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BJ Tanksley tapped to lead Office of Broadband Development

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — In a critical era for Missouri broadband expansion, the Department of Economic Development (DED) selected Missouri Farm Bureau State Legislative Director BJ Tanksley to direct the Office of Broadband Development.

“Building upon his work at Missouri Farm Bureau, BJ brings tremendous experience and understanding of Missouri’s broadband needs, I look forward to seeing what he and his team will accomplish as we work to increase broadband access in every corner of the state for hundreds of thousands of Missourians,” Gov. Mike Parson said in a statement.

Tanksley will be replacing outgoing director, Tim Arbeiter, and will lead the efforts to invest the $400 million dollars of broadband funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. 

“I’m honored to lead the state’s efforts in expanding access to broadband, which is a truly life-changing prospect for communities all across our state,” Tanksley said.

BJ Tanksley speaks during the Missouri Farm Bureau legislative day in 2018. (THE MISSOURI TIMES/ALISHA SHURR).

The Office of Broadband Development, established in 2018, works with the Governor’s Office, state legislators, executive branch departments, and broadband distributors to increase internet access and affordability. 

The Farm Bureau (MOFB) is an agriculture policy advocacy organization with more than 134,000 members. Tanksley’s role with the Missouri Farm Bureau began in 2013 as its regional coordinator before overseeing its legislative agenda in 2017. 

“Gov. Parson and DED made a fantastic choice to lead the Office of Broadband Development, the state’s lead agency for expanding access to high-speed internet. During BJ’s tenure as MOFB’s director of state and local legislative affairs, he not only pushed for the establishment of the Office of Broadband Development in 2018 but also advocated for the continued funding and deployment of high-speed internet to all Missourians,” MOFB President Garrett Hawkins said. “Gov. Parson’s plan to invest over $400 million in broadband is a once-in-a-generation opportunity, and BJ is the right person to ensure the plan is executed wisely and effectively. We wish him success in this new role and look forward to working with him for the benefit of all Missourians.”

He previously worked on former Senator Jim Talent’s 2006 re-election campaign and for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce. Tanksley is an alumnus of Southeast Missouri State University.  

“We’re excited to welcome BJ to the team during this pivotal moment for broadband expansion in our state,” Department of Economic Development Acting Director Maggie Kost said. 

Missouri ranks No. 34 in broadband access, according to Arbeiter. There are more than 147,000 unserved or underserved households and more than 392,000 individuals without reliable internet access. The state has made drastic improvements despite the high numbers, increasing its ranking by 10 points since 2018.