Of all the new statewide officeholders elected this year, only one comes from rural Missouri
Mike Parson has represented eight counties in west and central Missouri in the Senate for the past six years, and prior to that served in the House for six years. For 12 years, he was sheriff of Polk County, and he currently owns a cattle operation near Bolivar.
He grew up in Hickory County and enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he served two tours of duty as a military police officer. After leaving the army he worked as deputy in Hickory County before moving to Polk County and becoming a criminal investigator.
St. Louis Public Radio’s Marshall Griffin recently sat down with Parson at his Senate office and talked about the next chapter in his political career. The full interview is at the bottom of this article.
What’s the first thing on your agenda after you’re sworn in as lieutenant governor?
“Getting the office organized, understanding what the duties are, and I hope to hit the ground running on day one.”
You’re going to be working with a first-time officeholder as governor, has Eric Greitens asked for your help or advice?
“I’ve talked to the governor-elect a couple of times and I look forward to working with him. I can’t imagine it from his perspective, but it has to be overwhelming; trying to put everything together in a short period of time. I’m going to do anything I can to help the governor-elect to be successful.”
(Before the election), Greitens said he might lean on your for agricultural advice. Is there anything related to agriculture that you want him to do?
“I would expect the governor-elect to talk to me about agriculture issues and use (me as a) resource. He’s a smart young guy, and I think he’s going to realize that certain people have certain expertise. I think it’ll be a plus to him that I have experience as a legislator, but on agriculture issues there’s not anybody that’s going to know more about that arena than I will. I assume I’ll have a significant role in agriculture in this state.”
A recent article said you have the potential to be a very powerful lieutenant governor because of the GOP supermajority in the legislature, combined with a new incoming governor.
“I hope the new governor (and I) will be a team and hope we’ll be working hard together every day. I don’t think anybody can help him through the process more than what I’ll be able to assist him with. I understand my role as being in the second seat, but I think it’s the relationships I’ve built over the years with the House, the Senate, and Republicans and Democrats in this building.”
How is the transition going with departing lieutenant governor Peter Kinder?
“I’ve sat down with him on a couple of occasions, and we’re in that process – you know, what time do we really take over that position – but I think it’s what you do in between to get ready for that.”
Some people view the lieutenant governor’s post as a ceremonial post or as waiting in the wings in case something bad to happens to the governor. What can you do to affect policy as lieutenant governor?
“I can go out there any day and pick up whatever cause I might want and start making an issue with it; maybe I want to do something for Missouri’s veterans. I’m sure I’m going to be able to go to one of my colleagues in the Senate or the House and get them to say, ‘The lieutenant governor would like to get this passed – start the process.’”
The lieutenant governor does advocate for the elderly and tourism, and sits on boards and commissions. Have you thought about some of the things you want to do there?
“I’m excited about being part of that. I’ve enjoyed learning new things about how government works. I think there will be a learning curve. What changes can I make right off the back or which one I might want to chair some day? I don’t know, but I’ll start looking at those things.”
The campaign for lieutenant governor seemed to escalate quickly in the final weeks before the election. What’s your relationship like with (Democratic nominee) Russ Carnahan?
“I don’t know Russ Carnahan. The only time I’ve met him was at a radio interview or debate. The bottom line is we stayed on message; I didn’t get sidetracked by mudslinging or make falsehoods about my opponents. I also had less money than anyone other candidate in the state; we didn’t have any million-dollar donors … and almost all of my money came from within Missouri.”
It’s probably way too early to ask, but are you planning to run again for lieutenant governor in 2020?
“One election at a time! When you look too far down the road you’d better be careful. It’s about my need to focus on being the best lieutenant governor, and we’ll see what happens – if people believe in (what I do), and I feel good about it, there’ll be a choice to be made.”
Is there anything else you want to throw in that we didn’t cover?
“People ask how it feels when we had such a big (Republican) sweep in Missouri, and they ask how we are going to answer that. I’ll tell you: it’ll be responsibility. Before we go around high-fiving each other, let’s see what we’re going to do as a team, what examples we’ll set, and what we’re going to do differently to make Missouri a better state.”
Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter: @MarshallGReport