Freshman Democratic Rep. Steven Roberts took the time to be the next in the Missouri Times Magazine 20 Questions series, talking everything from favorite quotes to family influence and favorite foods.
What was the defining moment that caused you to want to run for office? When I moved back to St. Louis, I worked as a prosecutor in the Circuit Attorney’s Office. On my first day in Division 24 for arraignments, I saw young black men, like myself, in orange jumpsuits chained together. Day after day, I saw the same thing until it became apparent that this was the norm. That could have been me, if I had been born under different circumstances. Locking people up is not a solution to the problem. I knew that I could have a greater impact at the policy level.
Who do you admire most in your caucus and why? Representative Gail McCann Beatty, even though the Republican Party holds a supermajority in the House and Senate as well as a majority of the state’s executive offices, Gail fought for our values with passion. I admire how she’s been able to keep our caucus focused, despite the challenges of being greatly outnumbered.
What do you like most about your family? My parents encouraged our individuality, but what I value most is our cohesiveness. We have the usual good-natured and sometimes very real sibling rivalry, but we are always, without fail, there for each other.
Who inspires you? My mother is a doctor and has always remained committed to serving those in need. She partnered with Saint Louis University to provide a medical clinic for uninsured patients in North St. Louis. People who find a way to serve others and never give up, no matter what the odds, inspire me.
What historical figure do you find the most fascinating? At this moment, Alexander Hamilton. I admire Hamilton’s drive, his ambition, his sense of duty and honor, but that may just be because I recently saw Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical.
What is something you’ve had to unlearn since joining the state legislature? That this is a part-time job.
What do you wish you knew more about? I wish I could learn another language, I hope to have some time to brush up on my Spanish before session begins.
What frustrates you the most about working in the Capitol? Extremists, on either side of the aisle. Unwillingness to find compromise or a lack of empathy are some of the most frustrating issues I deal with.
What job would you be terrible at? Anything that requires thoughtless repetition. I would not enjoy being at a desk all day.
What is your favorite show to watch on TV and why? One of my favorites would probably be Game of Thrones. In these crazy political times, fantasy battles in faraway kingdoms are a great escape.
What is your favorite way to spend a weekend away from politics? Traveling, preferably somewhere I have never been, ideally near a beach.
What’s your dream car? Right now, a car that functions only as a car. Commuting back and forth to Jeff City, my car doubles as a closet, an office and in a pinch a kitchen/dining room and a dressing room.
What’s something you’ve wanted to try but haven’t found the time? Sleeping in.
What’s the best thing to happen to you this interim? My constituents giving me the privilege of representing them for another 2 years.
What is your go-to charity/good cause? Last summer after speaking at the graduation for students of Yeatman-Liddell Preparatory Middle School, I learned that a significant number of students struggled to obtain basic school supplies – things I took for granted as a child. This led me to start an annual back to school fair, where students would receive all the supplies they would need to be ready to learn on day one. Students and their families also met the firefighters and police officers who keep their neighborhoods safe. This year, we were honored to have the National Geospatial-Agency participate and share with students potential career opportunities at the agency. Education made all the difference in my life and I believe it is the most important gift you can give a child.
What are some of your personal rules that you never break? Always keep your word and honesty is the best policy.
What’s one of your favorite quotes? “Justice will overtake fabricators of lies and false witnesses” – Heraclitus.
What’s your go-to fast food restaurant and what do you get? Nothing exciting, McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese – its fast and fills me up. When I was living in California it would have been fish tacos, there were great taco joints everywhere.
Who has been an absolute lifesaver at the Capitol? My Legislative Assistant, Ly Syin Lobster. She came to the job with a great set of skills, but nothing prepares you for the daily onslaught and chaos of working in the Capitol. Ly Syin is a quiet and humble person, so it is easy to underestimate her tenacity and overall ability to get things done.
What is one thing you hope to accomplish during your tenure in the House? There are so many important issues but reforming our criminal justice system is at the top of the list. There is no denying that the current system disproportionately and negatively impacts communities of color, the waste in lost human potential is absolutely staggering. Mandatory minimums for nonviolent offenses need to be eliminated, there needs to be increased funding for diversion and drug courts, as well as an end to money bail. As a nation, we can do a better job of holding to our basic principles of equality and justice for all.
This appeared in the fall 2018 edition of the Missouri Times Magazine, available in Jefferson City at the Capitol, Tolson’s, Cork, and J. Pfenny’s, and online here.