When considering who would be amongst the first 100 people you would introduce a new hire to, it would be a joke to act as if integral legislative staff would not be on the list. Every other year when the Missouri Times does the 100 List, the most nominations always come in for staff – and this year, we’re including them. These individuals love this state, know the legislative process, and never put themselves first. They embody all the noble traits of a political role model and at some point in time, it will feel as if they save your life, whether they send an unexpected amendment, ensure your meeting is not forgotten, or somehow always make coffee at the right time. Every day, they balance the demands of constituents, lobbyists, other legislators, other staff, and more.
by Rep. Cody Smith
Over the years, Drew has been dependable, honest, and maintained a strong work ethic. He’s always up for a new challenge in an environment where those are abundant.
He has a continued commitment to self improvement through education that I really admire. He brings that same natural curiosity to his role in the Capitol, whether it is learning the appropriations process or seeking to understand the many policy issues that are relevant to our office.
by Jack Cardetti
It took me less than a single workday when I started at the Attorney General’s Office back in August 2000 to realize I needed to be more like Scott Holste. Amongst a hugely talented staff, his unique qualities stuck out. Scott listened more than talked. Reporters trusted and relied on him. The more frantic the situation, the calmer he got. And above all, he was fiercely loyal and proud of it.
Many believe nice guys finish last in politics. Scott Holste defies this axiom, and in doing so makes everyone around him better. The fact that State Auditor Nicole Galloway has surrounded herself with talented, loyal staff like Scott bodes well for Missourians, and not so well for thieves. Since taking office only a few years ago, Auditor Galloway’s work has already resulted in 38 criminal charges against public officials.
Any notion that our State Auditor would coast after amassing these early victories was upended in January with the hiring of former McCaskill advisor David Kirby as senior counsel. His knowledge of the law, policy, politics, and business make him the political equivalent of a unicorn. Auditor Galloway has a tremendous future in Missouri because she quickly figured out that surrounding yourself with the best and brightest and excelling in your elected position are the best politics of all.
by Dan Kleinsorge
Some jobs are so thankless you only know they are being done well when things don’t break. Senate Administrator is one of those jobs and Patrick Baker makes sure things don’t break behind the scenes.
If people knew how many random things the Senate Administrator has to deal with on an average week they would be shocked that any one person could keep a handle on the job. Patrick’s wealth of experience (a former senate staffer, senate leadership staffer, legislative liaison, lobbyist, senate staffer again, and an executive agency staffer before becoming Senate Administrator) pays dividends every day as he meets challenge after challenge to keep the Senate nonpartisan offices running smoothly. Patrick is someone worth knowing because he is one of the unsung heroes that keep the wheels turning behind the scenes so legislators can focus on lawmaking.
by Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer
Freddy may be relatively new to the building, but he has already proven himself as an exemplary staff member in my office. He is eager to learn and has a keen work ethic that justifies his place on this list.
by Sen. Denny Hoskins
As my Chief of Staff, Rachel has worked with me for the 21st Senatorial District as well as in the House of Representatives during my tenure as Speaker Pro Tern. In fact, she was the first female chief of staff to serve for a member in Republican House Leadership. She is a superior communicator, successful at working cohesively with members, staff, citizens and lobbyists alike. She is a proven, results-oriented leader and an unparalleled asset to District 21.
Rachel has been an important member of staff in the Capitol for many years. Starting as an intern for Representative Ward Franz, she was immediately hired in June after her internship finished. Representative Franz was Majority Caucus Chair, and Rachel was vital in implementing the mentor program among House members and worked on the development and application of the Speaker’s Series educational seminars.
Outside of the Capitol, Rachel is the devoted wife and mother of two children. She serves as an advisory board member for the Immaculate Conception Parish School and is also a member of the steering committee for the Immaculate Conception Parish 175th Anniversary Celebration. Rachel is also active with the Leadership Missouri Alumni Board, previously participating in the Missouri Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Missouri Program and elected president of her class.
I congratulate Rachel on being selected for the Missouri Times’ 100 List. She is definitely someone to know when it comes to passing legislation in the Missouri Senate.
by Sen. Doug Libla
Ashley Bax has been with my Missouri Senate office since 2015, the past 2 years as Chief of Staff. She has the reputation in the senate as being friendly, dependable and insightful on many topics and legislative procedures.
