“Politics is about learning to dance between the raindrops,” according to Shalonn “Kiki” Curls. And the number two Senate Democrat is certainly no stranger to politics.
A real estate developer by trade, Curls made three bids to represent her district in the Missouri House and won all three. In the midst of her third term, she was the Democratic nominee for a special election called by then-Gov. Jay Nixon to fill the vacancy left by Sen. Yvonne Wilson. She won that special election along with re-election in 2012 and 2016.
Curls notes that the relationships lawmakers build while in the Capitol are extremely important. Those relationships play into knowing which lawmaker is passionate about which issue and that concerns of a lawmakers district. Every legislator is different and every district is different. And it takes time building relationships with members of the same party and across the aisle to the point a person is taken at their word.
“Your word is all that you have in that building and without that you have nothing,” said Curls.
During her tenure as a lawmaker in Missouri, Curls has worked tirelessly on issues regarding quality healthcare, decent and affordable house, quality education, and economic development. In the 2018 General Session, she pushed to expand the list of expungeable offenses and have the budget include funding for community programs.
Curls has made it a focus to give citizens that deserve it a second chance. A few years back she advocated for a bill that did that very thing by expunging specific charges off of qualifying citizens records. And Curls has worked to expand the list of nonviolent offenses to wipe clean ever since. Recently, previous concealed carry charges where added to the list of expungeable offenses.
“I am hoping that it really provides a second chance for individuals who made mistakes in the past, have made amends to society, and have not gotten into any more trouble,” said Curls. “I hope it hits the restart button on their future.”
The Assistant Minority Floor Leader also fought tirelessly to get money in the state budget for community programs, after-school programs, and for workforce enhancement.
“I am hoping [the funding] enhances the lives that folks are able to live,” said Curls.
She has been dedicated to bringing resources to her local community throughout her tenure in the General Assembly. This includes securing funding for the Kansas City MLB Urban Youth Academy and for the University of Missouri-Kansas City Center for Neighborhoods, and sponsoring free events such as a Public Health and Safety Fair and Homeowner Workshops.
“Our role as lawmakers should be trying to make the world better than how we found it when we first took office,” said Curls. “We should always treat other people with the dignity and respect that you expect to be given.”
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 is a reporter for the Missouri Times and 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. Contact Alisha at firstname.lastname@example.org.