The following thirty women are women who are the gladiators in the arena who rarely receive headlines or notoriety, though they are more than worthy. This list has no state or statewide legislators, no legislative staff, yet their actions have a direct impact on policy each and every day.
Appearing in the June 9, 2016 print edition.
As the secretary of the Senate, Crouse has the weight of the entire legislative process resting on her shoulders. She handles complex procedural motions, helps legislators file legislation and keeps the Senate in working order – even under extreme circumstances. After stepping into the large shoes of former Secretary Terry Spieler, she has shown her expertise on the legislative process and done so while being well-liked and respected. She also stayed at the Capitol for the near 40-hour filibuster of SJR 39 – the whole thing – showing her dedication to her duties.
Described as “one of the most self-driven people I know” and “always on point and poised,” Page joined MAW from the St. Louis Regional Chamber of Commerce in 2014 and has since become the leader of the new Women’s Policy Network, created after back-to-back scandals involving young women in the Capitol. Page’s WPN serves as a community outlet and network of resources and mentors for interns and staffers.
Tew is entering her third year at the Missouri Soybean Association as point on communications after doing communications for the Missouri Department of Agriculture. She has been an innovator in marketing the agriculture industry, changing how the Soybean Association is viewed both in the Capitol and outside of it. Each step in her career, every job she’s had, can be credited through her broad network of professional relationships, including mentors, advisors and colleagues and her commitment to raising the bar at every opportunity.
Wasinger is serving her third term representing the St. Louis County citizens of the 3rd County Council District. She was first elected to a four-year term in 2006 and then re-elected in 2010 and 2014. In 2015, Council Member Wasinger is a Member of the Committee of the Whole and also serves on the Revenue & Personnel Committee and the Justice, Health & Welfare Committee. She is an attorney in St. Louis and is a leader of Republicans in St. Louis County. If Republicans are serious about making gains in St. Louis County it will be following the direction of leaders like Councilwoman Wassinger.
Brinkley has led the Missouri Democratic Party as its chair for a little over two years now, and has impressed everyone while leading the party during some of the most challenging days the Democrats have seen in Missouri. If the Democrats can hold the governor’s mansion and hold the line on Republicans gains in the General Assembly, she will be even more sought after than she is today.
Williams was recently elected as the first chair of the Jackson County legislature. In addition to serving as Jackson County Legislator, she currently works as a consultant through Policy Matters, a sole proprietorship in which she works to pursue public policies to improve the lives of families throughout Jackson County and the region. She has a long history of working in the non-profit sector as an advocate through public policy, public relations and non-profit management. She has also served as executive director of a statewide health advocacy organization, as vice president of a regional child advocacy organization, Partnership for Children, and recently as vice president of the management team for Swope Health Services and Swope Community Enterprises, a large community non-profit. She has also been the public relations manager for the 2nd largest physicians’ organization in the United States. Her successes in public policy and public relations include helping to secure significant funding for women’s health services, increasing funding for foster care families, increasing funding for children’s health programs and working on legislation concerning the child welfare system and the work of certified nurse practitioners.
Once a legislator assistant in the time of the Democratic majority, Nicklas went on to join Burton & Liese before starting her own firm in 2015, carrying longtime client Communications Workers of America, and adding many new clients, such as the Jackson County Legislature and Planned Parenthood. She is carving out an impressive niche in leading one of the fastest growing practices in Jefferson City.
Glenn arose from Gov. Jay Nixon’s 2008 campaign, joining ranks with former Sen. Joan Bray’s staff before serving as legislative liaison for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. After almost 4 years at DHSS, Glenn moved onto what she described as her dream job, lobbying for the St. Louis Children’s Hospital, where she has fostered a reputation for working across the aisle with legislators of all backgrounds, garnering stakeholders, and making policy understandable. In a time of term limits, Glenn’s eight-year tenure in the Capitol continues to be an impressive one.
Erika Leonard @JBA_Erika
Leonard is a leading lobbyist in the Capitol, but has also taken on leading roles managing associations. She is a lobbyist who is the upmost professional and is one of the most popular lobbyist to partner with on complex issues. She is also known for taking a leading role in charitable efforts in the Capitol as well as in the community.
