COLUMBIA — Stephen Webber calls his election in November to the General Assembly a life-changing event.
Just two years out of college, the 25-year-old Columbia native won a seat representing the 23rd District.
"This is my life now. Everything I do for the most part is in some way tied to my job," said Webber, a Democrat. "It's not just a job, it is a life."
He graduated from Hickman High School in 2001 and joined the Marine Corps during his sophomore year at St. Louis University. He said serving two tours in Iraq, (2004 and 2007) and seeing the consequences of governmental decisions first-hand overseas helped motivate him to run for public office.
"I know what happens in government makes a difference, and I wanted to be involved to make a positive difference.
"I know government doesn't operate in a vacuum. When a bill is a passed or the decision is made, real people are affected," he said.
In winning the election, Webber said he feels he has been "entrusted" by the community. He also said he understands the responsibility he has to the people in Columbia.
Even though this is his first term, he said he is not going to be timid or shy about speaking up for what he believes is right.
"It was an honor, it was humbling. It really makes me feel very conscious that there are so many people counting on me.
"I grew up in Columbia and I've known a lot of people over my lifetime, but I've met so many more in 2008 working on the campaign, and I just feel like I know the community better," he said.
While winning his first election to public office was a momentous occasion, he said the election did not truly define his life in 2008.
"In 2004 I was in Iraq. In 2007 I was in Iraq. So 2008 was a big year just being home. While the politics was exciting I think just being home for my family was the biggest deal," he said.
Webber said he understands the significance of his own political victory and is trying to keep that in mind.
"No matter how many years one serves in politics, you only have one first year, one first election.
"I'm trying to really keep that perspective, and I'm looking forward to 2009 being as big as 2008," he said.