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Missouri House District 161: Republican Thomas Ross

Thomas Ross, a Republican candidate in the August 6 Primary Election for Missouri House District 161.
Photo submitted by Thomas Ross.
Thomas Ross, a Republican candidate in the August 6 Primary Election for Missouri House District 161.

Thomas Ross is running against incumbent Republican Lane Roberts for Missouri House District 161, which encompasses parts of Jasper and Newton Counties, in the Missouri August 6 Primary Election. The Democrat in the race for the seat is Shawna Ackerson.

Welcome, Mr. Ross, and thanks for joining us.

"Thanks for having me."

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

"I have been a Missouri citizen my entire life, lived here in Joplin, was born here in the 80s, and have been just highly involved in the community. And I worked for the City of Joplin for about a decade, trying to fix all the problems I could there — working through engineering. But I mean, when you're in a position, you can only do as much as your position allows. There were outcries from the community to face public safety issues, and other issues have been steeply declining over the past decade, and our current representative had failed to address those issues after concerns were brought to him. And so I said, 'you know what? Why don't I try to be the voice of the people?' It's my community. I take high pride in it. I have a daughter, a son on the way, and I've really worried about their future. And Missouri is a stronghold. We have high morality, strong Christian values. We are a people first state, and we need to stay that way. And I'm just tired of seeing things get bogged down up in the state legislature that would greatly affect my community and my people that I love and adore here in southwest Missouri."


What issues are most important to you and why?

"Currently, there are several issues that are on the precipice of my mind, like the forefront of my mind. We have issues as far as crime uptake, homelessness increase. It's plaguing the entire state. We have issues that aren't just a local southwest Missouri issue. I mean, yes, our hospitals are a big draw for medical attention here. However, what the hospitals do post treatment is release them back into the public. And oftentimes people were transported here with no way to go back home. And that has — those people are looking for a way to go back home. Sometimes they act out in violence or in crime, and those aren't being addressed. And those issues have been brought to the attention of our local reps, and our local rep does not want to push those. So that is something that I hold true and dear. As well as the crime in the area, there are violent crimes starting to uptake here locally, We have school choice issues that need to be addressed appropriately. We've tried to push things through and then they just get kind of muddied, muddy waters up there in the capital. And I like to be the voice of reason and try to get everybody to work together to get things done. I mean, things have been stalling out up there for so long."

Why did you decide to run for office?

"I decided to run for office, mostly because I've always been someone who likes to solve problems, and I just, I view things as always solvable, always fixable. And my southwest Missouri community, Joplin, Missouri is where I'm from, and it it really is something I want to be not, I wouldn't say prideful about. Pride Cometh Before the fall. However, I'm proud of the community and what we have done here locally. But things have gone downhill, and people are crying out for help, crying out to try to get things done at the state level that could influence here locally as well as Kansas City, Saint Louis, all the major cities around the state would benefit from some of the simple issues being addressed that Joplin has high concern of. I like solving problems. I did so working in engineering for the city of Joplin. I worked for the city for nearly a decade, and I solved all the problems I could. But as I've said before, those problems brought to me weren't always within my power to solve. And so I would pressure those that have the influence and the power to solve those problems to do so, and their lack of will to address the concerns of the constituents here locally, instead pushing that of other parts of the state, bothered me. And so I saw a need for me to go and try to pressure and get in there and get things done. We got a state senator in there who is trying to do the will of southwest Missouri and push for the will of the people with no compromise of morality, and so on a local level, in District 161, I needed to step up to the plate. I'm not one who likes to complain. I like to solve problems and so instead of complaining and adding to everybody's various concerns, I'm going to try and address those concerns. And that's why I'm running for office."


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

"Joplin, Missouri and District 161 is very unique. It is essentially the melting pot of America that America was meant to be. You come here. You have both sides of the aisle, left, right. And then you have several independents and, you know, moderates and... libertarians. Everybody works in congruence with each other. I mean, in 2011, Joplin showed what we are so good at is coming together as a community, regardless of your views, regardless of your standpoints in life. When your neighbor needs help, you help them. That is what I was raised with. Those were the values that several of my surrounding communities were raised with, and we lived it to such a high standard around here, and it was on display for the entire nation to see post 2011 tornado. Following May 22nd of that year, I was so heavily drawn to be more and more and more involved in the community and be more helpful and try to solve bigger problems, and this community lifts everybody up that they can, and they encourage those who they see fit to fix those problems to do so. And I've been asked so many times by so many individuals in the community about, 'hey, you can solve these problems, why don't you why don't you run for office? Why don't you do this? Why don't you do that?' And it's been really striking heart, striking my heart here lately, that the community that I live in supports everyone. And that's what makes us unique."


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

"You talk of opening ourselves to criticism and scrutiny. I believe that nowadays our lives are being shown to everyone. They, through social media and other aspects, nothing is truly private anymore. And my family, my wife is a doctor here at Freeman locally in southwest Missouri, and my children are growing up in a day and age in which nothing is truly private. We all have our pasts, we all have our history. It's how we grow from them. And I don't believe that there's anything in my past or my family's past that isn't anything that they would love to share and open up and try to connect with those around us to make things better and everyone better. So as I've discussed it with my family, they are supportive, the community is supportive, and it is not an issue."


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

"What I think we need to focus on when it comes to state legislature is they pump out a lot of bills, and they rubber stamp a lot of bills instead of honing down and focusing on, you know, the single issue bills as defined in our, you know, the rules for decorum and the state legislature. They keep passing bills that are wide and expansive. I think they're productive, but I don't think that they are as productive as they could be if we stuck to single issue bills, if they pushed those single issue bills through and stop being prideful about having their name tied to a bill instead of focusing on the context of the bill that gets passed, I think that's something that we need to focus on more than anything, both on the Senate side and the House side up in Jefferson City. They have a battle back and forth because everybody wants their name tied to it. At the end of the day, I will fight for the bill. I won't fight for my name."


What's something you would like to share with voters that most people might not know about you?

"I am basically as normal of a person as you can be here in southwest Missouri. Born and raised here. Everybody seems to know somebody that knows me or vice versa. The thing they don't know about me is how hard life has been for me and how closed off I had been from voicing and talking and getting out there and putting myself out there my whole life because I've been so head down, do your work because that's what you're told growing up. And that's how I had always been because I thought that was the most productive way. I only within the past 15 years have opened myself to focusing on others over those who are close to me. I opened up my network outside of just the Republican Party. I have friends on the left side of the aisle, in the middle and on the right. I don't close myself down to one section. I don't want to be an echo chamber because, when you're in an echo chamber, there is no growth. And when there is no growth, there is no way to move forward."


Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today.

"I appreciate you for reaching out and having us on the on the air to let people know what we're about."

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.