Citizen Spotlight: Troy Snelling

Troy Snelling loves to support local businesses. We caught up with him at Other Trails Coffee Shop in downtown Excelsior Springs (photo S Jason Cole).

Spend a little time with Troy Snelling and you’re bound to learn a few new things. A historian and scholar, Snelling spent 28 years teaching at Park Hill. Raised in Excelsior Springs, he graduated in ‘84 as valedictorian and went to Washington and Lee University in Virginia as a National Merit Scholar. Snelling said that he is like many other Excelsorites, “they may wander for a while, but people tend to come back here.” Excelsior Springs, steeped in a colorful past, may just be the perfect place for a man like Troy Snelling, who loves history. He said his connection with history began at home where he spent a lot of time with his father, who was a World War II veteran, and his grandfather who had fought in World War I. “I was the only 5-year-old in Excelsior Springs who could tell you who the Kaiser was,” he said with a laugh. 

Snelling also started collecting antiques when he was very young. He began coin collecting by saving Lincoln cents, sometimes called “wheat pennies,” given to him by relatives. He said he’s always just gravitated towards antiques collecting, whether it’s coins, watches, or even cars. By the time he was 12 he was going to coin auctions and by the time he was 15 he began a life-long side-hustle as an auctioneer. He started out working with Dale Bosley out of Lawson, and still auctioneers from time to time. As someone passionate about history, Snelling said he feels like people are drawn to antiques because they offer “a tangible link with the past.” He said that many collectors like the antiques and oddities that have seen some wear and tear because it allows them to imagine the journey that piece has been on. 

Snelling said he’s always been fascinated by the “pyramid of causality,” wherein something that happens today can have effects that last a lifetime or more. “Your education has begun when you realize that everything that ever happened is still out there, still working, still churning, still making things happen, still causing effects, and then you begin to understand the nature of history,” he said wistfully.  That’s why Snelling loves the history of Excelsior Springs. Although he thinks it’s a bit of a stretch to imagine our city ever returning to the heyday of mineral waters when tens of thousands of people visited each day he feels like our water heritage is important to tap into. “It explains why the town exists. It explains why we had so many incredible things happen here, and why so many prominent people were interested in our city.  I think it’s one of those things you can use to inform the current conversation,” he stated. He said that he envisions Excelsior Springs as a place where people can come to learn a little and have a lot of fun.

Growing up Snelling thought he would make his impact by becoming involved in politics, but after volunteering on some campaigns he realized he might not be suited for the polarizing climate. He says he’s still determined to work for the things he feels are important and has found other ways to give back like serving on the board of the Good Samaritan Center and on the Excelsior Springs Board of Education. “I like the school board thing because it’s not partisan, it’s not something where there are egos involved, we don’t get paid, so you know it’s not about the money. It’s a group of people trying to do the right thing, doing what’s right for the community and the kids,” he said.

Snelling is leaving a legacy of education in his wake. At Park Hill, he was the department chair for 18 of his 28 years, and taught one of the few, if only, high school philosophy courses in Missouri. Additionally Snelling taught courses such as Classical Civilizations, European History, World History, and even a Latino Study Seminar. “I had a great career there… I got up every morning loving what I did,” smiled Snelling. As a member of the Excelsior Springs School Board, he hopes the changes he’s helping to make will have a positive effect on students in Excelsior Springs for generations to come. “Hopefully, kids are going be going to Cornerstone long after I’m dead and gone, and hopefully, when we get the new Lewis built here in a couple of years, we should be good for a long, long time,” he said.

As someone who spends a lot of time looking to the past, Snelling says the future looks bright for Excelsior Springs. He said things here have come a long way since he was a senior in high school back in ‘83-84. He said, “back then everything was just in a state of advanced decay. But in the last decade, things have improved dramatically,” He said the changes here are due to those willing to step forward with a vision and put in the hard work. Now, he said, most of the buildings downtown are rented, there are active businesses, and tourists are coming back. He called out a long list of wineries, restaurants, boutiques, and coffee shops. “I have a hard time imagining ever living anyplace else. It’s just things have become so much fun here,” Snelling said.  He concluded by saying that as long as the citizens of Excelsior Springs continue to work to make things better, the potential for our community is limitless. “The only thing that will slow us down will be ourselves.” 

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3 thoughts on “Citizen Spotlight: Troy Snelling”

  1. After living here for nine years, it’s still a delight to bump into Troy around town. Love to talk about everything from antiquities, drinks at the Elms or Missouri politics. He can serve up a Mint Juliet or show off his latest classic car. There is never any doubt of his commitment to young people; their mental well being and academic progression. Our community is blessed that he was born here and chooses to remain. Love ya Dude!

  2. Ginny Bartosik

    I’ve known Troy for close to 14 years now and even though I was never a student of his, nor did I ever live in ES, he definitely has made an impact on me. I can’t tell you how many times I didn’t even bother with google… I reach out to Troy.
    I met him at Barnes and Noble where I was working…, where a lot of his students worked. It took me a while to NOT call him Mr. Snelling, Troy became my friend. I have followed his impact on his community from afar (I live in Arizona now). The knowledge I have received from him, thus far, has always things of personal matters, regarding facts relevant to my family history.
    He’s also so incredibly generous. He doesn’t care if you live in ES, and you don’t have to have been a student or frequent local auctions in the area…. You’d still be able to find something in common with him, or he will most definitely transfix you with his vast knowledge during a simple conversation. I could go and and on, and I have… I’ve bragged on him many times after learning something significant… my friend Troy…

  3. Pingback: Excelsior Springs Weekly News Headlines - June 12, 2022

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