By Scott Faughn
Jefferson City, MO – There is no bigger personality in the capitol than John Bardgett. Some people aren’t aware that he started out on the lowest rung of the house ladder, as staff reader and messenger in the house, under then-Speaker Kenny Rothman. When asked if he ever took a peek at any of the messages — as Bill Clinton claimed he did as a messenger for Senator Fulbright — he merely smiled, gazed out the window of his downtown Jefferson City offices, and replied with a story about a “rumor” that, one time, a message was read to the house that the senate had taken up and passed a bill that maybe they didn’t, and then a few minutes later it was taken up and passed by the Missouri House of Representatives because of that message.
Speaking of stories, we had to ask the consummate-insider for at least one story about former speaker and legendary figure in Missouri history, Bob Griffin. Bardgett didn’t disappoint.
“Once, some gentleman from Boston who were in finance asked to take Bob to dinner. They thought that he had the authority to decide who would be a bonding vendor, which he didn’t, and Bob had no clue they were under this impression. These gentlemen were very kind to spare no expense at dinner. When the wine sommelier brought out the wine list and described that one particular wine was escalated in price, and that the difference was the least expensive wine were from grapes grown at the bottom of the mountain, as the elevation of the grapes rose, so did the price. When the sommelier asked Speaker Griffin which one he would like, he replied, lets just keep climbing the mountain.”
Bardgett began his lobbying career working for Harry Gallagher, working primarily on banking issues, and then went to work for Citicorp. However, after some traveling, he wanted to come back to Missouri. Citicorp was his first independent client, and his second was the St. Louis Homebuilders Association, who is still a client of his to this day.
Bardgett is a native of St. Louis who still lives in West County, and if you would like to see him light up, ask him about his passion for St. Louis. While discussing St. Louis, it was too tempting not to ask what it’s like to be the lobbyist for the St. Louis Cardinals. He replied, “It is really neat to stop by the stadium and learn from Ron Waterman and Bill DeWitt III about what they are doing at the stadium and to see how the things they do benefit the state as a whole.”
When asked about St. Louis city/county consolidation issues, Bardgett, who is the lobbyist for the St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, replied, “That is certainly an exciting issue and if that is what they decided to purse we would certainly be his voice in Jefferson City.”
His firm is unique in the length of relationships he has with his clients. “We are proud of the longtime relationships we build with clients,” Bardgett said. “It’s a testament to the extremely talented team of coworkers I have been fortunate enough to have. We have a couple clients who have been with us for 20-25 years, and other 12-15 that have been here for 15 years. We are always looking for new business, but we are very proud to establish these long-term relationships.”
When asked if there was an advantage to term limits, his thoughts were different than most, “I think there were some good things. The voters may have been right that there was some segment of cleaning that needed to be done. The fresh ideas, the enthusiasm, and the naivety are helpful. I think is sad that 8 years doesn’t give them the opportunity to achieve their goals. I think maybe there is a way to have a 16 year term limit, but limit the leadership. That is where the power is, and that might serve the state better.”
By the time session starts, he expects to represent 36 – 38 clients. When scanning the list of Bardgett and Associates clients, there are too many to mention, but a few of the major corporations include: Bank of America, Altria, Nornada Aluminum QC Financial, Pinnacle Entertainment, and The St. Louis Cardinals. They also represent numerous state associations like dental hygienists, Nurse Anesthetists, Physical Therapy and the Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store association, as well as several local counties and cities including Jackson County, St. Louis Country and the City of Blue Springs.
When asked about some of his relationships with legislators he beamed, “Many of these people have remained my dear friends after they left office, such as Mark Richardson, Bill McKenna, Tom McCarthy, Bob Griffin, the late Chuck Surface. I wouldn’t call Senator Webster a friend of mine because that is something he would have to say, but he was a master of the Missouri Senate. I have really enjoyed working with recent Speakers like Rod Jetton and Steve Tilley. They have the upmost integrity and did a good job.”
Bardgett did have some advice for young staffers who would like to succeed in the lobbying field, “I am probably someone who is an example that you do not have to have a Harvard Law Degree to be successful in my field. You don’t have to be first in your class to be the kind of individual that can honestly and effectively communicate with people about issues. Most importantly do not ever mislead [legislators].”
“You combine that with his varied client base, his ability to adapt to changing times and a partner and wife like Kim Tuttle Bardgett and it is easy to see why they are at the top of their field.” — Jon Dolan
“John Bardgett is a consummate professional who works hard and tells the truth, and keeps his word. That’s why he’s successful.” —Victor Callahan
“I appreciate how upfront John is when lobbying for his clients. He brings real professionalism because he truly understands and respects the legislative process.” –Paul LeVota
He concluded with, “I am like a big choreographer of a big musical. I’m making sure everyone is moving in step. Getting the hearing, getting the sponsor there, choreographing the whole process. What I love the most is that I and my clients get a report card on me every May”.
John Bardgett & Associates
205 East Capitol Avenue Jefferson City, MO 65101
His staff includes:
John Bardgett – firstname.lastname@example.org
Kim Tuttle – email@example.com
John Parris – firstname.lastname@example.org
Erika Leonard – email@example.com
Cheri Gibson – firstname.lastname@example.org
Brian Millner – email@example.com
Carol Kemna – firstname.lastname@example.org
Jan Gregory – email@example.com
Joe Treadway – firstname.lastname@example.org
Editors Note: Jon Dolan is the adopted State Senator of everyone who travels Highway 67, and our publisher frequents the roadway.
Scott Faughn is the publisher of The Missouri Times, owner of the Clayton Times in Clayton; SEMO Times in Poplar Bluff; and host of the only statewide political television show, This Week in Missouri Politics.