Brower has a great deal of experience working with the state budget, and her work and experience was rewarded when she was hired for one of the top jobs in all of Missouri government relations with Hallmark. She is also helping lead the Raise Your Hand for Kids effort that may end up being the pinnacle fight of all ballot measures of 2016.
Once an assistant attorney general and then chief of staff to Gov. Bob Holden, Dueker is at the forefront of many interesting and newsworthy lawsuits and a regular fixture in the Capitol and in St. Louis. She is repeatedly recognized as one of the best lawyers in St. Louis and the country. She may also be the leading attorney of the most important government transparency lawsuit in a generation. Between her community involvement, career and side project as a staple on KMOX, Dueker is what many young girls hope to be when they grow up.
Pabst has experience working on a senate staff and for a contract lobbying which has made her a very valuable resource for the healthcare industry representing SSM. She is one of the most valuable lobbyist on behalf of the hospital community with excellent relationships on both sides of the aisle. Jessica is a lobbyist to watch next session.
Casas had been a leading voice in education before officially joining the Gate Way Group, where she still watches public education closely. She started her career as a campaign strategist for national and local candidates who were interested in expanding affordable housing and high quality education options for all children. Most recently she built a coalition of diverse statewide education reform organizations and spearheaded an effort to pass Missouri’s most sweeping education legislation in decades. She is also an alumni of the Teach for America program where she taught fourth grade and helped to open the first Big Picture Elementary School.
Tuttle is one of the most trusted lobbyists in the Capitol as well as one of the most popular. Tuttle began her career in politics in St. Louis working for U.S. Sen. Kit Bond from Missouri on his 1998 re-election campaign. In the 2000 and 2002 election cycles, Tuttle moved to fundraising, representing Republican candidates including Senator Jim Talent in his bid for Missouri governor, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft in his Senate reelection campaign, Missouri State Senator and President Pro Tem Charlie Shields and Missouri State Senator Jon Dolan. Tuttle has been with John Bardgett & Associates since the fall of 2003 as a registered lobbyist.
Swinford took over as the executive director of Progress Missouri just a little over a year ago, and she has naturally taken over the role of as leader of one of the busiest progressive advocacy organizations in the state. When the group is not fighting in the courts to record public hearings in the state Senate, Swinford and co. keep their finger on the pulse of Jefferson City and serve as a watchdog for Missouri’s left.
Mary Ellen Ponder
After Jeff Rainford departed as Mayor Francis Slay’s chief of staff, Ponder stepped in and not only filled his shoes, but walked off with them. She has proven herself a capable and motivated chief of staff for one of Missouri’s longest municipal dynasties. She is one of the most sought after endorsements in the upcoming Mayoral election next year, and is one of the leaders of the next generation of the Democratic Party in Missouri.
The Kelley Group is the leading Democratic consulting firm in the state and she is a big reason why. She has a rare mix of people skills combined with organizational skills and working with The Kelley Group has become one of the top Democratic operatives in the state. The future is bright for Megan while she is already one of the most in-demand Democratic operatives in the state.
Mazur is the political operative every young woman starting out in politics aspires to be. She is one of a small number of women to manage a winning statewide race leading a successful Secretary of State’s race in 2004. She is at the forefront of the Women’s Foundation, helping to develop their pay equality and women’s appointment project, and the Griffiths Leadership Society for Women at the University of Missouri. She’s had her fingers in many more pies, including digital consulting for the Priorities USA super pac, the Women’s Foundation of Greater KC, and Protect Missouri Families PAC, fighting against right-to-work. Additionally, she’s one of few operatives who have managed a statewide campaign, serving as Robin Carnahan’s manager for her 2010 Senate run. Reproductive and civil rights are another issues Mazur is involved in, consulting for Missouri’s ACLU.
Combest has been with Enterprise Holdings since 2005 and manages the company’s PAC, which ranks as the 8th largest corporate PAC in the country. She is perhaps the person on this list with the most and deepest relationships on both sides of the aisle. She is a member of the American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL) and has participated in exchanges to Argentina, China, and Taiwan. She serves on the boards of Citizenship Education Clearing House and the National Association of Business Political Action Committees. She is a graduate of FOCUS Leadership St. Louis, a highly respected program for emerging and established leaders who have demonstrated a deep commitment to improving the St. Louis region. She has been involved with the Sue Shear Institute for Women in Public Life for many years, serving as an Advisory Board Member and Faculty Affiliate for the 21st Century Leadership Academy.
