JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — In a familiar scene, the Missouri House fell silent when Rep. Bruce Franks stepped up to his microphone Thursday evening. But instead of advocating for a program that benefits his community or calling for compromise, Franks announced this would be his last session.
The activist-turned-lawmaker is resigning after three years representing St. Louis City. He cited his family and mental health for reasons behind his decision.
“The past three years have been both incredibly rewarding and unexpectedly depleting,” said Franks.
“I’ve fought many battles, but none greater than my ongoing struggle with anxiety and depression. This year, for the first time in my life, I decided to get help. After much reflection, I decided to prioritize my health and my family above my political ambition.”
He moved to the public eye during the 2014 protests in Ferguson over the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer. In 2016, he unseated incumbent-Rep. Penny Hubbard in a competitive election for the 78th district.
Since coming to Jefferson City, the 34-year-old has worked hard to shed light on the struggles of his community and pass meaningful legislation. In 2018, he was successful in passing HCR 70 declaring youth violence as a public health epidemic and declared June 7 as “Christopher Harris Day” in Missouri.
Read his full statement below:
“It is with sadness that I announce this will be my last session in the Missouri House of Representatives. This was a difficult decision that I have made for the sake of my health, particularly mental.
The past three years have been both incredibly rewarding, and unexpectedly depleting. From winning an election that nobody thought I could win to being a young Black man from an economically distressed community sitting here in this legislative body, this has been an essential step for me and for the people I represent, who too rarely see someone who looks like them serving in government. However, I would be lying if I didn’t also acknowledge the enormous toll the past three years have taken on my physical health and my mental health. This past year has been marked by deep personal trauma, from the loss of my best friend and godson to gun violence to the strain that comes from trying to support a family on the salary of an elected official with no financial safety net. I’ve fought many battles, but none greater than my ongoing struggle with anxiety and depression. This year, for the first time in my life, I decided to get help. After much reflection, I decided to prioritize my health and my family above my political ambition.
Further, the changing dynamics in the legislative body made it clear that there is little room for the kind of bipartisanship that allowed me to effect meaningful change for my constituents in the past three years. Time is our most valuable resource, and my community doesn’t have the privilege to wait for change.
I am incredibly proud of some of the work that my colleagues and I have been able to accomplish these past three years. Passing HCR-70, which declared youth violence a public health epidemic, putting millions of dollars into the budget for youth jobs and creating a Veterans’ Bill of Rights are just some of the highlights. I am just as proud of my communities and those across Missouri that took matters in their own hands and engaged civically to put help pass bills and create laws that benefit people, not parties or politicians.
There will be those who will frame my decision as selfish or rash, or who will want to try to reframe this story from what it should be about – my decision to take care of my mental health and to share my story so that it can help others to do the same. Those who know me, know that I am a person who doesn’t let his pride overpower his judgment. Real leadership means doing what’s necessary to be the most effective you can be. I will continue to do the work of the people, no longer as an elected official, but as an advocate for social justice, as a disruptor to the status quo and as a champion of change. I’m a soldier, and soldiers belong on the battlefield. My battlefields are communities that are still fighting for Black lives, racial equity, voting rights, criminal justice reform, gender equality, public education, LGBTQ rights, and livable wages. So, while I am resigning my title and seat in this body, I am not resigning my role as a leader for my community — instead, just redesigning it to be the most effective I can be. So that includes taking care of my mental health and advocating that others in my community do the same.
Thank you to my constituents for the privilege of serving you. I will continue to fight on your behalf. Thank you to the members of the House of Representatives. I have made many friends here both Democrat and Republican, whom I will hold dear for life. I have also made foes here — both Democrat and Republican. I will continue to show up, knock on your doors and hold you accountable. Above all, thank you to my kids for keeping me grounded and forcing me to think about how I can be the best version of myself.
Bruce Franks Jr.”
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.