ST. LOUIS – Donna Baringer, 16th Ward Alderman for the City of St. Louis, is hoping to take her experience to the state level, running for the 82nd House District.
Baringer has a rich community and political history, dating back to her childhood, when she spent time in the Capitol when her mother had to work late in the building.
“I never in my life felt I didn’t belong in the Capitol. Anyone is welcome there. You should be able to talk to your leadership and stakeholders. They are not unapproachable, they need to be spoken to.”
She says she fell into politics after she led a tour based on a home renovation tax credits, followed by a letter writing drive to dissuade language changes on the same credit. Later on, while getting her Masters degree, Baringer served as an in-district liaison for former state Sen. Harry Kennedy.
“I love to learn things I don’t know,” said Baringer. “I want to understand first. When I worked for Sen. Kennedy, I went to events he could not attend. I was able to interact with people, find out their concerns, and take them back to the Senator. I am comfortable speaking, but more importantly, I listen. When you listen, you learn a lot. I was not just speaking for him, but rather, listening for him.”
Baringer took her need to understand and listen to stakeholders to City Hall, where she gained legislative success in scrap metal issues.
“I’ve been fortunate to be able to introduce legislation that has impacted the entire city,” she said. “I did a lot of due diligence – understanding every aspect and understanding both sides of the issue.”
Two bills she is particularly proud of involve metal: gold and copper.
“We were having an unbelievable amount of people having their family heirlooms stolen. When gold was at its all time high, they would take them to gold buyers, who would immediately melt them.”
Baringer went to gold buyers, who told her they had 72 hours to lock in the price. She proposed a bill calling for a 48-hour wait period between purchase and melt, which passed.
“When I introduced the legislation, I explained everything in detail to explain both sides of the issue,” Baringer said. “I worked with the residents, I worked with the police and I was able to pass the legislation. That is how I approach legislation.”
She took her gold bill success to copper with a bill that saved the City over $2 million.
“Why is copper being stolen?” she continued. “Just by stealing a downspout, an addict could get their fix of heroin. The key point in my legislation is who is stealing it and why. The City was spending so much money constantly chasing down scrap metal thieves – it takes very little work to yank a downspout off a house or remove the coils from an air conditioner. The legislation was no cash for copper. Heroine and meth addicts do not have bank accounts. You can pay, but not in cash. It stopped the problem in one year.
“We are always going to have problems, but what is the best solution? First you have to define what the problem is, which is not always the most evident or what is in front of you. At the end of the day, it was all about copper and cash. That means police, instead of trying to figure out who stole the metal, were being proactive, not reactive.”
Baringer also spent some of her time as an alderman to join the Missouri Municipal League executive board, where she was able to travel the state and gain additional perspective on a variety of issues.
Should she be elected, Baringer plans to prioritize education, jobs, and public safety.
“When we look at the state of Missouri, we have to look at what’s important and have the foundation build. We need a basic, good education. Whether you’re going to be an executive or a carpenter, you need the basic math and English skills. They are the foundation which builds everything upwards, which leads to jobs. We have a population of people who are educated and cannot get the job they want. We have to build jobs in the state and grow a strong middle class. No matter what class you are in, any time you have an emergency, people want to know they are safe. Those three things, no matter where you’re from, where you’re at, those things are key.”
Baringer announced her campaign in September at an event primarily for local residents. The event had over 130 people.
“I have been working very diligently to show people this is what I want to do, to take my strengths to the state level. My residents are excited for me and the City.”
Baringer is running to replace termed Rep. Michelle Kratky. No others have filed for the seat as of March 1, 2016.
Rachael Herndon is the editor at The Missouri Times, and also produces This Week in Missouri Politics, publishes Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosts the #moleg podcast. She joined the Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.
Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.
To contact Rachael, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter @TheRachDunn.