Alex Zumsteg: Climbing the statehouse ladder

  

How one staffer found her direction in Missouri politics

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The name “Alex Zumsteg” may not draw a lot of recognition outside of Missouri’s political realm, but behind the scenes of the state capitol, she’s a force to be reckoned with.

The Otterville native never thought a job in politics was in her future.

“Ever since I was little, I’ve always enjoyed politics. History is where I first started, learning about the presidents,” she said. “But never did I think that it could be a job for me.”

After graduating from the University of Missouri with a degree in business administration, Zumsteg said that, like many graduates, she had no idea what to do after graduation, so she applied to attend Missouri State University in Springfield.

“They had an amazing internship program down there,” Zumsteg said. “I interned with Shane Schoeller, who was the Speaker Pro Tem at the House at the time. I got hooked and haven’t been back since.”

zumstegHer first real position in politics came while serving as a field director in mid-Missouri and western parts of the state as part of Shane Schoeller’s campaign for Secretary of State in 2012. Zumsteg said the experiences she gained as part of that team were “amazing.”

After that, she worked at the capitol under freshman Rep. Elaine Gannon for roughly a year before heading to Iowa to serve as field director for Mark Jacob’s campaign for U.S. Senate.

Zumsteg says that one of the best parts of working on Jacobs’ or Schoeller’s campaigns was the friendships made and building the team mentality.

“It was great. We had a great staff, which was more like a family,” she said. “It was so much fun that I didn’t leave, and still keep doing it.”

She returned to Missouri as a campaign manager with the Missouri House Republican Campaign Committee, and then served as Director of Grassroots in the Missouri Speaker’s office.

She joined the Missouri Republican Party as Grassroots Director in June of 2015. Missouri GOP Executive Director Jonathan Prouty described Zumsteg as a “bright, organized, and talented political operative who understands what it takes to win elections”.

Zumsteg was put in charge of grassroots organizing throughout the state, working to train, equip, and engage the local GOP committees and other supporters in their preparations for the 2016 elections.

“Grassroots are a huge contributor to winning campaigns. I read once that grassroots can contribute two to three points, and a lot of the successful campaigns I have worked on have been won by two or three points,” Zumsteg said.

One of the things Zumsteg helped put in place was a handbook for grassroots organization, advising staffers on how to implement successful movements. She says that working with Prouty and John Hancock, the Missouri GOP chairman, was an amazing opportunity to learn. Their wealth of knowledge, as well as their trust in Zumsteg’s abilities, positioned her to continue growing.

But when the opportunity to join Sen.Kurt Schaefer’s team in his bid for Attorney General came along, Zumsteg left the position in November of 2015, ready to take on the next challenge.

Despite a hard-fought race during the August primary, Schaefer’s campaign ended in defeat. But Zumsteg found another fit for her talents – on the Senate campaign for Caleb Rowden.

Zumsteg said the experience of the Nov. 8th election was both an intense and exciting one.

“We were constantly hitting the refresh on our computers, just praying that the results from Boone County would pop up,” she said.

Rowden finished the race with a win, defeating his Democratic opponent Stephen Webber by just 2,156 votes.

She’s now back at the capitol, doing work with the Senate, but chances are that another opportunity is just waiting around the corner. Her career has been one steady step up the ladder with each new position, so it will be interesting to see just what the next move will be for the young and talented staffer.

“You have to take every opportunity that comes your way as a chance to learn something,” Zumsteg said. “Hard work and loyalty really pays off at the end. I just want to make sure that every step forward that I take, I am contributing to the well-being of Missouri. I just want to make our state better, however it might be done.”

Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email benjamin@themissouritimes.com or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.