Her concern for our constituents, and passion to learn more about the 25th district makes her a go-to person for those in need of help. Her quick and reliable follow-up of many inquiries make her presence in the office so very rewarding. Personally, I enjoy working every day with Ashley as she makes the long days, fun and exciting.
by Rep. Randy Pietzman
In a building that was designed around serving people, Shana Beasley exemplifies that role. Everyone from the maintenance workers, constituents, other LA’s and elected officials, can all expect the same treatment from this young lady. She’s professional, polite and courteous to all visitors, staff and members.
At the Capitol where a lot of times people aren’t what they appear to be, Shana is consistent and honest. Whether you are a senior representative or a newly elected freshman she is always eager to help with anything without expectations or reward.
As an LA for two difficult representatives, myself and Rep. Remole, she has the task of communicating with 75 thousand constituents, and sometimes I think she is more popular than I am in district. As someone who intercepts calls and emails, she has a personality that relates to everyone. She can do that because she’s never fake or presumptuous with people. Whether you are 9 or 90, her infectious smile, warm and sometimes psychedelic personality will always brighten your day. She is also a great source of information for new LA’s.
Her office is decorated to reflect her warm and caring personality, and dozens of people come by daily to say hi and receive encouragement from Shana. Both Rep. Remole and I agree that she makes our job much less burdensome. Shana’s the next best thing to chicken soup for the soul!”
by Sen. Bob Onder
When Amanda joined our office as Legislative Assistant she already had extensive valuable experience.
This included work in information technology for the public safety sector, then as section supervisor for the Missouri Department of Revenue. She has been indispensable to keeping the “trains running on time” in our very busy office. She does outstanding work on constituent service, scheduling, committee, and hearing preparation, and on any other task she tackles. We are truly blessed to have Amanda as part of Team Onder!
by Rep. Jack Bondon
You’ll be hard pressed to see me without my legislator assistant Joe Bruns nearby, and for good cause. He’s not only one of my closest friends, but he is also indispensable to my service to the 56th District. I would never have been as successful as I have been without Joe guiding the ship. He has worked incredibly hard to help me serve the people of the 56th District and we are eternally grateful.
Joe was born and raised in Jefferson City. He graduated from Helias Catholic High School and earned a degree in aviation management from The University of Central Missouri.
Growing up in a politically involved family, his knowledge in policy and of the political process began at a young age. He has assisted with numerous campaigns and has worked in the Capitol for six legislative sessions, with also assisting former Reps. Molendorp and Guernsey.
Joe is married to his wife Kaylea, who is a kindergarten teacher. He is known for having a big heart. Whether it be a mission trip to Haiti or helping his wife set up her classroom, he is always willing to lend a helping hand.
He enjoys hunting, hiking and camping and also holds a pilot’s license and real estate license.
by Rep. Wiley Price
With term limits and the constant churn of new lawmakers coming into the Capitol, institutional knowledge of how this place works (and where the bodies are buried) is critical. For that reason, Lisa Buhr is definitely among the top people in the Capitol that folks need to know.
Friends with seemingly everyone, Lisa has connections all over the Capitol making her a wealth of knowledge on the legislative process, Capitol politics, and how to make my way around this place. Not only that, her connections to the lobby corps make her an invaluable resource as we’re trying to figure out who we can trust and who’s just out to play games.
Lisa balances her work in the Capitol while being a mother to 4 and a local political force in her own right. Lisa has been around Jeff City for years, learning the ropes and taking care of countless others. People should know her for what she does not and should get to know her for what she’s going to do in the future.
by Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman
Chase Campbell’s efficiency, dedication, and abilities set him apart from most other men and women in the capitol, but his passion and enthusiasm for our state and for our people is beyond compare. In his current role as legislative assistant Chase puts the needs of constituents above all else, always donning a smile and ready to help. Chase has also become a reliable asset to the Republican party working tirelessly in grassroots outreach and opposition research. Each week, his Rolodex grows a little more, aligning himself with longtime operatives he not only helps other Republicans, but he helps himself professionally while doing so. He is a rising star and I couldn’t be happier to partner with someone of such high caliber to in my first term serving the 97th district.
by Paul Curtman
Ryan Clearwater first came to work as my legislative assistant in 2014. I had known him from his time working for Representative Casey Guernsey and later for the MO Cattlemen and I thought he would be a good fit for the office. Since then, Ryan has worked for the RNC, other candidates and even with me on my recent statewide effort and there are several reasons why everyone should get to know him.
