The Missouri Times is speaking to new lawmakers this session. Get to know more of the “Freshmen to Watch” here.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Despite being one month into her career as a legislator, Rep. Maggie Nurrenbern is no stranger to the statehouse or collaboration across the aisle.
A Democrat from Kansas City, Nurrenbern interned in the Missouri Senate during the 2006 legislative session, working for then-Sen. Chuck Gross, a Republican. She said the experience taught her as much about cooperating with the other party as it did about the Capitol and inspired her effort to establish a new bipartisan freshmen caucus to collaborate on common-ground issues in the lower chamber.
“I jokingly say that before anyone comes into the legislature, they should work for someone else of a different party,” Nurrenbern told The Missouri Times. “I learned a tremendous amount early on about working with people who are different from me, and now I spend a lot of time around other freshmen who are Republicans because I want to learn from them. I think establishing the caucus is a tremendous step in being able to work on real solutions for things people really care about, what Missouri really wants to see from this body.”
She said her internship made her realize the impact teachers had on the state, inspiring her to pursue a career in education. Before running for the House, she taught at North Kansas City High School and University Academy in her district. Nurrenbern said she was happy to serve on the Education and Budget committees, two areas she said influenced the state’s educators and students the most.
She said she made an effort to jump right into the process, and the transition from being on the sidelines to finding her voice in the legislature had been worth it to represent her community. Nurrenbern said it took a lot of multitasking to work in the General Assembly — something she was ready for after teaching, campaigning, and raising three young children at the same time over the past year.
“In some respects it’s like coming full circle, and I was thinking about whether I could do the most good in the classroom or if I could help my community as well as teachers and students if I was back here in this building,” she said. “I thought long and hard and essentially ran a two-year campaign for the seat. For the last two years, I was sitting on the sidelines, streaming hearings and watching floor debate and realizing how important it is to have those voices of reason and legislators who bring a spirit of collaboration.”
Nurrenbern said she saw that spirit in former Rep. Jon Carpenter, her predecessor in the HD 15 seat. She said she had heard many fond opinions of Carpenter from both sides of the aisle and that was happy to see a similar outreach from some of her GOP colleagues. She and another freshman Democrat joined a pair of first-year Republicans to watch the State of the State address last month, an experience she saw as an opportunity to discuss the issues at hand and find common ground.
“When it all boils down to it, I think we agree on more things than we disagree on,” she said. “What people want from us is to move forward on issues that matter to Missourians.”