New Columbia delegation makes plans
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New Columbia delegation makes plans

Date: December 17, 2008
By: Sarah D. Wire
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - On a shivering December night Columbia's legislators mingled with constituents over guacamole dip and party mix under the stark fluorescent lights of Columbia's Labor Temple.

The event, sponsored by ProVote, a non-partisan coalition of labor unions and community organizations, gave Columbia's freshman legislators an opportunity to meet the people they serve before they take their oath of office.

The new members of Columbia and Boone County's legislative squad took a break from a tour around Missouri with the state's other incoming legislators to attend the event.

The four new members epitomize a variety of backgrounds- the insiders, the young congressional aide, the returner. And like all legislators they plan to play to their strengths.

Stephen Webber

Rep.-elect Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, will represent the district he grew up in but he said the nine months he spent as an aide for U.S.  Sen. Claire McCaskill in Washington, D.C. has given him a statewide perspective.

"I grew up here in the 23rd, but it's only 163th of the state," Webber said.

McCaskill's spokeswoman Maria Speiser said Webber worked on the 'front lines' of constituent service.

"He was one of the people in our office who literally talked to constituents all day every day," Speiser said. "His role was to talk to Missourians."

At 25 years old, Webster is the youngest incoming state legislator. He said he doesn't think his age will affect him or the other young Representatives.

"Our vote in the House counts just as much as anybodys," Webber said. "I'm sure they will judge us on what we do, not who we are."

Speiser said Webber's time in McCaskill's office not only gave him a chance to talk to Missourians from across the state but also helped him be prepared to serve in the state legislature.

"He has a depth of knowledge very few people his age have," Speiser said. "I think he's going to be a great legislator."

Webber served two tours in Iraq as a part of the Marine Corps. Reserve and has a Bachelor's degree in economics from St. Louis University.

He ran unopposed for the general election after defeating Democrat Cande Iveson during the primary.

Webber has not prefiled any bills for the upcoming session. A bill he had co signed on with Rep.-elect Mary Still, D- Columbia, has been withdrawn.

Mary Still

Rep.-elect Mary Still said although she is a freshman legislator, this session she wants to frame which issues are the most important to her.

"My attitude is I'm not going to just sit on the sidelines and do nothing," Still said. "Maybe some people will see the light and join me."

Still has worked in several state offices, including being a spokeswoman for the Attorney General's office with Gov.-elect Jay Nixon and as a spokeswoman for Gov. Bob Holden.

"I think she has a better understanding of the role of the executive branch, the legislative branch and the judicial branch," Holden said. "She comes at this with a much wider view of the impact of things done by the legislature."

Holden said Still's experience at various levels of government will help her as a legislator.

"Even though it's her first term she has that background knowledge," he said.

Holden called Still one of the most tenacious people he knows.

"When she believes something has to be done she works very hard at it," Holden said.

Still said she doesn't think being a Democrat in a Republican led legislature will be a barrier to passing legislation.

"When people say you can't get anything done because you're in the minority I'm not content," Still said.

After years of representing others in the public eye, Still said she is ready to express her own beliefs on public policy.

"In some ways it's very liberating to have my own opinion," Still said.

Still prefiled a bill to change the laws regarding unsecured payday loans. It was been withdrawn. She is a co-signer on a bill filed by Rep. Edward Wilde, D- St. Joseph, that would extend the no call list to include robo-calls.

Chris Kelly

Rep.-elect Chris Kelly, who knocked on doors around the area with the slogan 'leave the porch light on,' is returning to the House of Representatives after a 14 year absence. Because Kelly left the state legislature before term limits went into effect he is eligible to serve 8 years in the House.

Former Gov. Roger Wilson, who served in the general assembly with Kelly, said Kelly's background in the House will be a benefit.

"He has the institutional memory of the days when the general assembly was much more civilized," Wilson said. "He might have a way to get back to it."

Kelly said he hopes Democrats and Republicans will work together to fix the state budget. With a Democrat in the governor's office and a Republican led legislature both sides will need to work together to help the state during the expected budget deficit.

"In recent years the general assembly has been in kind of a downward spiral in terms of bipartisanship and civility," Kelly said. "The problems we all face are solvable if the people have the will."

Kelly has been involved in mid-Missouri politics since he volunteered to coordinate Dick Farmer's campaign for the Boone County Court. He went on to serve as Boone County Clerk from 1977 to 1982.

Kelly was in the state house from 1983 through 1994. He was chairman of the budget committee from 1991 through 1994.

Wilson said Kelly is known for using humor to deflect hurt feelings.

"He's honest, he's hardworking and he's full of ideas, which kind of upsets government sometimes," Wilson said.

Most recently Kelly served as an associate circuit court judge in the 13th Circuit Court of Missouri from 2000 to 2006.

Kelly has not prefiled any bills for the upcoming session as of December 17.

Kurt Schaefer

Sen.-elect Kurt Schaefer, the only Republican elected to serve Columbia, already makes the winding drive down Highway 63 between Columbia and Jefferson City every day.

"I've been in Jefferson City pretty much my entire career," Schaefer said. "Obviously it's different being the elected official because you're the one who gets to carry out public policy."

Schaefer has held positions at several state agencies, which include being the general counsel and deputy director for the state's Natural Resources Department and working as an assistant attorney general in the state attorney general's office.

While at the Natural Resources Department, Schaefer was lead counsel in crafting a $179 million settlement with AmerenUE following the collapse of the Taum Sauk Reservoir in 2005.

Natural Resources Department Deputy Director Floyd Gilzow said Schaefer grew a lot during the settlement process.

"Not that he didn't have confidence before, but it matured him significantly," Gilzow said.

Gilzow said Schaefer listens to both sides of an issue before he makes up his mind.

"I think Kurt doesn't go into conversations with preconceived ideas," Gilzow said.

Gilzow said Schaefer is an "incredibly bright creature and an excellent listener."

Schaefer is currently an attorney with Lathrop & Gage in Jefferson City.

He said his work as a lawyer over the years will help him as a legislator.

"The things that makes a good legislator makes a good lawyer," Schaefer said.

Gilzow said Schaefer will bring more than his experience as a lawyer to the Capitol building.

"Any good legislator brings their background into the office," Gilzow said.

Schaefer has prefiled a bill to require felons to serve 85 percent of their sentence before they would be eligible for release and a bill that would charge a fee to companies that transport radioactive waste across Missouri.