JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – As the day draws nearer for the election of the next Majority Floor Leader, the Missouri Times reached out to the three candidates seeking that seat to ask them a few questions about why they’re running. First up is Rep. Rocky Miller.
Missouri Times: If elected as the next majority floor leader, what qualities do you think you will bring to the table that will help you do the job effectively? What’s one strength that sets you apart from the other candidates?
Miller: Experience matters. I have been a Vice Chair of Appropriations, Chair of Energy and Environment and then Utilities. I have sponsored and helped many pieces of legislation make it off the House floor in my five years of being in the Legislature. I have had difficult and complex legislation come to me and I distill these subjects down so that many can understand and explain them to their constituency. I currently run Miller Companies, an Engineering and Environmental Services firm and have done so for the 25 years. Being responsible for the livelihood of my employees is a responsibility I don’t take lightly. I would take the responsibility of running of the floor just as seriously. I have been the President of several boards, including our local school board for many years. I think anyone that has seen me run a committee or a board would say that it is organized, efficient and to the point. I would run the House Floor the same way.
I have run and won a highly contested race and I have consistently raised significant amounts of money from many sources. I have given money to many candidates, been to many events and knocked on doors for many fellow representatives. I am currently on the HRCC finance committee and as Floor Leader, I would expect to take the traditional role as the lead in that organization. Experience matters.
Missouri Times: If we’re asking about strengths, it only makes sense to ask about weaknesses. What would you describe as the one thing you wish you change during your time in the House, and why.
Miller: Believe it or not, it would be to not take things so seriously sometimes. I hope I am known as someone that looks at the glass as half full, but I can also be very passionate about some things. During those times, my competitiveness kicks in and I can be pretty forceful, maybe a bit overbearing. I try to channel that part of my personality for good, but sometimes it strikes people wrong.
Missouri Times: This past session, tort reform, and labor took a major role in shaping the direction of legislation. What topics do you see as the next big issues for Missouri, and how do you think you can help advance them in the House? What will be the top priorities in 2018?
Miller: Well, with my background, I would have to say regulatory reform and tax reform, basically getting out of the way of people so they can make money for themselves. We need to get very serious about Economic Development, we do a poor job of trying to make jobs, but we can start making it easier for more jobs to come this way. My experience in the industry of infrastructure gives me an up close and personal perspective on what needs to be done.
Missouri Times: What do you think will be the most difficult part of the job of serving as the majority floor leader?
Miller: Balancing the needs of the caucus. We are a diverse group of legislators and every district has different needs. You can’t make everyone happy, sometimes you have to say no and that is not easy. I have had to do that several times in my legislative and professional career. The art of telling someone no and having them understand why and how you can still help move their priorities forward is hard, but I believe I have shown it to be possible. Experience matters.
Missouri Times: Ethics reform has continued to be a hot topic for the legislature, do you think it will appear again? Is there a middle ground that might be found to bring meaningful reform to Missouri, or is this issue doomed to continue stalling in the General Assembly? Do you believe enough has been done?
Miller: Some people feel that we have enough transparency and that ethics reform is not needed. This may actually be true, but it doesn’t matter. The public does not believe we have done enough to address the real or perceived ethics problem we have in the State. I think the House will do as it’s always done on many subjects, we will pass meaningful legislation and see what the Senate does. I wish I could say I will go over and force the legislation through the Senate, but that is unrealistic. However, I do have a history of success with negotiating with many of the Senators, but ethics reform remains a hard task during these times.
Missouri Times: How does the House majority continue building on their success and maintain their numbers in the next election cycles?
Miller: Experience and hard work. Funding the operation adequately is important, but so is having a great ground game. I have worked with many of my colleagues in successfully making it to the legislature, but it all begins and ends with hard work. I knocked several thousand doors in my campaign and many more with members of my caucus in their campaigns. We need to personally spread the message of how important it is to the state to maintain a strong Republican majority.
Missouri Times: What made you decide to get into politics in the first place, and what has been the hardest lesson to learn since entering the House? How has this role of serving as a state representative changed you?
Miller: I have always enjoyed representing people. Whether it be as a Captain of the team, board member in church and school, director at State Organizations and most recently as a State Representative, people have entrusted me to act on their behalf. I take it very seriously and try to do what is in their best interest.
The hardest lesson I learned entering the House is probably one I should have learned before. One person can be an instrument of change, but it is better if we all work together towards a common goal. Explaining the objective to all and getting them to buy in is hard sometimes, but amazingly satisfying we make it across the finish line.
A senior representative pointed out early in my career that I needed to be patient and I believe I have become more patient. That is hopefully my biggest change, playing the long game rather than jumping to the end. Thank you, Representative Phillips, for your advice and guidance.
Missouri Times: What’s one piece of advice you would offer to a freshman legislator or someone considering running for the House?
Miller: I was given the same piece of advice that I now give. Pace yourself, listen and learn. Find your spot and then help the caucus by utilizing your knowledge. It’s amazing how far you will go if you watch out for all instead of just one.
Missouri Times: What do you consider to be your biggest personal victory as a legislator and why?
Miller: I have passed many pieces of legislation that helped my district and the state as a whole, but that pales in comparison to being able to pass on what I have learned to the next group of legislators. In this time of term limits, it is important to not hold onto knowledge, but pass it on so that they can build on it and we can be stronger in the end.
Missouri Times: If you could have a one-on-one conversation with your voters, what’s the one thing you want them to know about you?
Miller: To both my constituents and my fellow caucus members, I would want them to know how deeply I do care about what they need. I want them to be able to succeed and through my actions, I will do my best to make that happen.
We also asked the representatives to take part in a “rapid fire” round of questioning, where we ask questions that are a little bit more fun in nature.
Favorite food: Mexican
Favorite TV show: Big Bang Theory (raised and schooled with engineers)
Favorite Holiday: Easter, He is risen.
Least favorite household chore: Picking up after others.
How do you like to relax? Hunting (about everything that flies)
Which is easier: whipping votes or wrangling kids? We have raised 8 kids, so votes.
If you could time and space travel, where would you go? The future where space and time travel were possible and then anytime, anywhere. (non-trick answer, the sermon on the mount and also debate on the U.S. Constitution)
If you won the Missouri Lottery, what would you do with it? Charity (of which begins at home)
Favorite color: Red (Company Trucks)
Pepsi or Coke: Coke
Favorite automobile brand: Ford (Sen. Kehoe sees this, right?)
Favorite sports team: Had season tickets to the Chiefs and Cards
Favorite movie: Quiet Man (John Wayne)
Favorite book: The Word, but then The Stand, authors edition (Stephen King)
Dog or cat: Dog that can point.
Favorite ice cream flavor: Chocolate
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.