A native Missourian, Giddens was raised on a farm in Buchanan County. In 2002, Giddens began her governmental consulting career by joining Jim Russell and Associates. In 2008, Giddens created her own governmental affairs business, The Giddens Group. She’s a Capitol regular and can be found advocating for Hallmark, American Express, Metropolitan Community College, Lilly USA, among others. There are few individuals men or women who are both as liked and respected as Giddens.
Dixon has previously served on a staff in the executive branch and as an attorney in St. Louis. She breathed life into the St. Louis Young Republicans, and it’s now one of the most active and influential political groups in the state. However, she is now living what must be the considered a top achievement of her career in running campaign for Lt. Gov. peter Kinder, the leading contender for the Republican gubernatorial nomination campaign. The staff is small, but they are getting a great deal out of their efforts, and if successful she will cement herself as a top name in state politics. She previously served as General Counsel for the Lt. Governor of Missouri before joining law firm Hesse Martone.
Hassani took an aggressive climb into politics from being a universally loved College Republican to a campaign staffer. She joined Scott Rupp’s senate office, following him to the Missouri Public Service Commission where she quickly read up on regulatory law and made herself an indispensable staple of the Commission. She is now a go-to person for people in the political class when they have questions about the complex PSC process.
For the last two years, Rossi has been the face of the ACLU at the Missouri Capitol. If there is a House hearing on an abortion bill, she will be there to testify. If the Senate is debating a bill like SJR 39, you can find her in the gallery. Rossi often gives substantial insight whenever she signs a witness sheet, and she has made friends in the Capitol on both sides of the aisle. She has also taken social media advocacy to the next level with her being very engaged both in the rotunda and in the phones of legislators and staff.
Weber left the Missouri AFL-CIO to take on one of the most demanding jobs in Missouri politics and has become an indispensable aide to the St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger. The county potentially has more volatile issues today than ever before and Shannon is at the center of most them, and is a key liaison to many of the groups Stenger counted on in 2014 and will again in 2016.
Since Republicans took control of the legislature, Missouri has become a far more restrictive state on abortion practices. A big reason for that comes from the work of Missouri Right to Life, and Klein has been a leader at the group, as a former executive director and current chief lobbyist to promote anti-abortion policies for the last two decades. Given the sheer number of new regulations on abortion in the last few years and MRL’s activity regarding last year’s Planned Parenthood investigation, Klein deserves a lot of credit for how much the organization has accomplished. Moreover, her career reached a capstone last year while working with Sen. Kurt Schaefer and the Sanctity of Life committee she worked in actually closing an abortion clinic.
Jones is the number two person in one of the most effective governmental relations organizations in the state. She is a key person in making legislative and political decisions for MATA as well as helping coordinate their memberships involvement in the Capitol. Simply put she is one of the most influential women in state politics.
Shannon is a ground-breaking lobbyist with excellent relationships and a tremendous reputation for integrity. During her time in the Capitol she has become a go to source for legislators and staff on utility issues. With her relationships and experience continuing to grow she is a lobbyist on the move in the Capitol.
Former state representative and current treasurer for the City of St. Louis, Jones is smart and approachable. She navigates the media and politics with great ease, only helping to continue her own momentum. Many are looking to her as a front runner to be the next Mayor of the City of St. Louis.
King has one of the biggest jobs in Missouri politics and is one of the rare people that is nearly universally respected. Politicos from business, labor, and a host of other interests both aligned and not aligned with the Missouri chamber count Tracy as someone they are eager to work with. With a few years of experience she now has a large group of lobbyist that have worked under her at the chamber that have become a large group who consider her a mentor.
Workman is one of the most trusted and professional lobbyists in the Capitol. She is someone that many staffers feel they can approach and there are many stories where she has offered advice that has helped develop many professionals. She is now a principal at one of the fastest growing lobbying firms in the state. Workman is the type of professional many men and women hope to become when entering the public policy process.