When Rep. Bryan Spencer was in college, he was asked to come up with a “motto” to live by, and he decided that would be: “Invest in people.”
Years later, as the term-limited Republican mulled what was next after his tenure in the state House, Spencer went back to that motto — and so he decided to run for Senate in the 10th district. He officially announced this week his candidacy to take over Republican Sen. Jeanie Riddle’s seat in 2022.
“I asked myself, ‘Do I make a difference [in the legislature],’ and I started making a list of all the things I accomplished legislatively and in the community,” Spencer told The Missouri Times. “I decided I had made the biggest difference as a state representative, and I wanted to continue in the state Senate.”
A former teacher, Spencer has represented HD 63 since 2013. He’s focused on education — he believes parents should be the ultimate decision-makers in where children attend school — and farmers. He’s an advocate for the homeless, Spencer said, and wants to promote policies that will get people “back on track to being successful, contributing citizens.”
When pointing to his accomplishments, Spencer said it’s his work on a bill expanding access to online courses for students to ensure college readiness that he is proudest of from his time in state government. The Senate version of the bill, championed by Sen. Bob Onder, was signed by the governor in 2018.
But Spencer would rather focus on what he’s done in the community — raising funds for a Wright City police dog and hosting events bringing law enforcement and residents together — and for his constituents.
Spencer said he got to know one man who was convicted of second-degree murder when he was 14 years old. The man served all 10 years in prison and become a “model citizen” and grandfather. But the man’s own son fell on hard times after his wife was diagnosed with blood cancer. Eventually, the house fell into disarray, and the family could no longer take care of their baby.
Normally, Spencer said, social service workers would place the baby with other family members. But that prior conviction stood in the way of these grandparents caring for their family member.
“I had to fight for this gentleman to get their baby back. It took a year and a half, but we did it. My question was, when is your payment to society over,” Spencer said. “He’s still paying for it even though he’s been a good, model citizen for over 50 years.”
Following Spencer’s announcement, Republican Sen. Bill Eigel took to social media to show his support.
“Bryan has been a great public servant for his area in the House — looking forward to his continued service in the State Senate, District 10!” Eigel tweeted.
— William Eigel (@BillEigel) June 12, 2019
In the Senate, Eigel is a member of the Conservative Caucus, a group of six lawmakers focused on regulatory, tort, and healthcare reform, as well as anti-abortion policies and gun rights. But joining the Conservative Caucus if he’s elected isn’t necessarily on Spencer’s to-do list yet.
“I don’t have a group that I belong to. I’m not part of the Conservative Caucus in the House. I’m not part of anyone,” Spencer said. “I’m an independent thinker. I try to represent the voice of the people.”
“When people ask me what my agenda is, I don’t have an agenda as far as me personally,” he continued. “If you look at the bills I’ve carried in the past, I’ve put all kinds of things on the table — whether it’s something I agree with or don’t agree with. I always try to be an advocate of the people.”
Spencer’s strategy is being as open and accessible to constituents as possible, he said — even to those who might disagree with him. But he has a solution for that.
“There have been times when groups of people have been upset with me about a vote, and I’ll go sit in their garage or meet at a restaurant, and we have a nice conversation so we understand each other,” Spencer said.
It’s just another way, he said, to invest in people.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.