JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – In the course of just a couple of weeks, Missouri now has both a new governor and lieutenant governor.
Less than three weeks after taking the oath of office, Gov. Mike Parson picked Sen. Mike Kehoe of Jefferson City to take up the office of lt. governor., filling the vacancy Parson left when he assumed the role of Missouri’s chief executive.
Parson said that when he began considering how to fill the role, he did not start with a list of names, but used insight received during his recent transition to identify qualities and characteristics he felt the job required – “leadership, humility, meaningful experience, a willingness to listen to your adversaries and the heart of a public servant” – ones he felt that Kehoe embodied.
“When I considered those things, there was one person who clearly emerged,” Parson said. “Mike is someone who will bring great experience to the Lieutenant Governor’s office as part of this administration. He will provide valuable leadership experience to Missouri as well.”
Kehoe, 56, a St. Louis native who moved to mid-Missouri, worked his way up in the business world of automobiles before getting involved in politics in 2004 when he volunteered to help former Gov. Matt Blunt in his gubernatorial campaign.
That led to an appointment to the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission, and eventually, he decided to run to replace Carl Vogel in the state senate in 2010, representing the counties of Cole, Gasconade, Maries, Miller, Moniteau, Morgan, and Osage.
After serving eight years in the Senate, where he last served as the majority floor leader Kehoe is term-limited in the upper chamber.
Kehoe has held leadership positions for several committees: Administration, Vice-Chairman; Gubernatorial Appointments, Vice-Chairman; Local Government and Elections; Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics, Chairman; Joint Committee on Capitol Improvements; Senate Select Committee on Capital Improvements, Chairman; Blue Ribbon Panel on Immigration; Joint Committee on Corrections.
Kehoe also has served on the Missouri Automobile Dealers Association Board, the Linn State Technical College Board of Regents, the Jefferson City Commerce, the USS Missouri (SSN-780) Commissioning Committee, the Central Missouri United Way, and the Jefferson City Diocese Jubilee Committee.
Kehoe was sworn in by Missouri Supreme Court Judge Patricia Joyce, using his mother’s bible and the bible of a World War II veteran who was his neighbor.
When the Governor called and asked me to serve, it was one of the most monumental experiences in my life,” Kehoe said. “That Governor Parson would consider me is very humbling.”
Kehoe said he was grateful for the opportunity, humbled by the confidence in him, and was ready to get to work for Missouri.
And though Kehoe has now been appointed and sworn in, the question of whether the governor has the authority to do so still remain, which both Kehoe and Parson said it would be up to the courts to decide, should his appointment be challenged.
Following the swearing-in of Lt. Gov. Kehoe, several former governors released statements saying their former office did have the authority to appoint a lieutenant governor.
Kehoe was named the Missouri Times Statesman of the Year for 2017
Statement of Former Missouri Governor Christopher S. Bond:
“The people of Missouri deserve a full slate of constitutional officials serving them and the governor needs a lieutenant governor. I applaud Governor Parson for demonstrating leadership by filling this vacancy in a thoughtful and deliberate manner.”
Statement of Former Missouri Governor Jay Nixon:
“Missourians are best served by having a Lt. Governor in office. In 1992, Missouri voters added significant additional duties to the office that would be unmet if the position remained vacant. Also, Missouri’s unique succession laws could cause constitutional challenges if the governor becomes disabled when the Lt. Governor’s Office remained vacant. As Attorney General and later Governor, I research this issued extensively and firmly believe the Governor has the authority to fill a vacancy in this office by appointment.”
Statement of Former Missouri Governor Bob Holden:
“The Legislature has not provided any alternative to the Governor making the appointment to fill the Lt. Governor’s position when vacant and past practices based on legal counsel from prior Governors based on their legal opinions of the Missouri constitution and the statutes is that the Governor shall make an appointment to fill the Lt. Governor’s position.”
Statement of Former Missouri Governor Matt Blunt:
“Governor Parson has made another great decision in appointing Mike Kehoe as the next Lieutenant Governor. Mike is a dedicated public servant who will fulfill all his new responsibilities with skill and integrity. I believe our constitution empowers the governor to fill this and other vacancies. Given the many assigned responsibilities of the Lieutenant Governor it is clear to me that the intent was and is that Missouri should have a leader in that role.”
Still, other Missouri lawmakers congratulated Kehoe on the appointment.
“I commend the governor’s selection of Mike Kehoe as our state’s next lt. governor. For more than a decade, Sen. Kehoe has proven he has the experience and is committed to serving the people of Missouri,” Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, said. “Not only is Mike a close colleague, but he is a good friend. I have been fortunate to witness his strong leadership skills and his passion for the Show-Me State. He knows how to communicate with people and has always displayed a willingness to listen to both sides. As Majority Leader of the Senate he was able to work across the aisle reasonably and fairly, and I know he will bring those values to his new role as lt. governor.”
“Mike Kehoe is a great friend and great public official. He truly understands the importance of good jobs to our economy and to families,” U.S. Senator Roy Blunt said. “Mike has worked tirelessly to ensure we have the infrastructure in place to compete and a prepared workforce to grow our economy. His experience as a business owner, cattle rancher, and state senator will make him an asset to the Parson administration, and I look forward to working with him in his new role.”
“Having a qualified Lieutenant Governor is crucial for effective governance, and Governor Parson made the correct choice for Missouri in appointing Mike Kehoe to that position,” said Chris Nuelle, a spokesperson for the Missouri Republican Party. “Mike Kehoe’s valuable experience as a small business owner, his push for meaningful reforms in the Missouri legislature, and his dedication to improving the lives of Missourians make him a great choice to aid Governor Parson in his mission to move Missouri forward. We look forward to working with him to enact quality legislation and bring conservative measures to Missouri.”
Benjamin Peters was a reporter for The Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine and also produced the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined The Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield.