry Baby and Tricky Ricky, who have supported me 1000%. I also have two brothers, Dominic and John, and an amazing sister-in-law, Stephanie, who is my best friend. I have six nieces and nephews who have all worked in the restaurant in some capacity. I have a million cousins—Mary Jane's grandchildren—several of which have helped me rehab my buildings. Alex created the murals, Garrett crafted the metalwork, and Kirby fashioned the upholstery. Most of all, I can't forget my love, Jerrett, who grounds me and keeps my life fun outside of business.

"stay hungry, stay humble"

What makes a good business person? I think a good business person is always creating, adapting and envisioning new ideas. You have to listen to what people want. A good business person must be cultured through travel!!! Travel inspires me and gives me fresh ideas, creativity and energy. For me, I'm always developing a team & teaching them values, high standards and details. No one can run a business alone. It's your team that drives success. A good business person should start every day with gratitude and passion. I have a sign in my office that states "stay hungry, stay humble" I strive to live by this every day.

What do I do when I feel like giving up? First, I get my irrational thoughts out of the way—"That's it. I'm gonna quit, run away to the Pacific Northwest and disappear." LOL.

Then I go through my rational thoughts—"Examine your exit strategy. Develop timelines. Transform your business plan. Create new ideas. Take one more step forward." This usually comes after brainstorming sessions with my team, especially my Executive Assistant Monika Keen. She is my rock and saving grace. I am the type of person that has to verbalize all of my ideas out loud to someone else. It helps me reorganize my thoughts. I also think about the saying, "Remember when you wanted what you currently have?" It helps me reevaluate the situation and return to gratitude.

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Words & Pics by T. Smugala


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