With the inspiration of her grandmother and mother guiding her, state Rep. Ashley Bland Manlove brings another generation of public service to the legislature. And at times, she still gets emotional as she remembers she is walking in the footsteps of her family.
Manlove’s interest in politics began with her family: her grandmother, Mary Groves Bland, served as both a state representative and senator; her uncle, Craig Bland, served in the state House.
With that notable history of public service in her family influencing her, Manlove is already familiar with the sense of duty that comes along with being a representative. Combining that with her time in the National Guard, Manlove makes it known that state government is in her mind, and she is glad to serve.
“There’s always been a strong sense of community service in my family. Of course with the lineage of my grandmother and my uncle both holding seats in the House and in the Senate, community service has always been in the forefront of my mind,” Manlove explained. “So when I was approached to run, I gladly said, ‘yes.’ I like to use the phrase that ‘I served the great state of Missouri once in the National Guard, and I’m happy to serve it again.’”
According to Manlove, her grandmother’s influence was only second to that of her mother’s. Spending a great deal of time with her grandmother as a child, Manlove was exposed to Capitol culture and the legislative process at a very young age.
“My mother was sick when I was young so my grandmother helped raise me. So I was with my grandmother daily, and even as a child I traveled around with her a lot to conventions and different legislative events,” Manlove said. “So I was always exposed to it; she was always trying to show me that there are bigger and better things out there than what’s just on our block. You have to think locally but then you also have to think globally.”
Manlove’s praise for her grandmother doesn’t end there. She continued with a few more kind words directed towards the kind of woman her grandmother was to both her and the legislature.
“She was amazing. She was just the kindest, most loving, and most respectful woman. Even here in the legislature, one of her favorite phrases was, ‘You might not like me but you will respect me and I will return the same,’” Manlove said. “I think that is a mentality that you have to have. Every day there’s something that I do where I can think of a quote that came from my grandmother or some life lesson that she taught me.”
Having worked as an accountant and as an intelligence analyst for the National Guard, Manlove believes she has made a good transition into her office — particularly with her seat on the House Budget Committee and other groups dealing with financial institutions.
“It’s been great actually having a research and accounting background — research being from the National Guard as an intelligence analyst,” Manlove said. “In [the] budget, that’s all it is — numbers — and even though I’m still learning how all the numbers fit together, I could read it, and I could follow what the chart was saying. From a numbers perspective, I’m learning how that all translates into human capital.”
Manlove has identified voter registration as a significant part of her work. The most important part of the political process is voting, she said, making it clear she’s happy to sponsor legislation that would improve the process.
“The best part of politics for me is Election Day, voter registration, and engaging people and getting them involved in the process of democracy. Sometimes you get to change somebody’s perspective about how important their voice is,” Manlove said. “Right now I’ve got HB 731 that focuses on automatic voter registration specifically to include felons. It started as wanting to change the notification process, and it blossomed into a full automatic voter registration. So criminal justice reform which ties into that bill … is very dear to my heart as well.”
While this is Manlove’s first year as a representative, she is proud to say she did have some idea of state government even before entering office. With that in mind, she says while she is honored to be working in office and can at times get overwhelmed.
“Luckily I did have a bit of perspective beforehand. I understood that it would be tenuous, and I understood that it was going to be hard work — which are all things that I am capable of. So it’s been an amazing experience, and I’m honored to be up here,” Manlove said. “I still get a little choked up when I walk into my office and see this portrait of my grandmother that I have with me.”