COLUMBIA - Caleb Rowden is new to the political scene. This is his first time running for office. Rowden graduated from Rock Bridge High School in Columbia and attended the University of Missouri for a semester. He has been in multiple bands and toured the country with his band for more than four years. He has served as worship and creative arts pastor for Christian Chapel in Columbia. He also owns Clarius Interactive, a media and marketing company. Here is KOMU 8's interview with Caleb Rowden:
KOMU: Please give us your name and what office you're running for.
Rowden: Caleb Rowden and I'm running for State Representative in the 44th District.
KOMU: What is your career history?
Rowden: I grew up in Columbia. Moved here in 1990. Graduated from Rock Bridge High School in 2001. Attended the University of Missouri for a while and had a chance to sign the first of what would be two record deals with a national record label. So for 12 years we traveled, toured the country. Four of those were full time as a touring musician. It was an awesome experience, toured 45 states, sold a bunch of records, had songs on the radio, played in front of a million people. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Had a lot of fun doing that. Got married in 2005 and decided I wanted to be home a little more. The first year I was married I played out 220 days or something like that. I started winding that down in 2007. I was asked to come on staff in my home church Christian Chapel as Worship and Creative Arts Pastor. Did that for 5 years up until Easter. Around that time I started my media company Clarius Interactive. We do social media, video production, web design, email marketing for small businesses in Columbia. A diverse background which has led me to the point of running for office.
KOMU: Why is now the time to run for office?
Rowden: March of last year I realized I wasn't going to be on the road quite as much. We've been here a long time but I wasn't able to put down roots here in Columbia the way I wanted to. We had a couple chances to move for job opportunities but we also felt we got pulled back. We realized if we were going to be here let's do this thing right. It started out to get more involved in the community. We went to more community events, I joined a rotary, went to the Chamber of Commerce and it was that motivation that led to talking to people about possibly running that knew the ropes well. It was seven months of conversation and I knew as a first time candidate, you better have some foundation and people that bring you credibility. We were able to secure all that. Moral of the story, I love this community. I love Mid-Missouri and that was one of the main motivations to do it.
KOMU: With the little bit of experience you have, running in the primary for this race, how does that help you?
Rowden: I think the primary was incredibly helpful. It was a four way primary and one of the guys was a former state Senator and he ran Missouri Employers Mutual Insurance for 14 years so he was very connected. We were a little scared we weren't going to get through but a lot of people said if we could make it through the primary it gives you a lot of momentum going into the general and that has been the case. We've been running for 10 months and all the work we have done, getting name ID out there, knocking on doors has been beneficial and useful in the general. The experience question is the interesting one. Some see lack of experience as a disadvantage or an advantage. As we talk to people in the community, they're just fed up with the status quo. They look at the economy and the things that are going on and they don't feel the people are representing them are actually representing them. We market is as a fresh perspective. What has been in the past isn't working so well. My wife and I's perspective as a small business owner are good perspectives to have. It needs to be represented well in Jefferson City. I look at the lack of a experience as a new opportunity and a fresh set of eyes and hopefully make some changes that are needed.
KOMU: How do you harness the power of technology from throughout the state into education despite the state hurting moneywise?
Rowden: I sat down with the Superintendent of schools in Columbia and asked him that question. I sat down with a teacher who couldn't use Dropbox so it's little things like that. Technology is constantly getting better and its making thinks more efficient and less expensive. If we see in Missouri we have education budget issues, what can we do? Having textbooks on iPads or things that give us a greater opportunity for future growth and leverage down the road. It's a conversation that needs to be had. Let's not be content with the way things are now. Maybe things are working or maybe not but let's not push back what's being used in the business world. Let's make it useful for our students. Mizzou is doing some stuff like iPads but there are things there to make the process more efficient. We need to be having that conversation and going down that road.
KOMU: How would you fund public education throughout the state with the state hurting for money?
Rowden: The way the budget is laid out, the two biggest pots end up being Medicaid/Medicare and education. Those are two important parts of our society and so and it's not good we have to pit those against each other. Everyone says jobs are the most important thing in this election and how do we get people back to work. We have to make Missouri more attractive to new and existing business. It comes from a high quality workforce, which comes from education. If we say education is a priority then let's say it. It may mean we have to cut back on some tax credits or take money from social services that are hurting. But at the end of the day education is the best thing to invest in for our future. The budget, you can give to the status quo or give to things that will have benefit in the future and education is that thing. You can raise everybody's taxes but that doesn't work in the long run. Ultimately it comes to prioritizing and looking at sacred cows that need to get another look. Investing in education is the best chance we have at making tomorrow brighter than today.
KOMU: What are your thoughts on the Affordable Healthcare Act and how that pertains to the state of Missouri?
