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Kelly Schultz leaving Office of Child Advocate after 10 years: ‘The work will continue’

Rep. Becky Ruth is expected to be tapped for the role, sources say

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — After more than 10 years at its helm, Kelly Schultz is leaving the Office of Child Advocate as its director at the end of the month.

Multiple sources have said Rep. Becky Ruth, a real estate agent and former high school teacher, will be named to take over the post. 

In a phone interview Wednesday, Schultz was quick to praise the team at the Office of Child Advocate (OCA) and expressed well wishes for the next director. 

“The last 10 years with the Office of Child Advocate have been some of my proudest professional moments. I’m incredibly proud of the things I have gotten to be a part of,” Schultz told The Missouri Times, pointing to involvement with committees and task forces, testimony given to lawmakers, and work behind the scenes on cases. 

“I am often the public face of the Office of Child Advocate. I’ve been the one to testify at committee hearings or speak to the press about child welfare, but I think it’s really important that everybody recognizes my proudest accomplishment is assembly the team at the Office of Child Advocate,” Schultz added. “The staff that works here is the best and brightest in child welfare. While I may be the one speaking into the microphone, it’s because of their work. I’ve assembled a fabulous team, and they will still be here. I love the Office of Child Advocate with my heart and soul, and I’m really excited to watch the next director’s success. The work will continue.” 

Jessica Seitz, director of Missouri KidsFirst, has worked closely with Schultz over the years and praised the legacy she will leave behind at the agency. Her organization has worked with the Office of Child Advocate since its inception, she said, and she vowed to continue that collaboration.

“After a decade of service at OCA, her fingerprints are on dozens of pieces of legislation and task force policy recommendations — all of which promote the safety and wellbeing of our most vulnerable kids,” Seitz told The Missouri Times. “Missouri is fortunate to have an Office of Child Advocate. It’s an agency other states, including most recently our neighbor in Kansas, seek to imitate.”

Rep. Becky Ruth testifies before the House Ways and Means Committee. (HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS)

Ruth, the chair of the House Transportation Committee, has represented her Jefferson County district since 2014. She is a member of the Jefferson County Parents as Teachers Advisory Board and co-chair of the Capital Campaign Committee for a Safe Place Women’s Shelter. 

On Tuesday, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry recognized her with the 2021 Spirit of Enterprise Award. 

Gov. Mike Parson’s office has not formally announced Ruth’s appointment to the position, although multiple sources said it’s forthcoming. 

Sen. Holly Rehder, the new chair of the Joint Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect, said Ruth has “big shoes to fill.” 

“Kelly has been a tremendous help to our district. We use their department often, and I can’t sing her praises enough,” Rehder said. “I know Becky deeply cares for the protection of our children also, and it’s been an honor to work with her on issues affecting families in the past. I’m excited to see her passion working in this new role.”