Ex-governor Roger Wilson doesn't miss the limelight

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- When asked if he might someday return to politics, former Missouri Gov. Roger Wilson offers a typical, Wilsonian answer:

"I've told myself, anytime before I'm 60, if I feel like frog-jumping, I'll just jump."

In layman's terms: Maybe. But don't hold your breath.

For now, Wilson, 52, says he's very happy with the lily pad he's on.

For most of the two decades that he toiled in state government, Wilson had a reputation as one of the Democratic Party's most ambitious and quotable figures.

But it took tragic circumstances to turn Roger Wilson into a household name. He was lieutenant governor on Oct. 16, 2000, when Gov. Mel Carnahan died with his son and a key aide in a plane crash.

Overnight, Wilson was elevated to the job he had once coveted. He served 83 days, then handed over the office keys to Bob Holden, the fellow Democrat who had narrowly won the post in that fall's election. Wilson's service won him a place in state history.

Some of his allies continue to lament Wilson's decision in 1998 not to challenge Holden for their party's nomination. One of Holden's outstate Democratic critics has attracted press coverage lately over the auto stickers he's hawking. "Holden out for Wilson," they say.

Boon for bonds

But don't expect Wilson to sport one. Since leaving office 16 months ago, Wilson has focused solely on his new career as a senior executive with Rockwood Capital Advisors, a bond-investment firm based in Brentwood.

The economic climate may have been bad for stocks, but it's been a boon for bonds. Rockwood has tripled its business in little over a year, managing corporate and public pension plans in seven states.

Wilson conducts much of his work from his home in Columbia, Mo., or from the road. But Wilson admits that he hasn't totally shaken off the political bug that kept him in the Capitol for 20 years.

When does it strike?

"Just about every morning," he quips, when he reads about the latest doings in state government.

'Just slap me'

Wilson announced in 1998 that he wasn't running for governor because he needed to spend less time in government and more time with his family, especially his son and daughter, then both teen-agers.

For all his professional ambitions, Wilson said that his main goals in life had always been purely personal. His success at building a solid financial foundation for his family, he observed, "is probably one of the main determinants of whether I get in politics again."

For now, he said, he couldn't be happier. His job includes plenty of pleasure along with business.

"They pay me to play golf with clients," he said, a tinge of amazement in his voice.

So while he sympathizes with his old colleagues in Jefferson City, Wilson enjoys where his new life has led.

"If you ever catch me complaining," he said, "just slap me."

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