JEFFERSON CITY - Small business owners from around mid-Missouri met Monday for a panel discussion about running for government office. Panelists included U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, Missouri Sen. Mike Kehoe, Missouri Rep. Mike Bernskoetter, Western District Commissioner Chris Wrigley, and Jefferson City Mayor Eric Struemph, all Republicans.
The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) held the discussion, and each panelist addressed the crowd before opening up the floor for questions. Rep. Luetkemeyer urged small business owners to run for office saying, "You are the ones that make this country move. You're the ones that make this country great. You're the ones that make this country work, and yet, the administration's policies are very punitive to the point where they're driving many, many small business people out of business." He followed by saying, "It's not my government, it's our government, and as a result, I'm there to help you have access to it."
One issue that seemed to have a great impact on most members of the crowd concerned unemployment benefits. Most of the small business owners expressed how difficult it is hiring new employees when they can't offer the same benefits as unemployment does. Sen. Kehoe said, "When it comes to job creation, it's up to us. It's small businesses that are doing it." Kehoe urged the small business owners to run for office so they can change these policies and make it easier to create more jobs and move the economy forward.
While the panel mostly discussed the pros of small business owners in government positions, Rep. Bernskoetter and Commissioner Wrigley both warned about the cons saying it takes a lot of dedication and time away from your business. Linda Nichols is a small business owner who was in attendance and agreed. Nichols said it takes a business owner with a tough exterior to be successful in office. "You can't have your own agenda. You have to have everyone's agenda in mind," Nichols said. Nichols also urged the public to get involved now instead of waiting for elections.