JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – If you happen to find yourself at the Capitol listening in on an education committee hearing, you’ll probably see one lobbyist with the ear of multiple representatives and senators. Of all the dynamic government relations people working at the Capitol, that lobbyist may just be one of the most influential when it comes to informing legislators on pressing and impactful education and urban development issues.
Her name is Kate Casas, and her lifetime of experience and knowledge of the political process makes her, and all lobbyists, an essential part of modern governance, despite the naysayers and laymen who do not believe special interests should have power inside government.
“Lobbying gives you a different perspective on things,” she says. “When you’re reading it from afar, it’s sometimes hard to see it or understand it. Even though it’s messy, once you know the people and understand their perspective, it gives you a different view on why things are the way they are.
“I think in a perfect world, we would have a government where all the elected officials came with all the knowledge they needed to pass legislation, but that’s not the world we live in especially when you’re in a term-limited environment. [Lobbying] is critical to getting work done to make sure the wheel keeps moving.”
After getting her start in politics working on the campaign of now-Congressman Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, the Southern Illinois-native worked in D.C. for three years lobbying and organizing for affordable housing. Not wanting to spend her entire career working on policy, she wanted to see some of the issues at the ground level for herself.
So, she went into the Teach for America program, saying that no matter where she worked in the affordable housing sector, education was always a huge deal to those directly impacted.
She relocated to St. Louis with her husband, Martin, in 2005 and for three years she taught in the St. Louis Public School District while earning her Master’s in Elementary Education at Webster University.
The two only thought they would stay in St. Louis until she got certified to teach. Then, they would move to Southern California to live closer to where Martin grew up.
“We fell in love with St. Louis and Missouri,” she says. “So, here we are ten years later.”
She hopped around the St. Louis area for the next six years, working with Urban Strategies to fulfill the needs of families who moved into new housing units and then as a state policy director with the Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri.
Now, she serves as the director of government relations for the up-and-coming David Jackson-led Gate Way Group, LLC, which currently serves as a hotspot for some of the most talented lobbyists in the state, including Travis Brown, Deanna Hemphill, and perhaps most notably, former Senate Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, among others. The group worked with Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, on SB 5 and were proponents of HB 42 which would have expanded transfer options for unaccredited schools.
“It is really an exciting time to be at Gate Way Group and to be here while we’re growing so much,” Casas says. “It’s a great team, we have a lot of flexibility and we’re still small enough there’s a lot of synergy.”
That synergy manages often to cross party lines within the team. For example, Casas considers herself a Democrat while Dempsey served as a Republican. For Casas, that difference of opinion only makes the firm a better one.
“It’s important that internally we’re diverse,” she says. “We have politically diverse views and that really helps out when we’re trying to find what our clients perspective might be or how the issue works across party lines and what you might be able to find compromise on… [That diversity] has only helped us build relationships and stay grounded in what’s possible.”
Casas believes that diversity transitions into her ability to understand the perspective of lawmakers with whom she may personally disagree or with the position her client has hired her to endorse.
“There is not an issue that I work on that I can’t see both sides after being in the Capitol after knowing the legislators,” she says.
To her, those differences of opinion highlight the true motivations of lawmakers. While cynicism with government continues to grow around the country, Casas believes that those we elect to those positions do their best to represent the people back home. Her job is simply one of educator.
“There are almost no officials who are not trying to get things done for the people they represent,” she says. “Being a lobbyist, being able to see that it’s not personally about me or about that legislator, it’s about each person doing what they’re doing for their constituency.”
Source: Missouri Times