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Missouri Safety Center Honors Gator Graphics Owner as First Recipient of Community Safety Award

By Jeff Murphy, April 1, 2024


Joanne Kurt-Hilditch, Ph.D., third from left, senior director of the Missouri Safety Center at the University of Central Missouri, recently presented the first Missouri Safety Center Community Service Award to Dean Wille, owner of Gator Graphics, Warrensburg, for voluntarily using one of his business signs to share messages encouraging motorists to wear seatbelts. Joining them for the presentation were Missouri Safety Center members, from left, Debbie Busker, enforcement coordinator; Ryan Schildknecht, breath alcohol instrument  lab coordinator; Mike Perkins, senior program manager; and Matt Bond, breath alcohol instrument training program manager.

WARRENSBURG, MO – An estimated 35,000 to 40,000 individuals who pass by a tall digital advertising sign north of the Highway 50 and Highway 13 intersection each day are getting an important safety reminder while the business owner who made it possible is getting recognition.

Warrensburg businessman Dean Wille, owner of Gator Graphics, in March received the first Missouri Safety Center Community Safety Award. Joanne Kurt-Hilditch, Ph.D., senior director of the Missouri Safety Center at the University of Central Missouri, recently made the presentation of a framed certificate and a Safety Center coin to Wille to commemorate his selection. Wille voluntarily posts “Buckle Up for Your Safety” messages on a large electronic sign near a high-traffic business entrance as a way to remind passersby of the importance of wearing seatbelts.

“We are very engaged with the Missouri Department of Transportation’s efforts to encourage motorists to wear seatbelts. When we saw how one community member is engaging the community to help prevent motor vehicle injuries, we wanted to do something special,” Kurt-Hilditch said. 

Wille said the sign is an extension of Gator Graphics, which offers electronic advertising services throughout the local area. As the son of a former Warrensburg auto body shop owner, Larry Wille, he grew up seeing what can happen to vehicles involved in a collisions. The placement of messages reminding motorists to wear their seatbelts is an opportunity to use a highly visible sign – which is an extension of his graphics business – “to put something meaningful out there” for the benefit of the public.

Kurt-Hilditch hopes to use the Community Safety Award as a way to encourage other individuals to engage in other opportunities to support traffic safety. To learn more about the Missouri Safety Center, visit  



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