Fresh off his first full week as former Farmington councilman and recently elected state representative for the 116th District, Dale Wright, R-Farmington, is off to a running start as he has already been appointed to three committees.
Wright will serve on the Aging; Health and Mental Health Care; and Insurance Committees.
“The one that I kind of chuckled, the Aging Committee, I don’t know if that is because I am old or what,” Wright said. “It is kind of funny but it really is about protecting the elderly from fraud.”
Wright said he will fit right in with the Health and Mental Health Care Committee as he has a background in healthcare administration as well as in healthcare manufacturing. Insurance, on the other hand, is a topic he says he will need to learn a lot about.
Bills, policy changes and procedures are sent through the committees before they make it to the floor.
“Typically the committee is there and a member of the House who a lobbyist has gotten to agree to carry their bill for them,” Wright said. “That member will come to the committee and present it. If they think it’s a good idea they will go ahead and carry it on and it will go to the (Speaker of the House).”
Wright said after it receives approval from the Speaker of the House, it will then go to the floor majority leader before going to the floor for a vote and then move on to the Senate.
“There were 2,000 bills proposed last year and, I think it was, 159 passed and became law,” Wright said. “We are kind of the filter for both the Senate and the House.”
Wright said his first week consisted mainly of going through rules and reviewing them.
“There were actually some veteran politicians that wanted to change some rules,” Wright said. “There were lots of suggestions, but nothing really adopted.”
Wright said he has already learned a lot but that it can still be very confusing at times.
“I was told that it takes a good two years before you really get comfortable up there,” Wright said. “Last summer, I was up there about every week, watching things and seeing how they work and trying to learn the rules of the house and the policies and procedures.”
Wright said he spent a lot of time shadowing Kevin Engler, Mike Henderson and Rick Francis so that when he got into office he would not be so lost and there would not be a lot of surprises.
“I’m actually in an office suite with Mike Henderson and that has been wonderful because he and Kevin Engler shared the same legislative assistant [Nancy Suthoff],” Wright said. “Now I’ve got to take Kevin’s place, but before Mike was on the first floor and Kevin was on the third floor. Now we are in the same office suite and it is so much easier.”
Wright said having his office close to Henderson is great, making it easier to work together.
“He has the western half of Farmington and I’ve got the eastern half, so we work together for the good of Farmington,” Wright said. “Then, Nancy already knows a lot of the constituents, so it’s just been a really nice transition.”
Wright said he is currently working on a way to bring school and industry together.
“Right now schools are kind of leaning towards trying to get students to into college,” Wright said. “The problem is only 60 percent of high school seniors go to college and of those, 60 percent don’t make it. So, in other words, when it is all said and done, only 20 percent of high school seniors graduate from college.”
Wright said what they are trying to do is get Mineral Area College, high schools, trade schools and all the industries to come together and make a curriculum to address those who are not on the college path, so that they will have jobs waiting for them.
“They will actually get school credit for being onsite, maybe at U.S. Tool,” Wright said. “They will be learning how to run machines and they will get school credit for it. It’s really exciting.”
Wright said what this is doing is getting ahead of the problem.
“Ste. Genevieve, they anticipate over the next three to five years, a 50 percent turnover in their workforce,” Wright said. “These are people who are retiring, not leaving. Well that is causing a housing shortage. People aren’t moving out of their houses, they are staying, so they don’t have enough houses for new people to come in and work.”
Wright said this is an epidemic throughout the region and the whole state.
“We want to make sure that our region is ready and prepared,” Wright said. “When I’m not in Jefferson City, I am going to a meeting or meeting with people to learn what their needs are. We are always going somewhere.”
Wright said being in his district is important because if he does not come home and see the needs of those he is representing, he will not be able to do his job when he is in Jefferson City.
“When you think about it, you have 163 people with the privilege of representing 6 million people in the state,” Wright said. “That is a unique honor and opportunity and I feel honored and privileged to get to do that, especially getting to represent our people because we have a special part of the state right here.”
Wright said regardless of the reason, it is not great to be away from his family.
“Our family is very important to us,” Wright said. “I have a lot of grandkids who are in sporting events and concerts, school activities I don’t want to miss those but if it means I have to drive back and drive right back up in a day I’ll do that. Family means everything to me.”
Wright said 17 of his family members came to his swearing-in, and the entire family has been extremely supportive since the beginning.
“The swearing-in was short and sweet and just the way I like it,” Wright said. “We had the opportunity of having the whole family meet the governor and having a picture with him.”
Wright said, as he gets settled into office, he looks forward to continuing with the workforce development project as well as looking into expanding privileges of nurse practitioners to be better in line with 28 other states that have moved ahead of Missouri.
“As far as goals, just to serve the people the best I can and serve their interests,” Wright said. “I want to be as approachable as I can and represent all the people. The title is House of Representatives. The key word is representative.”
“I was told that it takes a good two years before you really get comfortable up there.” — Rep. Dale Wright, 116th District
Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at firstname.lastname@example.org