As I sat down to write this final version of the White Pages, a wave of sentiments filled my head, but the one that prevails over the rest is gratitude. Since the day I took my first oath nearly 50 years ago to support and defend the Constitution of the United States as a young Marine in 1973, serving has always been more than what I do, it’s who I am. Your confidence in me is something I am truly grateful for, and I consider myself lucky to have had as many opportunities to serve as I have had in my lifetime thus far, from Marine, to guardian ad litem, to teacher, to the most recent roles as senator and assistant majority floor leader.
During the 12 years I have represented our community in the Legislature, I have sponsored more bills that I can count. One that is particularly close to my heart helped deaf and hard-of-hearing children. During my first year in the Senate, it was brought to my attention that many deaf children in Missouri were facing the problem of not having access to hearing aids. The ability to hear affects every aspect of a child’s life, as it is essential for their ability to interact with others, learn and build a future for themselves. My chief of staff and dear friend, Mike Kelley, is partially deaf and unfortunately did not have access to hearing aids until adulthood. Together, we decided that this was a difference we could make. We filed and passed Senate Bill 43, which forced insurance companies to cover hearing aids for deaf children. As a result, children in Missouri no longer have to experience the isolation and suffering that those who previously could not afford or have access to this technology and coverage went through.
Another topic that I am particularly attached to is protecting children from abuse and neglect. The heartbreaking situations I witnessed as an attorney with the Jasper County Juvenile Court cemented this passion for me. I sponsored legislation to improve our state’s adoption process so more children in Missouri would find themselves in safe, loving homes. I passed a measure to strengthen protections and provide more oversight for children in unlicensed residential facilities. In addition, I sponsored legislation to allow child abuse investigations to occur after the statutory deadline, when good cause for failure to complete the investigation in a timely manner had been documented.
The Marine motto, Semper Fi, has also been a driving force throughout my years of service. I have proudly chaired the Senate Seniors, Families, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee the past two years and carried numerous pieces of legislation to support veterans’ programs and resolve issues faced by our servicemen and women. I’ve also enjoyed speaking to several veterans groups at various events, especially my comrades and friends at Charlie 22 Outdoors in Webb City.
The COVID pandemic touched every aspect of our lives and even had ripple effects in the General Assembly. I proudly sponsored legislation to safeguard health care workers and facilities from frivolous civil actions, and this past year, I ushered the Essential Caregivers Act across the finish line, ensuring people would never again be separated from their loved ones like they were during the height of the pandemic.
Amid the hundreds of proposals I have carried, these are the bills and issues closest to my heart. Protecting vulnerable people is paramount to me, and I’m blessed to have been able to do that through my work in the Legislature.
Looking back over these years and experiences, I am fortunate to say I would not change a single thing I have done to this point, not a single hour spent, mile driven or vote taken. I am closing this chapter of my life with my integrity and dignity intact, knowing that I always followed my conscience and my faith, keeping those I serve at the forefront of my thoughts and actions.
I am truly excited for what lies ahead and will remain dedicated to helping people right here in our community. I am grateful for my patient and loving wife, Ellen Nichols, my family and each and every one of you. As I bid you farewell, know that I will be praying for our community, the state of Missouri and our great nation in the days to come. It has been the honor of a lifetime serving you.