Charlie, a Jasper County preschooler who “loves playing in the dirt and is obsessed with dinosaurs,” may be doomed to one day be successful. His father, a likely future state House Budget Chair, and his mother, a bank vice president, somehow balance their rising southwest Missouri stardom with a magnetic approachability and being very “regular.”
Charlie’s mother, Jana Smith, is married to Cody, who is a rising star in the Missouri House of Representatives and the Republican caucus. Smith is closing in on 20 years working at the growing Arvest Bank as Vice President, Branch Administrator. She met her husband at Arvest, where he was a loan officer at the time. They knew each other for 5 years before they began dating. It never crossed Smith’s mind that her future husband may one day be a candidate.
It may have not crossed Cody’s mind either.
“Cody was approached by a couple members of our Jasper County Republican Central Committee,” Smith said. “His initial response was “no thanks.” Our son was only two so it just didn’t seem like the right time. Luckily, they didn’t take no for an answer the first time so we started to give it some serious thought on how we could make it work. Cody has always been very interested in politics, and we became excited about the opportunity to make a positive impact on Missouri and for our son’s future.”
The biggest change of having her husband gone, Smith says, is making deliberate time for her son and husband during session. “One thing we have been very intentional about is time with our 5-year-old son. We FaceTime every night before bed when Cody is gone. Sometimes that means that we’re FaceTiming with daddy while he’s still in session and we have to hold for a few minutes while he goes to make a vote on the House Floor. We also make sure that we spend our time together as a family when he’s home on the weekends.”
When the Smith’s went to Jefferson City, it started off memorably, with a real trip for Smith.
“When we attended the Governor’s Ball in January 2017, we got to meet the Governor and First Lady and have our pictures taken with them in the Governor’s office. As we were walking in and being introduced to them, I tripped on my dress and almost fell flat on my face. I figured that I at least made a lasting impression on them.”
The Capitol, which Charlie refers to as his father’s “castle work,” has made great memories for the family, inside and out. Cody got to play on the Missouri-Illinois legislative softball tournament this past summer, marking Charlie’s first visit to Busch Stadium. “I am a huge St. Louis Cardinals fan, and I grew up watching them with my grandma since before I can even remember,” Smith said. “That trip was our son’s first trip to Busch Stadium, and he got to watch his daddy play on the field.”
Outside of the Capitol and politics in general, the Smiths enjoy road tripping, especially to Colorado; playing with their German Shepherd in their backyard, and watching Charlie play sports. “So, we definitely keep busy.”
“I have realized more so that legislators are just very regular, normal people. Oftentimes, politicians are put on a pedestal or seen as leading these very exciting lives. But we are about as regular as they come. We live in a quiet neighborhood in a small town that we absolutely adore, and we wouldn’t change a thing.”
This piece is featured as part of the Missouri Times’ Behind the Lawmaker appearing in the January 2019 Missouri Times Magazine.
Rachael Herndon is the editor at The Missouri Times, and also produces This Week in Missouri Politics, publishes Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosts the #moleg podcast. She joined the Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.
Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.
To contact Rachael, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter @TheRachDunn.