Rep. Tom Hannegan met his match in partner Scott Mell. Mell, who works as an account manager at StreetScape Magazine & Studio, run by Hannegan. When they met at a fashion show at Moto Museum in downtown St. Louis, Mell had no idea he was about to start a life with someone as active in the community as Hannegan.
“I really had no idea but I knew he was heavily involved in the local St. Charles community, serves on many boards and is very active with several nonprofits so it made sense for him to advance into a political role.”
Mell’s partner is the only openly gay Republican in the General Assembly and Hannegan making the jump into elected office is one the couple took seriously.
“In our situation, being a same-sex couple, it was a little terrifying because we opened ourselves up for scrutiny of our relationship. We have been very open about our relationship and I’m happy to say that there has really been very little negativity.”
Mell and Hannegan are life partners who have considered marriage since it became legal. Being conservative, they have decided not to marry.
When Hannegan was first elected, his legislator assistant Brittany Backer who Mell calls an “absolute blessing and wonderfully kind person,” gave Mell his welcome with a full tour.
Hannegan’s office hosted a supporter in 91-year-old Grace at the legislative ball, who announced upon entry, “Okay, I’m here. I want to meet the Governor.”
“At that specific time, the Governor was addressing the audience,” Mell said. “After several phone calls and getting no where. I walked over to the Governor’s Office and waited outside the door to meet with his chief of staff. There was a security guard who was not making it easier, so after 45 minutes, I walked over, got Grace and took her with me. When we approached the office, the security guard gave the same ‘no admittance’ speech and I said, ‘she is 91 we are not standing in the hall way.’ Got into the first office, was able to meet the chief of staff, and, shortly after, Grace met with the governor and got her photo taken with them.”
Beyond the history and the people, Mell does not share a love for the formalities of legislation despite being spotted throughout session supporting his partner. “Tom has invited me numerous times to the gallery to observe the House in session and I attended early on but in my opinion only I would almost rather have a tooth pulled,” Mell said. “I think it’s the formality of the process and how much time can be consumed on a single issue.”
“I have learned so much about politics and the political process,” Mell said. “I have to say, I had no idea how much work that process took, but I guess it should be hard. I have truly gained a new respect for anyone involved with politics. I do think the public hearings are enlightening and can sometimes be dramatic. I have attended several of those.”
In their family life, Mell says that the pair chooses to make it happen.
“We enjoy spending time with family and friends. We make it a point to host both families for Independence Day each year at the lake, usually spend each holiday with one family or another. I have several younger nieces and nephews. We try spend as much time with them as we can but its usually less frequent than we would like so we will take them to the zoo, water park or a seasonal festival. Tom has a 1 year old great-nephew. We just attended his birthday party and shared some time with the family. Sometimes you just have to make it happen.”
Above all, since election, Mell says their life as they knew it was no longer.
“Well life as we knew it is no longer,” Mell laughed. “Meaning, Tom resides in Jefferson City for the first 5 months of the year. A lot of people think that is all they do but the other 7 months of the year are filled with local constituent work, political and non-political events, campaigning (as State Representatives run for re-election every 2 years) and pre-working on legislation for the next session. We do not have children but we do have 2 dogs: a chocolate lab and Great Pyrenees. We both stay very busy and it is difficult to find extra time to do things like going to a movie or get away.”
Since Hannegan’s election, Mell has learned about terms and term limits, but also that “there are a lot of rules and there’s no way to make everyone happy.”
This piece is featured as part of the Missouri Times’ Behind the Lawmaker appearing in the January 2019 Missouri Times Magazine.
Rachael Herndon was the editor at The Missouri Times and also produced This Week in Missouri Politics, published Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosted 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.