Three of the area’s young political leaders spoke to business leaders Friday at the 2019 Biz417 Think Summit.
Missouri Speaker of the House Elijah Haahr, Democratic House Minority Leader Crystal Quade and Springfield City Councilman Matt Simpson addressed why they entered politics at a young age, their goals for the future and their pride in being from Springfield.
Quade said she decided to run for the state legislature while she was still in college learning to become a social worker. She said that because much of what the state does involves working with those in our state who are in need, the perspective of someone who is a social worker is vital in the state house. She also mentioned her lower income upbringing and how the work ethics and values she learned growing up can have a positive impact on working in the house.
Haahr said a large part of his desire to go into political service came from watching his father run his business growing up and the times he would work with his father. He would see the ways that government would intrude on his father’s business and sometimes hamper his ability to grow and expand, which make Haahr realize that the government has an impact on every part of a citizen’s life.
Simpson said that he was inspired by his family and mentioned a quote from his grandfather that has always stuck with him: “Leave the campground better than you found it.”
All three agreed that workforce development is a key for Missouri going forward but especially for southwest Missouri. Haahr said the majority in the house was “hitting the ground running” when it comes to developing bills to help drive and fund workforce development.
“We will have more done for workforce development this year than we have in the last 20 years,” Haahr said.
Quade said that the workforce development legislation is important because people need “to make a living wage” and these programs can be a good way for someone learn a trade that can provide a good life for their family.
Quade also said that in terms of priorities for the Democratic minority in the house, they are still very concerned with healthcare and making sure that things are done which enhance the quality and access to healthcare for Missourians.
Haahr said having the leadership in the house being from Southwest Missouri has given him a chance to really display the innovation and diversity in creativity and business in Springfield. At the recent Legislative Ball, the entertainment, food and beverages all came from southwest Missouri.
Quade also said how great it was to have southwest Missouri so prominent at the legislative ball. She also addressed something she said many people do not realize: she is the only Democrat in the House south of Columbia. She said this allows her to bring the perspective of southwest Missourians to her colleagues in the House who are from Kansas City or St. Louis and don’t really understand the views of those who live in southern Missouri.
All three speakers praised the spirit of innovation in Springfield. Speaker Haahr and Councilman Simpson talked about businesses in the community who are, as Simpson said, “on the cutting edge of innovation.” Haahr noted that Missouri State is the only 4 year university in the state who has grown each of the last 10 years and is a leader in innovation despite receiving less funding than other state schools.
Quade spotlighted the advancements in healthcare that are made in Springfield. She noted a program at the Jordan Valley Health Center working with pregnant women who are addicted to drugs or other substances and help them get clean and begin a health life for their children.
She also praised the way groups in Springfield come together to solve common goals.
“We have partnerships with the business community, the faith community, neighborhood groups and local officials,” Quade said, “who work to come up with the solutions that benefit us all. Springfield can be an example to everyone in the state.”
Moderator Emily Denniston of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce followed up Quade’s comments on the way those in the Springfield area work together by asking about the hostile, divisive attitude that permeates much of American politics today by asking how change can happen in such a charged environment.
“The most important thing is to talk to each other,” Quade responded. “People talk so much about divisiveness but there is so much in Jefferson City we agree upon. If you watch, we agree on about 70 percent of the legislation that comes before us.”
“You have to make it a priority to see things from the other person’s perspective,” Quade added.
Haahr said that when you get to Jefferson City you quickly realize that many of the people serving are there for the right reasons.
Denniston wrapped the session by asking Quade, Haahr and Simpson what they would like their children to take away from their public service.
“I want to make Springfield the kind of place that when my son grows up he doesn’t want to leave,” Simpson said, drawing laughs from the audience. Simpson talked about how he’s taken his son to various ribbon cutting events and how his son thinks it’s cool he can talk to the Mayor because many children’s books seem to involve “a really cool mayor.”
Haahr then joked that meant Simpson would run for Mayor which drew laughs from the audience and an over-the-top denial from Simpson.
Quade wrapped the event on a more serious note about what she wants her children to take away from her service.
“Being a woman in politics is not as prevalent as I would like,” Quade said. “I think it’s important to my children that they can see me working with men and having a seat at the table.”
“My son gets to see women who aren’t scared and are respected,” Quade continued. “My girls get to see women standing up for what they believe in.”
The discussion was part of Biz417’s annual Think Summit for community leaders and business owners.