On Thursday evening Attorney General Chris Koster (D) was presented the James C. Kirkpatrick Excellence in Governance Award by the Student Government Association at the University of Central Missouri.
Also present at the event in the James C. Kirkpatrick Library on the UCM campus in Warrensburg were Mrs. Doris Kirkpatrick, Deputy Attorney General Joe Dandurand, State Senator David Pearce, and former State Representative Deleta Williams.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster (D).
Attorney General Koster’s remarks:
Attorney General Chris Koster (D): [….] In terms of excellence in governance it is, it is certainly not something that you stand up and, acknowledge. It is a goal that you are just always striving. It is way beyond me every single day. But we try our best to at least point our ship in that direction.
Um, we have four hundred employees that, uh, Judge Dandurand [Deputy Attorney General] get a chance to lead every day at the Attorney General’s office. And they are extraordinary individuals. I think the one thing that it’s important to keep in mind in today’s day and age, particularly when you see what is going on at state capitols in Wisconsin and at the state capitols in Ohio, where sometimes, public employees are not getting quite the level of recognition that perhaps they deserve. Uh, things are very different in Missouri. Um, in, in Ohio and in, uh, in, in Wisconsin public employees have had, about public, uh, bargaining rights, collective bargaining rights that they, that have moved them into a situation where they haven’t had to, to participate in the economic downturn in the same way that the rest of us have felt.
But that’s very different than Jefferson City and I think that’s an important point to recognize that public employees in Jefferson City have really taken it on the chin, uh, over the last ten years. That in, in four of the last ten years their salaries have been frozen. And in six of the last twelve years their salaries have been frozen. And so over the last decade they have actually taken about a fifteen to a twenty percent rollback in their salaries so that the rest of us could make sure that we had great public universities to attend…
…And Joe [Dandurand] and I get to work with these people every day. And they have made incredible sacrifices for us and I think it’s important to recognize their achievement on our behalf. The other thing that, that Joe[Dandurand] and I, uh, who get a chance to work in this, uh, great organization, um, really keep an eye to, toward, and, and Senator [David] Pearce mentioned this, is hiring the best of the best in state government. And in state government one of the great things, particularly for young people, is that it gives you a chance, if you’re young and you’re energetic, it gives you a chance to leverage your brain power in a way that almost no other line of work in the private sector gives young people.
Young people in state government get a chance to have real responsibility. In our, uh, office they get in they, they argue important constitutional cases in court. Their client is the governor of the State of Missouri, the legislature of the State of Missouri. And, at twenty-eight, twenty-nine years old, they are in front of the Missouri Supreme Court, arguing in front of those seven judges and, and talking about the most important elements of state government on all of our behalf.
And because of that, what I want to say to the young people in the room, is, to give thought to this kind of public service. Because it does allow you, maybe at the beginning of your career, you might sacrifice a little bit of money but you gain in experience something that I really believe that the private sector doesn’t quite offer anyone at that age group.
And so we’ve had the, the great benefit over the last three years of really having the chance to hire the best and the brightest at the Attorney General’s office. Something that, uh, one of our predecessors, uh, went on to become a great United States Senator, Jack Danforth, really did exceptionally well. And so the eighty-two lawyers that we’ve hired at the Attorney General’s office, almost all of them, without exception, have been in the top twenty percent of their class. Two of the last five editors in chief of the University of Missouri Law Review now work for state government. And that’s really the ethic that we try to carry on down there. We, we try and bring, we try and make the Attorney General’s office an attractive place for young people to come and work, an attractive place for them to get the kind of experience they, they would get nowhere else in the private sector. We try and give them outstanding training, uh, so that the really feel that they’re public service sacrifice is worthwhile and valuable to their lives. Uh, and then we try and give them that, that incredible experience, uh, representing all of us.
That is the legacy I think that, uh, Jim Kirkpatrick stands for in state government. That is the legacy that these, so many of these names on this list, uh, clearly have, have laid before us. And that is what Joe [Dandurand] and I try to live up to, uh, every single day.
So, I, I thank you so much for the opportunity and the honor of this, uh, this wonderful award, um, named after such a great Missouri public servant. And again, Mrs. Kirkpatrick, it is such an honor to be with you tonight, uh, and to remember, uh, the legacy of a great man. Thank you very much. [applause]
From left to right, University of Central Missouri President Charles Ambrose, Missouri State Senator David Pearce, Mrs. Doris Kirkpatrick, Attorney General Chris Koster, and UCM Student Government Association President Derek Wiseman.