As Republican Galen Higdon is reaching his term limit, two candidates are vying to take on the responsibilities associated with the District 11 state representative position.
The district covers south St. Joseph, southern Buchanan County and northern Platte County, and Republican Brenda Shields and Democrat Brady O’Dell are vying to fill the seat in next Tuesday’s general election.
Shields moved to St. Joseph 34 years ago and has worked in various roles across multiple organizations, including as a logistics specialist at Quaker Oats as well as a business teacher for both Benton High School and Truman Middle School. She served as the CEO of United Way, and while she has since retired from the position, she has advocated for various groups across St. Joseph and the surrounding area, including the Allied Arts Council, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
Shields said she would like to bring attention to crime, job development and education, should she be elected for the position.
“As I knock on doors, people are really concerned about crime in our community,” she said. “And it’s a multifaceted problem. First, we need to provide law enforcement with the tools that they need, but we also need to dig deeper to the root causes to solve the problem, and those roots causes … have to do with drugs as well as joblessness.”
In talking with business leaders and organizations, Shields says there are plenty of jobs in the community, there just isn’t a workforce to fill them. She hopes to incentivize two- and four-year institutions to work together to create that workforce for the future while also developing programs to support new teachers, who she said are leaving the profession within their first five years.
“I became passionate because I wanted St. Joseph to have a strong leader in the legislature in Jefferson City. We know how important that is,” Shields said. “The legislature is not one person going down there and making a difference. It’s working with a group of people, and I’ve spent my entire career working with individuals as a team to solve complex issues not only in the business world, but in our community.”
Brady O’Dell is a St. Joseph native who became interested in politics at an early age. He was put to work at a job site with his father when he was fairly young and is well versed in construction, even traveling with a Canadian construction company until the recession hit. He would go on to work on the Obama campaign in Texas and is currently employed as a laser operator at Altec.
O’Dell’s campaign slogan is “not for sale,” which is indicative of his desire to remove money’s influence from politics.
“My two central focuses are standing up for working families, because I think they’re under constant attack by politicians in Jefferson City, and the other is getting money out of our politics,” he said. “My campaign slogan is ‘not for sale,’ because I don’t take political action committee money for special interests. It’s all small donations, about $33 average, from people that actually live in my district.”
He hopes to fight back against tax cuts for corporate special interests as well as stand against government overreach, citing Jefferson City’s override of Kansas City and St. Louis’ vote to raise their own minimum wages. O’Dell had planned to go into education while in college, and he said that making sure teachers earn a livable wage is important to him as well.
“It’s one of those things where you have to have the political courage to stand up for what you believe in and do the right thing. I’ve always been a quick learner with any job I’ve had,” O’Dell said. “I can do this, and more importantly, I have the moral fiber to do this.”