Though she came into politics with the intention of focusing on economics, Rep. Jean Evans is looking to be one of the more vocal advocates for women and children moving forward.
Having only completed two regular sessions in the Missouri House of Representatives, the Republican from Manchester is already making a name for herself for her perseverance, determination, hard work, and passion.
Her experiences with include working with children as a coach, serving as a board member for Nurses for Newborns, previously serving as the President of the Professional Women’s Alliance of St. Louis, and working on legislation.
When Evans has been told “no” on a piece of legislation, it doesn’t end her pursuit of getting it passed. Instead, she asks “why not?” and attempts to address the concerns of her fellow lawmakers.
“It is just a matter of going out and finding what the objections are and then addressing them,” she said. “If you listen to people’s concerns instead of just getting mad they didn’t support you then a lot of times you can get stuff done.”
It is that mentality that has helped the freshman legislator push seven of the measures she championed across the finish line during the 2018 regular session — whether it be through legislation she herself sponsored or as amendments on other bills.
Evans has successfully championed legislation — that ended up getting the stamp of approval from the General Assembly — including a ban on pregnant inmates from being shackled or chained during labor, setting the minimum age of marriage in Missouri at 16-years-old, and expanding the definition of “women’s business enterprise” to include a Missouri nonprofit corporation that has a majority of individuals serving on the board of directors and corporate officers who are women.
Some of the legislation is common sense, Evans noted. A few years back the General Assembly passed a law allowing Missourians to obtain, possess, and use CBD oil in certain circumstance but since no protections were allotted for doctors issuing prescriptions, most didn’t.
“We literally had children coming to the hospital here, from other states where they were being treated with CBD oil for epilepsy, that couldn’t be treated because the doctors couldn’t do it. It wasn’t that they were against it, it was that we hadn’t offered them the same protections other states did,” Evans said.
So, Evans pushed through a measure this year that gave doctors protections when prescribing CBD oil as allowed under state law.
But her advocacy of the issue wasn’t limited to measures she herself put forth. Evans aided Rep. Patricia Pike in pushing through a bill to help combat sex trafficking in the state and Rep. Marsha Haefner in extending treatment for addicted moms.
“One of the things I think we are going to see coming up, is we need to address the maternal mortality rate in Missouri,” said Evans. “The rate has increased across the nation, but it seems to be more here.”
The University of Missouri has a couple of researchers who are looking into the issues and Evans noted she has reached out to them so that that information can be used in crafting a solution.
“It’s just important. I don’t know if most realize that more than 50 percent of the babies born in Missouri are Medicaid babies,” said Evans. “So when we address something through Medicaid when it comes to moms and babies, we are affecting over half the lives born in this state…it’s something to consider.”
Prior to her tenure as a legislator, Evans has worked as a real estate agent and investor, as well as coaching and officiating volleyball for 30 years.
In a throwback to her experiences as a coach and player, Evans is not afraid to take risks or chances. She knows that it’s not always about winning or losing, but playing the game the right way and know that she represented her constituents to the best of her abilities.
It’s a mentality that has served her well.
“It’s determination. You just have to keep going. When you hit a bump in the road or you have a problem, you have to say ‘I’m going to figure this out.’ You can’t give up,” said Evans.
This piece is featured as part of the Missouri Times’ Best of the Legislature 2018 appearing in the January 2019 Missouri Times Magazine.
Alisha Shurr was a reporter for The Missouri Times and The Missouri Times Magazine. She joined The Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University.