Rowden: It's a two-part thing. We won't know what the State Legislature has to do until we know who is in the White House. If President Obama stays in the White House then Missouri will have some decisions that need to be made. For my account, I think people should have access to quality, affordable healthcare. I don't think that's the argument; the question is how do you get there? This bill would up our appropriations in Missouri by a couple of billion dollars. 400,000 people overnight would change things and then with matching funds and what the federal government is bringing in to help up offset that. What some people don't know is what areas the federal government will give has yet to be determined. There are so many unknowns, but I think it will be crippling to small businesses. People in our district say their small businesses will put us out of business. We need to be careful and have the healthcare discussion. It's not something we need to ignore, but throwing small business under the bus is not the way to do it.
KOMU: What is your stance on Missouri possibly buying into the new healthcare program?
Rowden: We need to look at it contextually. If Romney gets in, I think he will give some power back to the states similar to what he did in Massachusetts and say craft your own plan. Obviously the legislature is going to have a full plate in that regard. Frankly, Columbia is a community that is very healthcare and education driven and what's the impact if we do or don't implement this in the state. I've been having discussions trying to figure out the discussions both ways. I'm going to look at it with the most level perspective that I can because ideologically socialized healthcare works. I talked to a reporter from Romania and she said it doesn't work because all the good doctors are leaving because they aren't getting paid anything and that's an unintended consequence of this thing. I got a buddy in med school who is thinking about getting out because we don't know what this will look like in 5-10 years. As Missourians and as Legislators, we need to look at it like what's the best step for the people.
KOMU: Do you think the funding for Mizzou should stay level or go up? What are your thoughts on funding the University?
Rowden: People don't understand the ramifications on the federal level and how that seeps down to the state. Regardless of who gets the White House we are going to have serious budget shortfalls. Anybody who lives in Columbia for ten minutes understands the importance of the University as a top-notch institution. Part of it is an education process for those around the state. There are other universities that do their thing well but Mizzou is the flagship institution. But if we give people the statistics on who is coming from your county to Mizzou and lets keep them in Missouri and back to work here in Missouri. Part of is a fight and I commend Senator Schaefer and Chris Kelly and the other Boone County reps who fought against Governor Nixon's $106 million budget cut proposed this last year. It would have been devastating to the University and understanding the realities of the University and communicating those. If we say education and jobs are important and Mizzou hits those things hard. We have to fight for those and get to the point where education funding goes up, but I think it stays level. And I'll work as hard as I can to take on that fight.
KOMU: What are some of the ways you think the economy in Missouri and Columbia should grow? How would you improve jobs?
Rowden: The philosophical part of it is that the government doesn't create jobs. There are things the government can do to create an environment for jobs. The biggest thing is keeping people away from business is uncertainty that they feel. They don't know what taxes are going to be or what regulatory burden will be there. It's an uncertain environment and that's what's keeping things stagnant. There are some ways to relieve that uncertainty. Maybe it comes with some tax code reform. Kansas is doing some stuff like lowering individual income tax, effectively eliminating small business tax. Some businesses will jump across state lines and get some savings. I think we will suffer from that. We have done some research on a job training incentive program that would be technology driven and existing business and it would create X amount of jobs in X amount of time. It's an industry specific thing online that helps train employees and part of it is if we get a business in Missouri we want them to hire Missourians. Same for Columbia. We need to get them resources as far their industries go. Louisiana has a program like that. That's investing in things that help move us forward. That might be moving our industry center or data farm to Missouri.
KOMU: Speak to renewable energy and how that helps Missouri as a whole.
Rowden: I'm excited about the Ameren project and there are 100 steps for that to come to fruition, but if it does the economic impact on Missouri is insane. Billions and billions of dollars coming our way. We need to go down that road. Let's put our eggs in that basket. It's an all of the above approach. Let's not throw coal under the bus. Let's just shut them down is not the way to go. Coal is an important part of Missouri and its economy. We can't throw that away but it's an all of the above approach. Ameren Westinghouse is a great opportunity for mid-Missouri. We need to look at that and keep an eye on where we are at.
KOMU: What makes your name stand out over your opponent and why should they pick you?
Rowden: Name ID is pretty important in a race like this. My opponent has been in the game for a long time. I've said from the beginning I don't want to be the lesser of two evils. I want to earn their trust and I want them to know me well enough for them to gladly fill in the oval next to my name. The biggest thing is getting the word out. Knocking on doors, being on radio and tv, getting mail pieces out, being at every event in the district. I want to build a relationship with people. It goes back to trust and it separates me from my opponent. He's a lifelong politician and that's something that distinguishes me from him.
KOMU: What are your thoughts on Mizzou's move to the SEC?
Rowden: I'm a Mizzou football and basketball junkie. I was at a meeting with Mike Alden and I asked what are the chances Kansas is a member of the Mountain West? I think it's great educationally. The sports is a great way to market Mizzou. We're going through growing pains and I think if we get to a bowl game that will be make people happy. Basketball will be great, we have a great team. I don't think conference realignment is done. I think 60, 70 schools will build this coalition between 3, 4 conferences. You better be inside there. Being a part of the SEC guarantees us a spot. Kansas will have some trouble with that. It was a great move and it was proactive. Its impact on mid-Missouri and Columbia will be huge and it may take a few years to feel that. The energy around Columbia will be unavailable...People want to know more about me then go to my website and catch me on social media, I'm there all the time.