Ryan is one of those people who seems to know everybody. He knows how to work with anybody also, regardless of their politics. Political work is a game of influence and it helps to be likeable and approachable – two words which perfectly describe Ryan Clearwater. I can’t tell you how many times constituents or other elected officials would call the office upset about an issue and Ryan was so good at disarming them either by clear explanations of issues or by simply being professional and courteous. He takes a genuine interest in people and his work and his follow-through is impeccable. Ryan isn’t satisfied with moderate performance and it was always great knowing I had someone working for me who was set on excellence. Being a military man myself, I can see how Ryan’s discipline as an Army officer carries over into his civilian work.
I was always afraid that other people would see how great an asset Ryan was to my office and recruit him away and, as it turned out, he had his chance one more than one occasion but stayed. I asked him about this once and he said he wanted to see me through the end of the session. I really appreciated that.
Since I termed out, I’ve found out just how in demand he is becoming and I feel really fortunate I was able to work with him for the better part of my time in office. I know he has people calling him to help them get some things done and I expect the more does for people the more others will be calling.
by Sen. Caleb Rowden
Alex is an incredible asset to my office for a number of reasons. As the first female Chief of Staff to a Majority Leader in the Senate’s history, she brings fresh eyes and a fresh perspective to the job. She isn’t afraid to tell me “no” when I need it, and isn’t afraid to push back when I need it. The worst thing we can do in the legislature is surround ourselves with people who will tell us what they know we want to hear. Alex brings a really good balance of confidence and humility to her position and to our office.
by Casey Wheat
In 2012 when I walked into the Capitol for my very first day as a legislative intern, I was quickly introduced to Brad Green. Brad worked as the Chief of Staff to Senator Kevin Engler, who I was interning for, and taught me a great deal about the legislative process. Brad’s work ethic and attention to detail quickly became qualities of his that I admired. During the legislative session, Brad never hesitated to explain at length anything I was interested in and answered all the questions I pelted him with. The patience that Brad showed me allowed me to learn so much and fostered my interest in the political process.
During the 2012 election cycle Brad was also my boss on the first political campaigns I worked on. The summer of 2012 was brutally hot and dry. I tell my version of a “we walked five miles to school, up hill both ways…” story to prospective field staff in reference to my first campaign gig. Brad ran these campaigns like a well-oiled machine, managing a group of early 20-something college kids and somehow motivating us to phone bank and door knock every day. While Brad was only a few years older than the staff working for him, his knowledge of campaign strategy and commitment to bringing home a win would have left you assuming that he’d been doing this for decades. I had no clue at the time that this tough summer would instill in me a love for the craziness that is campaign life.
Brad may be known for working hard, but when he does get a free minute you can catch him hanging out with friends or spoiling his nieces and nephew. Brad has been a trusted friend and mentor to me throughout my time in Missouri politics and I consider myself so fortunate to have learned from him.
by Rep. John Weimann
Kari Hoelscher has gained significant state government experience since 1998 with a variety of positions working for Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan, Missouri Supreme Court, Missouri Senate and House of Representatives. Prior to her newest position with the office of Speaker Pro Tem John Wiemann, Kari served as Executive Assistant to Senator Ryan Silvey. Kari has accumulated many friends and colleagues over the years in the capitol building and in both legislative chambers. Her out-going and helpful personality along with an uncanny ability to interact with people has served her well with getting things done. Kari is a consummate professional that keeps the Speaker Pro Tem office running smoothly. When Kari is not busy in the capitol, she stays active with her two sons, Colton and Dillon.
by Sen. John Rizzo
Any person worth their salt in the Missouri Capitol will tell you a good Chief of Staff in the Missouri Senate is an essential part of being a successful Senator. As a State Senator I know firsthand how important this position is and how fortunate I am to have Tom Hoppe working for the people of the 11th Senatorial District. The biggest commodity in the age of term limits has become institutional knowledge. Having been a State Representative, former local government chair in the Missouri House of Representatives, and Chief of Staff to former Senator Callahan, and Senator Holsman Tom has the experience and a knowledge of the process to get things done that most envy. Working in a business where you have to traverse half-truths, misinformation, and sometimes outright lies to get your agenda passed it’s crucial to have someone that you can bounce ideas off. Someone that you can trust, someone that will give you an honest opinion and not just tell you what you want to hear. These things are all important parts of the growth of a Senator. I am a firm believer that very few people are born to do the job of a Senator it’s something that you grow into and how quickly or even if that happens depends on the people you surround yourself with.
