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Columbia Missourian

Luetkemeyer brings jack-of-all-trades background to race

By Brian Eason
October 22, 2008 | 12:25 a.m. CDT

Former Republican state rep enjoys the helpful side of politics

Watch video of 9th District candidate Blaine Luetkemeyer at a debate outside of St. Louis.

He answers the question: What can the federal government do to improve the academic performance of our students coming out of high school, and our colleges and universities?

He'll tell you it's the story of Small Town, USA, where hard work and conservative values eventually meet opportunity.

But there's another reason Blaine Luetkemeyer, a lifetime St. Elizabeth resident, enjoys telling it: the story of his father, a jack-of-all-trades who valued hard work and family above all else, is not at all unlike his own.

Blaine Luetkemeyer

Blaine Luetkemeyer
RESIDENCE: St. Elizabeth
PERSONAL: 54. He is married to Jackie Luetkemeyer. They have three children.
OCCUPATION: Owner, Luetkemeyer Insurance Agency; involved with family-owned Bank of St. Elizabeth.
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in political science, Lincoln University of Missouri.
BACKGROUND: Former state representative, 115th District; former director of the Missouri Division of Tourism; ran for state treasurer in 2004; former state bank examiner; member of the Farm Bureau, the National Rifle Association and the Knights of Columbus; attends St. Lawrence Catholic Church.

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"In a small town like that, so many times you got to have three or four jobs to make a living," said Luetkemeyer, the Republican candidate for Missouri's 9th Congressional District. "My dad was a cashier at the local bank; he worked all his life there. He also had a little farm outside of town where he raised some hogs and cattle. He also had an insurance agency, sold some insurance on the side. And he also filled out income taxes during tax season on the side."

Luetkemeyer's own story reads like something of an echo. He worked as an insurance agent at the Luetkemeyer Insurance Agency for a time, taking over when his father retired. All the while, he worked at the Bank of St. Elizabeth, the same bank where the elder Luetkemeyer spent 60 years, eventually accumulating enough stock to claim ownership of the business.

As for the farm work, Luetkemeyer paid for his Lincoln University of Missouri education largely through livestock sales. He graduated with a political science degree in 1974, and married his wife, Jackie, two years later. But being out of college didn't make the financial realities any easier, and farming remained a crucial part of paying the bills.

"That was our second income," Jackie Luetkemeyer said. "So, you find us out on the farm fixing fence. It was a rough life. It's hard work, very hard work."

It wasn't until Luetkemeyer's three children were growing up that the family farming business was — briefly — put to rest.

"I had to make a decision of raising kids or raising hogs, and I decided I'd raise kids," Luetkemeyer said.

It was for the same reason that he postponed his political career until his children were at or nearing college age.

"I didn't want to leave my kids," he said. "I felt that my most important job I'd ever had was being a father, and I wanted to stay home until they were raised."

For Luetkemeyer, that meant coaching his daughters, Nikki and Brandy, and his son, Trevor, in baseball, softball and basketball.

Politics, though, eventually came knocking.

After serving on a number of local and county boards, Luetkemeyer was elected to the 115th District seat in the state House of Representatives in 1998. He was re-elected in 2000 and served as the House Republican Caucus Chairman before stepping down to become chair of the Financial Services Committee. Years earlier, Luetkemeyer served as state bank examiner.

It's that financial experience that Luetkemeyer hopes will sway voters in an election during which Wall Street and bank failures dominate the news.

But it's the individual help Luetkemeyer offered as a state representative that makes him most proud.

"You can go home and look at my walls and see the bills that are on my walls, but to me it doesn't mean as much as helping those individual people," Luetkemeyer said, "because each one of those people had a real concern — a real problem, and I was there for them to be able to help them with that problem that they had.

"At the end of the day, that's what you're there for."

"I know one Easter he probably spent three hours on the phone trying to help this man who had a problem," Jackie Luetkemeyer said. "Even in the business, a lot of times, people just stop by the house — they just feel comfortable even if it's a holiday. We just kind of take care of their needs."

Luetkemeyer ran for state treasurer in 2004, losing to Sarah Steelman in the primary. The decision to run for Congress four years later didn't come easily.

"It was a very difficult decision to make," he says. "I knew the amount of work it was going to take to win. I knew the things I was going to have to put up with — all these negative commercials and people slamming you on TV and trying to destroy your reputation, something you've spent a lifetime trying to build."

It's that ugly side of politics that gives his family pause.

"I just hope the people do not believe the commercials," Jackie Luetkemeyer said. "I think you kind of know when you get into politics that there's going to be some things said, and you expect it, but you just don't expect the lies. And they're kind of hard to take."

"He's probably too honest to be a good politician," said his son, Trevor. "I think he just wants what's best for the country, and that's all you can ask for."

The 9th District campaign has been heated in recent weeks, with the candidates and supporting groups trading barbs, particularly in television ads regarding health care.

If Luetkemeyer ever tires of the political realm, it's a safe bet there'll be farmland waiting for him.

"In fact, there was an old log cabin on the farm where my grandmother used to live during the Depression," Luetkemeyer said. "We took the cabin, and we actually tore it down and built it all back up and restored it. It's part of our heritage now from the standpoint that it's in the family, it's been in the family, and it's something we're going to keep. It's important to us."

"Blaine just enjoys it," his wife said. "He likes doing it. Even now, if he has like a half a day off, he'll go out to the farm and he'll fix the fenceline. For him, that's kind of vacation and rest, but he likes to work."