Democratic state representative seeks to climb political ladder
JEFFERSON CITY — Campaigning for state treasurer has pretty much taken over the life of state Rep. Clint Zweifel, D-St. Louis County.
"I'll have to relearn my hobbies after this election," Zweifel said with a laugh.
PERSONAL: 34. He is married to Janice Zweifel. They have two children.
PARTY AFFILIATION: Democrat
CAMPAIGN WEB SITE: clintfortreasurer.com
OCCUPATION: 78th District state representative
EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree in political science, University of Missouri-St. Louis, 1996; master's degree in business administration, UMSL, 2001.
BACKGROUND: Zweifel has worked as research and education director for Teamsters Local 688. Elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in 2003; ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee; board member of the Valley Industries sheltered workshop; Distinguished Alumni of the University of Missouri-St. Louis and the University of Missouri system; Spirit of Enterprise Award from the Missouri Chamber of Commerce in 2006.
WHAT'S THE JOB?
The state treasurer is Missouri state government's chief financial office. The treasurer's office manages $20 billion in annual state revenue, directs the state's banking services, and manages the state's $3.5 billion investment portfolio. The office safeguards more than $450 million in unclaimed assets that have been turned over by banks, businesses, insurance companies and government agencies, and it tries to find the rightful owners. The state treasurer also serves on the management boards of a number of public entities. State treasurers serve four-year terms. The salary is $104,608 per year.
He said he used to be an avid runner. He also liked to go fishing and to cook dinner at home with his family.
When he's not traveling around the state and attending events, Zweifel tries to spend as much time with his family as he can. On a recent Saturday night, Zweifel was able to get home earlier than usual, so he and his wife, Janice, played board games with their two adopted daughters.
They were the foster parents of the same two girls for five years before they recently made the adoption official.
"Family, obviously, for anyone, isn't something you take for granted," Zweifel said. "It's hard to talk (about). It's such a wonderful experience; it's hard to put it into words. But it's unbelievably rewarding."
His own childhood was spent in Florissant, a suburb of St. Louis, in a relatively new community of a lot young families that was built around automobile plants and subcontractors. His father and grandfather were carpenters; his mother was a hairdresser.
"In many ways, my community, the neighborhood I grew (up in), my childhood itself was a picture of what's right with making sure that we have a strong middle class and the importance of having a strong middle class," Zweifel said.
Both his parents, Zweifel said, worked hard but also were involved in their community. His father was a leader of his Boy Scout troop, and his mother was a room mother at his grade school.
"They set a good example of what a good work ethic is about, what giving back to your community is about," he said. "They stepped up to the plate and did things that helped really bring the community together in a larger way."
Their example taught Zweifel what it means to be a good person, he said, and a career in public service was a natural extension of that.
The tough times his parents faced also taught Zweifel to be financially responsible.
"Watching them go through times when potentially work wasn't accessible or available" was difficult, he said. "I remember a time back when I was a senior in high school, when there just wasn't a lot of work out there."
He said they managed to balance the budget by making cuts where they had to, but they still provided everything the family needed.
The first in his family to attend college and graduate, Zweifel earned both his bachelor's degree in political science and his master's in business administration at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
"Walking onto a college campus for the first time is still one of the highlights of my life," he said. "Being able to be exposed to that, I remember going through the process and feeling like it was sort of a dream as I was living it."
Zweifel was active at UMSL. He was the managing editor of The Current, the student newspaper, and vice president of the student government.
He met his wife, Janice, while he was campaigning for student government. They attended some Political Science Academy meetings together and "before we knew it, we were dating," Zweifel said.
In 2003, Zweifel graduated from student government to the Missouri House of Representatives, where he has represented the 78th District for almost six years. In his first election, he beat the Republican incumbent by just 67 votes out of more than 12,000 cast.
"Working in the House is a rewarding experience because it teaches you pretty quickly how to manage relationships when you have 163 state representatives, both parties, from different parts of the states," Zweifel said.
Zweifel said elected state office holders should bring values and ideas to the table. If the treasurer were a non-political office in which the sole duty were to manage the books, the job would be more appropriately an appointed position, he said.
"He does view it as a bully pulpit, and he does want to encourage other types of legislation," said state Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis. "He views it as more than just the state's chief investment officer."
Zweifel said this is a significant policy difference between him and his opponent, state Sen. Brad Lager, R-Maryville.
"He believes government should have virtually no role in helping provide opportunities for Missouri families," Zweifel said of Lager.
Some of the issues Zweifel has raised during the campaign include the importance of accessible and affordable public education, a strong and growing economy and investment in health care.
He also said he would be fiscally responsible; manage the state's investment portfolio wisely, especially in light of the current market, and with non-terror related organizations and companies; and ensure the fees to use MOST, the college-savings program, are as low as possible.
"The biggest and most important thing and the central role of this office is to make sure that we're managing taxpayer assets responsibly, efficiently and in way that provides the least risk as possible to those taxpayers," Zweifel said.
Although the campaign keeps him busy, Zweifel said he has enjoyed it.
"The best part is traveling the state and meeting people and realizing how much Missourians have in common, no matter what area they're from or part of the state, or whether they're from suburban, urban or rural Missouri," he said. "Many of the concerns are very similar in all those places."
Campaigns, though, are expensive, and Zweifel said funding can be difficult to find. At an Oct. 7 fundraising event in Columbia, Zweifel met with residents and politicians such as Mary Still and Judy Baker.
Event host Brian Pape of Columbia met Zweifel for the first time that day. Pape describes himself as an Independent, but one who has been supporting Democrats this election.
"He's very personable, and just he seemed like a regular guy," Pape said. "So, there was no barrier, no standoffishness. There was a real approachability."
Former Democratic Gov. Roger Wilson also sang Zweifel's praises while introducing him at the event.
"If you can't get along with Clint Zweifel, you can't get along with anybody. It's really that simple," Wilson said.
Wilson also said Zweifel is bright and hardworking.
"If you think it's going to be a guy that just kind of likes to watch ... and take his paycheck and go home, you're in for a different ride," Wilson said. "I'm serious. He's not a little baby. You don't have to wonder what the hell he's doing every minute of the day."