This article originally appeared in the Fall 2019 edition of The Missouri Times Magazine.
Rep. Dirk Deaton‘s district is nestled in the southwestern most corner of Missouri, cozied up to Arkansas, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Deaton can travel to any of those states’ capitals quicker than he can get to Jefferson City.
There can be a feeling in the district of being forgotten, the Republican said. But Deaton — one of the youngest state lawmakers in Missouri history at 25 — is bound not to let that perception become reality.
“You have to feel like you have the ability to make a positive impact for not just the people in your district, but the state, and make a contribution and affect change,” Deaton said. “That’s very humbling.”
Deaton likes to repeat the age-old adage: “God looks at our five-year plans and laughs.” But it’s easy to see how his life trajectory led him to the General Assembly.
Having “studied a bit of everything,” Deaton holds a humanities degree from Liberty University after attending Crowder College and Missouri Southern State University. He only took online classes at Liberty; in fact, the first time he stepped foot on campus was for graduation in 2017, with President Trump giving the address.
“I have a wide array of interests so I put them all together. It wasn’t a means to an end. I put a great value on education and feel it’s an investment in yourself,” Deaton said. “I wanted to learn as much as I could about many different things which I think serves you well as a legislator.”
Even before he was elected, Deaton was “a party person, a true believer.” He served as the president of the McDonald County Republican Club and is one of the founders of the Noel Betterment Association, a group that has helped the town with holiday events and other needs.
“In my mind, for someone who is for small government, we have to put our money where our mouth is,” Deaton said. “If we say this can be done by private groups and organizations, we need to show that’s possible.”
Deaton pointed to the massive pro-life bill the governor signed in May as one of the biggest accomplishments from his first year in the House. He has also enjoyed serving on the House Budget Committee and Fiscal Review where he’s had the opportunity to “really ensure that we’re taking care of tax dollars and cutting government where we can and making sure those dollars are being used as efficiently as possible.”
But perhaps Deaton’s greatest source of pride this year was his wedding to Nikki on Aug. 31. The pair met in college through the Baptist Student Union and reconnected at the inauguration of the former governor.
Deaton can’t say what’s next, but he’s focused on his community and state. House Speaker Elijah Haahr even called him “one of the fastest rising stars in the Missouri House.”
“The title is state representative, right? It’s not McDonald County or St. Louis or Kansas City. You do have to remain cognizant that what you do affects the entire state,” Deaton said. “I think what I would want people to know about me, and what I hope is true, is that I’m a principled individual, and I have a set of values and beliefs that I remain consistent and true to.”
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is the editor of The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in early 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City.
Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.
She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.
Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.