JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Although they came from diverse public policy backgrounds, all six women who sat on a panel Monday morning had similar sentiments regarding priorities in their careers: work with others in a way to increase engagement and understanding on any given issue.
The Missouri Women’s Council, the Women’s Foundation, and the Women’s Policy Network of Missouri hosted a roundtable event Monday for the panelists to discuss their respective fields and what it took to land their careers.
The “Women in Policy Discussion” panel included: Kellie Ann Coats, executive director of the Missouri Women’s Council; Missouri Supreme Court Judge Patricia Breckenridge; Anna Hui, director of the Department of Labor & Industrial Relations; state Rep. LaKeySha Bosley; Alex Cypert, chief of staff for Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden; and Kate Casas, partner at the Nexus Group.
Breckenridge recounted a time when she and some friends came together to aid a group of abused women. Drawing from their individual expertise, Breckenridge and her de facto team ended up establishing a hotline, starting a support group, and soliciting donations so vulnerable women would be able to stay in hotels to escape potentially dangerous situations. Twenty-five years later, that women’s shelter is still functioning.
“If you fight for people, and you’ve got an important public service issue, public policy issue, people will come with their passion and expertise and figure out a way to get things done,” Breckenridge said.
“If you fight for people, and you’ve got an important public service issue … people will come with their passion and expertise and figure out a way to get things done.”
Cypert held a similar philosophy, saying, “You don’t have to have the answers right now, but you have to work to get them, and you have to be willing to work to get them, and it’s not always pretty, and it’s a lot of hard work.”
Bosley, a Democrat, focused on reforms to education and the criminal justice system, grew up in a family full of public servants and didn’t expect to go into politics herself. But when she was 8-years-old, Bosley said she got her first “checkpoint” of how public policy intersected with the everyday lives in her community.
Now 26-years-old and the owner of multiple small businesses, Bosley attended her first protest when she was just 8 — joining others who rallied against school closures in certain neighborhoods in St. Louis.
“At 8-years-old, understanding that closing schools and education was a vital piece to what our communities needed in order to come up and in order to give every child more equal opportunities to prosper, that was a checkpoint of noticing how policy and how situations affected people’s day-to-day lives,” Bosley said.
Bosley, too, said she gets her “assurance” when people in positions such as hers “give the people the knowledge and the information they need” so that they, in turn, are able to “make an educated guess and an educated vote on what is going to affect their day-to-day lives.”
Hui also stressed the importance of helping others — especially in her line of work.
“What I’ve learned is that you have to help people understand what the law is and how that applies to their lives for them to comply,” she said during the roundtable. “At the end of the day, how can we build better understanding between people? Rules help govern the way we interact, but it’s really about that person-to-person diplomacy — that engagement and understanding — so it’s always been about the underlying principle I’ve used in my public service. How can we create more understanding so we can work better together?”
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a reporter with The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in March 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City. Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S. and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa. She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. Contact Kaitlyn at email@example.com.