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Missouri House District 161: Democrat Shawna Ackerson

Shawna Ackerson, the only Democrat running for Missouri House District 161 in November, 2024.
Shawna Ackerson/Facebook
Shawna Ackerson, the only Democrat running for Missouri House District 161 in November, 2024.

Ackerson is the only Democrat running for House District 161, which encompasses part of Jasper and Newton Counties. The Republicans vying for the Republican nomination in the August 6 Primary Election are incumbent, Lane Roberts, and Thomas Ross.

Thanks for joining us, Miss Ackerson. Tell us about yourself and why you feel you're a good candidate for the Missouri House of Representatives.

"I am currently pursuing a master's in justice and work at Missouri Southern State University as an IT support specialist. I'm a mother of two boys, and I have a grandbaby. I also take care of my mother, who has stage 4 cancer. She is also mentally disabled, so I have first hand experiences that have driven my strong advocacy for disability rights, unions, women's rights, LGBTQ rights, mental health awareness, public education, environmental protection and animal rights. And I decided to run for the Missouri House District 161 seat to give our district's people a real choice, because for the last 20 years, Republicans have represented our district, and I think it's time for a change. Our community deserves contested elections that offer diverse perspectives and solutions. So if I'm elected, I will be the first woman to hold this seat, making a significant milestone for our district. And so it's time to bring order and positive change to our district, which I do not see happening without a dramatic shift in leadership. And I'm committed to that change and representing the diverse interests of our community. And it's time for a new direction, and I'm ready to lead us there."


Which issues are most important to you and why?

"Economic development, health care access and education quality. First, economic development's crucial for our district. Joplin has a rich history of resilience and growth, but we need to continue to attract new businesses and support our local entrepreneurs. I plan to advocate for tax incentives for small businesses, invest in job training programs to equip our workforce with the necessary skills for high demand jobs. And I'd like to improve infrastructure to make our district more attractive for investors. Second, health care access remains a significant concern for many of our residents. We need to ensure that everyone has access to affordable and quality health care. I will work towards expanding Medicaid, supporting local health initiatives and push for funding to improve our health care facilities. Additionally, I will advocate for mental health resources as this is a critical component of overall health but is often overlooked. Last, education is a key issue that impacts our community's future. We must provide our children with the best possible education to prepare them for the future. I plan to support policies that increase funding for our schools, reduce classroom sizes and provide teachers with the resources they need. Furthermore, I will advocate for programs that create pathways from high school to local colleges and vocational training programs, ensuring that our students have multiple avenues to success."


Why did you decide to run for office?

"Because it's time to have a positive change in our district, and I don't see that happening with the leadership that we currently have. We need to be doing more for our district. We seem to not be doing enough or anything currently. So we need to have diverse leadership, and we also need to have someone who will actually do something. So that's why I decided to run."


What makes your district unique and how will you represent that in Jefferson City?

"My district is unique because we have a history of resilience and growth. We have always been able to band together as a district because — recently the tornado. We are well known for that. And after we had such an economic burden on us, we were very good at banding together and having our community just come back and show growth and be able to come back from something that was so bad. So our community is something that can actually be shown as a different perspective in our district in, I don't know how to say that. It's a good district to have as a example because we actually came back from a very bad economic disaster, and we did it well with the the things that we came from, so."


Running for office as a state lawmaker opens you up to a lot of scrutiny and criticism. Do you feel that the personal cost for you and your family are worth it and why?

"Yes, it is worth it for future generations. Because, if I don't take that risk, then my kids will have to go through it in the future with that risk as well for the scrutiny. Somebody has to stand up for our values and for what we deserve to have that we're not getting. And so, yes, I will take whatever scrutiny and, you know, any kind of backlash that I need to take because, yes, we are in a red state and I am the Democrat that's running. So I will do it for all the Democrats that we have in our state to make sure that we get somebody that's in there that represents our values and gets what we want and represents those voices that are not being represented currently."


How productive do you think Missouri legislative sessions have been in recent years, and what would improve the legislature's productivity and effectiveness?

"Oh, that is a very good question. I do not think they are very productive at all. We are not working very well together, with the parties together. What do I think would make them more productive? I feel like different leadership would make it more productive. People that know how to work better together, just more responsible people and people that are more. What's the word I'm looking for? More grown? I hate to say that but more grown up. Just, they know how to be collaborative, so yeah, we need better people in there to represent our leaders that know how to work with people better."


What's something you'd like to share with voters that most people don't know about you?

"Let's see, most people don't know that I am a professional baker that has a passion for homeless people. Most people don't know that."


Thank you again for taking part in our interviews with candidates for district House races.

"Thank you so much for asking me. I appreciate you guys's time."


Michele Skalicky has worked at KSMU since the station occupied the old white house at National and Grand. She enjoys working on both the announcing side and in news and has been the recipient of statewide and national awards for news reporting. She likes to tell stories that make a difference. Michele enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and leisurely kayaking.