The Missouri Times is speaking to new lawmakers this session. Get to know more of the “Freshmen to Watch” here.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Rep. Bill Hardwick has an appreciation for just how delicate life is.
At 20 years old, Hardwick went through Officer Candidate School (OCS) and became the youngest lieutenant in the Missouri National Guard at the time. Three years later, in April 2008, Hardwick was serving in Iraq with a platoon tasked with sweeping for IEDs when his vehicle was struck multiple times. Staff Sgt. Jeremiah McNeal Hardwick was killed; Hardwick still has a pinched nerve in the back of his head and scars.
“Our job was to sweep for IEDs and clear ambushes and do dangerous stuff, but it was a really good experience because it made me realize you have a finite amount of time on Earth, and you should probably do something that’s worthwhile and make a difference,” Hardwick told The Missouri Times. “But it also made me not afraid to go for stuff in life because I appreciate how life is a precious thing; it’s fleeting. Don’t be afraid to go for what your passion is.”
Hardwick, 36, has always had a fascination with just how much politics dictates everyday life, from taxes to science to societal rules. In the House, Hardwick is particularly focused on education, the economy, and the effects of COVD-19. He represents HD 122 which includes Pulaski County.
“I’ve never had a position or a job that I love as much as this, honestly,” Hardwick said. “I’ve had a lot of really cool jobs that I loved, but I’ve never been somewhere where I’m like, ‘This is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.’”
“I have to think about not just the button I push [but] the priorities I espouse and the way I act,” he continued. “As a legislator, when I say something, when I make a statement, the way I react, the way I respond to something, people do pay attention to that. There is a leadership quality to that.”
Hardwick is a former special assistant U.S. attorney, administrative law attorney for the Army, and assistant prosecuting attorney in Pulaski County. In the latter position, Hardwick was involved in a variety of cases during which he garnered widespread experience.
“It was a good experience because you get to think about what is actually just and every criminal case has a human component to it,” he said. “There’s a person who is a defendant whose life and freedom and future are in the balance. And sometimes there is a victim and their family, and their life and justice and what’s right and wrong is a the forefront of their minds too. It gave me a sense of justice is a real thing to pursue, but there’s a humanity to it.”
While in the legislature, Hardwick said it’s important for him to foster relationships and be known for his principles. He’s built a relationship with Democratic state Rep. Marlon Anderson, and while they’re open about their differences, they also want to work together to help the constituents in their different districts.
But Hardwick is also focused on his family, including his wife of 15 years and their four children: Alaura, Josh, Ryan, and Hollie. He texts his oldest daughter most mornings when he’s in Jefferson City.
“It’s important you don’t ever get caught up in being a legislator and think it’s all about me and where I end up,” he said. “There are lots of good people who can sit right here at this desk and do a good job. And they’d vote the way I want them to vote. But there’s only one person who can be a dad to my kids, and that’s me. I never want to lose sight of that.”
“You’ve got to remember one day the train is going to stop, and the ride is going to be over, and then what are you going to have? You’ll have the way you treated people and the relationships you made.”
Hardwick has sponsored a variety of bills already, including HB 167 designating the Missouri National Guard Armory in Joplin as the “Sergeant Robert Wayne Crow Jr. Memorial Armory.” Crow served with Hardwick in Baghdad and was killed by an IED in Afghanistan in 2010. The bill was recently referred to the Senate Transportation, Infrastructure, and Public Safety Committee.
Hardwick also sponsored a bill creating the Missouri Cybersecurity Commission and a resolution asking voters to change the way judges are selected. When it comes to education reform, Hardwick wants to find ways to give students and parents a greater choice while also funding public schools and teachers more.
“I don’t think those things have to be contradictory,” he said.
Hardwick won his election to HD 122 by more than 3,400 votes in November. He serves in the Missouri National Guard as a lieutenant colonel and graduated with honors from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth. He’s an alumnus of the University of Missouri School of Law.
“I had high hopes for the session, but it’s even better than I thought it would be because I do think everybody is trying to do the best they can,” Hardwick said. “Really good people and really caring people and people who have a good heart and motive for getting into politics all come here from across the state.”
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is the editor of The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in early 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., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.
She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.
Contact Kaitlyn at email@example.com.