Even when he is grumpier than usual I still believe that he is the best Chief of Staff in the building. We are both also very fortunate to have former Senator Callahan to lean on from time to time when we get stuck, need a tiebreaker opinion, or simply just want to bounce an idea off of. As a Senator we are all products of the people that surround us and keep close to us. I was once told the secret isn’t having all the answers but knowing where to find them and I am fortunate that I can usually find the right answer with a quick question to Tom in the office or a short phone call to Senator Callahan. I never take for granted the trust given to me by the people of my district and the opportunity to work with great people in the building like Tom Hoppe.
Ly Syin Lobster
by Rep. Steven Roberts
“Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.” This quote has been ascribed to Booker T. Washington and aptly describes Ly Syin, who serves as my legislative assistant. She is a hard worker and the first point of contact for many St. Louis residents looking for help from the legislature. From providing tours to students visiting the capitol, to scheduling meetings with the directors of our state agencies, Ly Syin is always ready to tackle any challenge before her.
I met Ly Syin three years ago, when she was hired to help on my first campaign. She ran her own online secretarial business at the time. After working with her, I knew she was the best person to join me in Jefferson City as my legislative assistant. It took some persuading, as this required her to move to Jefferson City, but Ly Syin agreed and we were both quickly thrown into the rigors and responsibility of serving in our state’s capitol. Ly Syin and I share the same feeling of honor and privilege to be able to advocate for the needs of everyday Missourians. This is best reflected in her unwavering work ethic, her persistence and her ability to go above and beyond to help address the needs of anyone who looks to us for assistance. Residents of the district and community organizers routinely praise Ly Syin. All representatives would agree, that our assistants are an invaluable part of our ability to address the changing and ongoing needs of our districts; our capitol is better off with people like Ly Syin, working hard for others behind the scenes.
by Rep. Tom Hannegan
Heather McKnelly serves as Legislator Assistant to Representatives Elaine Gannon (115) and Tom Hannegan (65). She has also worked on campaigns in both the 2016 and 2018 election cycles. Before she got involved in politics, Heather worked as a medical assistant and as an athletic trainer for Lincoln University. She decided to make the switch to politics in 2015 and—thankfully for us—hasn’t looked back since.
Heather is extremely hard-working and will always go out of her way to help her bosses and colleagues. She is always the first to offer her help and has even begun mentoring others in the building. She has a passion for policy and finds fulfillment in helping constituents navigate their way through the bureaucratic process. She will go above and beyond for the voters and truly puts her heart and soul into helping others.
Heather is an exemplary employee and we are extremely lucky to have her in the House of Representatives.
by Rep. Shamed Dogan
Wanda Mehrhoff is one of the busiest, most dedicated staffers in the Capitol. As one of only a handful of LAs who works for 2 committee chairs (Reps. Shull & Dogan), she manages to balance her two bosses’ very different committees and districts while also being a knowledgeable resource about state government. She has mentored several other LAs and interns who have gone on to tremendous success, including our former part-time LA Markus Vest who now serves as LA for Reps. Chipman and Dohrman.
Wanda is always quick with a smile and a helping hand to anyone who needs one. She constantly goes the extra mile for her bosses—like the time I forgot to bring packets for a school visit and she drove the 2 hours to Ballwin on short notice to deliver them.
Wanda is a tremendous asset to the House and a friend to many who work in and visit the Capitol. She has thrived on using her connections and her Southern charm to get things done for the people of Missouri. She is a perfect example of the importance of having good friendships, and I’m proud to not only be her boss but her friend.
by John Gaskin III
Statistics and other data guide nearly everything in our lives. From policy initiatives, philanthropic causes, elections, and even marketing, statistics and data remain the common denominator in nearly all things. Based upon statistics, my friend, colleague, and brother in the movement, Jay Nelson should not be where he is today! Like his boss, Jamilah Nasheed, he is one who is beating the odds daily. A young black man, born in the city of St. Louis in a housing project, around people who were breaking laws, is now working on the staff of one of the state’s most influential law maker’s in the State Capital.
