Chesterfield, Mo. — Rep. Bruce DeGroot, R-Chesterfield, has announced his departure from the House, as well as his withdrawal from the November ballot.
Instead, DeGroot will be joining his longtime friend, Senator-elect Curtis Trent, as he moves from the lower to the upper chamber. DeGroot will be working as Trent’s chief of staff for this upcoming session.
Since DeGroot withdrew his re-election bid before 5 p.m. on the Tuesday before the general election, the Missouri GOP will be able to select another candidate in his stead.
Now that the dust is settling, DeGroot talked with The Missouri Times to reflect on his six years in the House and also talk about his future.
DeGroot comes from humble beginnings. He worked for a country club in his native South Dakota, doing every job under the sun before a chance encounter brought him to St. Louis where he sold stocks and bonds for three years. From there, DeGroot earned a scholarship that allowed him to go to law school at St. Louis University which set him on the path to becoming an elected official.
DeGroot represented HD 101, near the Chesterfield area, for six years, beginning in 2016.
According to DeGroot, the first four years were spent on one thing in particular: tort reform.
DeGroot recounted horror stories he had heard from journalists in St. Louis, writing stories about people who go to court for petty crimes, then being slapped with large fines and court payments they could not pay, leading to a vicious cycle of imprisonment and debt to the courts.
In the legislature, DeGroot also championed HB 1987, better known as the Correctional Center Nursery Program. The bill “establishes a fund to establish a nursery in one or more of the correctional centers for women operated by the department.” For those eligible for the program, infants born to inmates while in custody can remain with their mother for up to 18 months.
It’s a program designed to reduce recidivism while also giving newborn children an opportunity to bond with their mothers which could minimize the risks of cognitive and behavioral delays later in childhood.
Although that specific bill did not make it through, the program lived on as an amendment to SB 683, which was signed into law this past summer.
Trent, a Springfield-area Republican, won his primary against Brian Gelner, a beer executive. He is the GOP nominee for SD 20, running unopposed.
DeGroot and Trent met when they both were elected to the House in 2016. DeGroot said he was a little apprehensive about Trent at first but the two became fast friends and coworkers. They’ve worked on legislation together and shared a similar vision for policy. They even shared the same desk on the House chamber floor.
But now, DeGroot will transition to Trent’s chief of staff, a behind-the-scenes position that is no easy task, even for a former legislator.
When asked about his choice to transition to an unelected role in the upper chamber, DeGroot said he thought he could be more of a help to Missourians by working alongside his longtime friend and colleague who he is confident will do a good job in the Senate.
But it is no secret that this incoming class of Republican senators will have a tough session ahead of them.
The Senate is still reeling from a very unproductive session. Brought on by a splintered group of Republicans known as the conservative caucus, vying for political dominance over the majority of the GOP caucus, so-called, Rowden Republicans.
But just earlier this month the caucus unceremoniously disbanded while its leader Bill Eigel called for peace amongst fellow Republicans.
Politics aside, DeGroot does have mixed feelings about his departure from the House, which he called “bittersweet.” He also mentioned how excited he was to work with his friend and to see how this class of senators do.
“I look forward to the challenge of working in the Senate with my best friend and a person I respect very much — Curtis Trent — I will truly miss not being in the Missouri House of Representatives,” said DeGroot.
“I am proud of the legislation we passed during the time I served. My only goal was to leave Missouri in a better place for my children, I think we accomplished that.”
Featured Image: Bruce DeGroot (PHOTO/TIM BOMMEL – HOUSE COMMS)