Youth trumps experience for GOP

Matt Blunt, the governor-elect and Rod Jettson, speaker-elect are the youngest in 40 years.
Thursday, November 4, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:15 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri House Republican Caucus appointed Rod Jetton, 37, as the next speaker of the house Wednesday. Jetton with Governor-elect Matt Blunt, 33, have begun a youth movement in state government leadership.

Jetton and Blunt will be the second youngest people to hold their respective positions in at least 40 years. The youngest governor and speaker of the house were Kit Bond and Dick Rabbitt respectively, who also began their terms in the same year.

“If it shows anything, I don’t know if it is so much the youth, as it is people want a change from the way things have been being done in Missouri for the last 12 years,” Jetton said.

Bond was 33 years, 10 months and 2 days old when he was inaugurated as governor on Jan. 8, 1973. Blunt will be 34 years, 1 month and 19 days old when he officially takes office. Bond was elected governor for a second time in 1980 and recently won his fourth term as a U.S. senator.

Rabbitt was 37 years and 9 daysold when he was selected speaker of the house; 46 days older than Jetton. Rabbitt resigned during his second time as speaker, when he was found guilty of corruption. He subsequently went to jail.

Age is an issue that had been brought up in Blunt’s campaign against Claire McCaskill, 51, his Democratic opponent.

Jetton acknowledged the new leadership’s lack of experience.

“We don’t have the life experience of someone with a little more gray hair,” Jetton said. “And so I worry about that sometimes. So, you have to seek out older and wiser folks.”

He attributed the youth of the legislative leadership to term limits, which he said are a good thing.

Mark Abel, the outgoing minority floor leader, said the new youthful leaders may pose a problem for Missourians. Abel, who was speaker pro tem from 2001 to 2003, also pointed to term limits as a reason behind the young leadership of the house.

“It takes a long to time to learn all the various departments and functions and programs involved (with state government),” Abel said. “So it definitely makes for a challenging situation to try and have the knowledge and experience to be able to manage that big and complex of an institution like state government.”

Abel said he did not work much with Jetton during the last legislative session, during which Jetton served as speaker pro tem.

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