Jay works tirelessly to ensure that the needs of the 5th senatorial district are met, and that constituents know that their voices are heard. Jay’s genuine personality and true passion for public service are what makes me still have faith in politics. Jay’s willingness to serve is the epitome of why public service can be the key to the reversal of urban decay in America. I am proud of Jay’s accomplishments and I know that he will continue to make our State and Region proud.
by Sen. Shalonn “Kiki” Curls
A fixture in the Missouri Senate for a decade and a half, Christopher Schappe serves as the legal counsel for the Senate’s Democratic Caucus. Since joining the Caucus in 2004, he has provided advice and counsel to six different Democratic leaders in Missouri’s upper chamber.
In that time he has garnered a wealth of experience, helping the caucus navigate difficult negotiations on compromise bills and, when needed, grinding the Senate to a halt with parliamentary procedures if negotiations fail.
Respected by Senators on both sides of the aisle for his intelligence, wit, and institutional knowledge, he is known to friends and colleagues as simply “Schappe”. When he’s not working through all-night filibusters in the Senate, he is an avid fisherman, plays softball, and enjoys watching the St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Blues in Jefferson City’s finest pubs.
by Shawn Rhodes
Speaker Elijah Haahr has assembled a great team, from top to bottom. He retained the talented chief of staff of Speaker Richardson, Kenny Ross, who knows the House inside and out. He pulled longtime Capitol veteran Ryan Nonnemaker, who has been instrumental in assisting the Speaker’s charge for bold solutions. My former assistant, Erica Engleby, keeps growing as a political professional, working to execute creative communications for the caucus while working to become a master of prioritization. Of course, Marietta Rutledge has been with the Speaker since Day One, an administrative soldier that any staffer can turn to for a smile or insight. The Speaker surrounds himself with tenacious staff who truly love Missouri, which echoes in every successful task the office completes. There isn’t one person on his staff who will not have a long future in politics.
by Sen. Bob Onder
The granddaughter of state treasurer Jim Spainhower, government and public policy are in Theckla’s DNA. By the time I entered the Missouri Senate in 2015, Theckla had extensive experience in the legislature, including work for the Missouri Education Reform Council, Representative Casey Guernsey, and Senator John Lamping. She is universally popular in both chambers of the legislature and with the constituents whom she serves. Now in her second year as my Chief of Staff, she had done outstanding work on a wide variety of issues including health care, taxation, labor, and public safety. While our office sometimes tackles controversial issues, Theckla is universally liked and respected by both sides of the aisle. We are privileged to have her on our team!
Shelly St. Clair
by Rep. Bob Burns
Shelly sits at the desk outside my office in room 105 D. That desk is at the base of the steps in our complex, which means with 10 Representative upstairs and downstairs, Shelly helps a great deal of visitors.
Shelly is always helping anyone who needs help. She has been employed in the Capitol for over twenty-five years. She is so knowledgeable about the Capitol, procedures, legislation, and history, that she is more than my Legislative Assistant, she’s my partner.
Shelly gives tours of the Capitol to any of our Constituents who are visiting, and all the way up to the Whispering Gallery (the top of the Capitol). She puts all the State Resolutions together that I present to people, which is a lot.
People throughout the Capitol come and ask Shelly for help in planning all kinds of events. She is always a smiling and willing helper. Her planning is totally professional, and especially her artwork.
Shelly St. Clair is a wonderful Human Being, who is a giver, never a taker. Shelly should be the first on the list of the top 100.
by Sen. Gina Walsh
People go to Janson because he has an unprecedented depth of knowledge. He helps all – on both sides of the aisle – without playing games. He not only helps all, he treats all the same. He is sincere, welcoming, funny, and genuinely nice.
He’s very good at everything he does: he’s thoughtful, welcoming, kind, and patient. He’s a consummate professional when handling constituent concerns. Everyone’s issues are his number one priority. He does not rush through issues. I gladly offer his services every day.
Whoever Janson decides to work with after my departure will be very lucky. He is a good friend and has taught me a lot over the years. I value him as a coworker and a friend.
Every odd year, the Missouri Times releases the 100 people who are most influential, the most effective, and the most relied on in the building. Narrowing it down to 100 is always painful, but this year, we asked 100 people – from current and past governors, company presidents, clients, friends, past and present (and future) legislators, and more – to write about those nominated and chosen for the 100 List.
For 2019, here are the 100 people you must know in the Capitol. This is one of five groups of this year’s list.
The list does not include those currently elected.
READ THE FULL EDITION ONLINE, or pick up at the Capitol’s Chez Monet, J. Pfenny’s, Tolson’s, or the Missouri Times offices on Madison St.
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.