Rep. Kevin Engler is terming out of the House after serving 4 terms there and 2 terms in the state senate. Known for being a closer, Engler has been a stalwart member of the Republican caucus.
Q: What’s the best lesson learned or advice you received as a legislator?
A: Try to make friends, not enemies, because you’re going to need them.
Q: What would you say your greatest accomplishment as a lawmaker would be?
A: I think I’ve passed more bills than anyone in the past 16 years, but they fall into different categories. The one that is more emotional to me is the one that I did was to give permission to the Governor to lower flags at half mast, which had to be legislatively approved. Every time I see a flag at half mast, I know that a Missourian died defending this country, which is always ever-present.
Q: Who do you most admire as a legislator?
A: I would the spouses who had to stay home and put up with it all. They don’t want to be in it, and they have to put up with it and live the life of a politician, always being in the limelight, and that’s not fair to them. But they put up with it, and most of them treat it as something like my wife calls it, as “my expensive habit.”
Q: What will you do next?
A: I’m running for county clerk. I’m retiring from Edward Jones after 30-something years, they’re kicking me out of Jefferson City, and I want to continue doing public service. I don’t have to work, but I’m hoping to run and win this election for county clerk, and push this county forward. I’ve done the mayor thing, I’ve done the state thing, now we’re going to try and do the county. We were raised to a first-class county five years ago, and I would like to bring it up to first class in reality not just in status.
Q: What will you miss most?
A: I like to negotiate things, and I will miss the public speaking and negotiating bills.
Q: What was the toughest moment or decision for you personally as a state lawmaker?
A: The toughest moment was when I lost the presidency in the Senate with four tied votes and we had to draw lots for who was going to the second in line to the governorship. That was a tough moment, but you just had to deal with it. It was very disappointing, but life moves on.
Q: If you could change your vote on one piece of legislation, would you, and why?
A: Not to my knowledge. I’ve voted thousands of times, and I’ve tried to always take my best shot. In hindsight, supporting the tax bill that Sen. Kraus that did some stuff that it wasn’t supposed to do, that was not a good decision, but there’s a few of those out there that have had unintended consequences, which you would have changed your vote if you had known those at the time.
Q: What is one thing you wish you had accomplished?
A: I tried to get the MONA legislation through on its basic part, not allowing people to be fired strictly because they tell their employer that they are gay or lesbian is unacceptable. I did the bill a few years ago, I sponsored it 15 years ago against same-sex marriage, I’m not an advocate, but I try to treat people with respect. And firing people because they tell you they’re gay is not acceptable but it is legal.
Q: How has this role of serving changed you?
A: It’s made me a little more cynical, a little more jaded, but I appreciate the experience, and my constituents letting me do it.
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.