Holly Rehder interview with B Magazine
There are a number of important political races in our area this year, a few, because of term limits, pitting talented individuals against each other in districts without an incumbent. The following interview is with State Rep. Holly Rehder (R-Sikeston), who is running for Senate District 27. The district encompasses all of the counties of Bollinger, Cape Girardeau, Madison, Mississippi, Perry and Scott. Rehder answered questions from B Magazine and provided a three-sentence self-introduction. To read interviews with other candidates profiled in B Magazine, click here.
Republican candidate for Missouri Senate District 27
Current representative for Missouri House District 148
Rehder: I first got involved in government because as a business owner, I saw how often the government hurt small businesses and workers; I wanted to see people with skin in the game represent the people. As a mother, wife and grandmother, I wanted to preserve freedom for future generations and to make a better life for those in my life. As a representative, I am proud of my work in fighting bloated government, in protecting our 2nd-Amendment rights and in speaking up for the unborn.
How old were you when you had your first job?
Rehder: I was 13 when I started working as a landscaper for my mother's boyfriend at the time. He had a lot of yards each week to take care of, so I talked him into hiring me. I was excited to earn money and very much appreciated the opportunity to work.
What is an important lesson you learned early in your career?
Rehder: I was 15 and pregnant, sleeping at a friend's place and needing a job so I could get on my feet. I was tremendously thankful to find a job as a nanny for two small children. However, when I was interviewed, I felt I had to lie about my age to get the job. I was pregnant, so I'm sure they never even considered I may be as young as I was. I was desperate for work to support myself and my child that was on the way. I told them I was 18. I got the job, and after two weeks grappling with the guilt I had over what I had done, I called up the mother and told her I had lied about my age to get the job, and I apologized profusely for it. The family decided that I was doing a good job and graciously kept me on as their nanny.
From that moment, I knew regardless of the outcome, I had to be myself in all things. Honest, hardworking, and at that point 15, pregnant and a high school dropout. Be me and trust God to provide the rest. And he always has.
How did you finance college?
Rehder: My college education was anything but standard. First, I had to work to get my GED. Once I had earned that, I was so excited to start college. I went to Southeast Missouri State University starting with a Pell Grant to help cover costs. I worked part-time to pay for the rest. However, after starting out as a full-time, non-traditional student, I found that I could not support my family and go to college full-time. I dropped out of college and went back to work full-time. In the meantime, I would take college classes as I could, nights, weekends, etc., paying out of pocket as I went.
It took me 17 years of this process to finally get my college degree. I earned my Bachelor's in mass communications and a double minor in political science and communications for legal professionals from SEMO. It certainly wasn't easy, but I knew how important it is to have your education, so I worked to earn it.
Describe the different steps in your career and why you made the choices you did.
Rehder: Well, like I mentioned above, I worked full-time to support my family while I also tried to earn a college degree. I started at Galaxy Cablevision, working in the mail room and earning $4.25 an hour. I worked hard and was very thankful for my job.
As different jobs opened up at the company, I would apply for them. Some I would get, some I would not. In any job, I resolved to be the first one there and the last one to leave. I wanted to prove that I was an employee who could be trusted with what she was given, stay out of other people's business and be the best worker in the building.
After years at the company, I had worked my way up to director of government affairs, working on cable franchises throughout 13 states. In that position, the Missouri Cable Association asked me to represent the cable industry's interests in Jefferson City because I knew the cable industry inside and out, and I was good at my job. I served on the board of directors for the association and worked as an advocate and discovered that oftentimes the government would presume how to run businesses better than the businessowners themselves; not just in our industry, but for industries around the state. It was this frustration with how the government tried to bloat itself that planted the idea in my head to get involved in politics.
After 14 years, I left Galaxy Cablevision and went to work for the Cable Association full time helping to fight and protect the industry, as well as our own personal business that we had started in 2004, Integrity Communications. Ray and I learned fast that it isn't easy running our own small business, especially when there's so much government red tape.
After three years with the Cable Association, I went to work for then-Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson, where I learned firsthand how to take care of constituents and how to fight for our region. I learned from Jo Ann what it takes to represent people. I decided to run for representative in 2012 to finally be more of a voice for small businesses dealing with the government. To be a voice for people who grew up like me and have found that our many government social programs often hinder people from ever rising to their potential -- even though they are started as a means to help upward mobility.
I've been working since then to help the people and protect their rights and businesses.
Tell about one of your favorite books about business, leadership or government. Why should others read it?
Rehder: One book that has been very influential has been Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged." I certainly don't agree with Rand's philosophy on everything, but in her novel, she just seemed to capture the destructive mindset of those in government who try and control everything. The novel shows what happens when the mantra of "social good" is used as a cover to grow government to exorbitant size and how corporate welfare ends up corrupting society. The book shows that when the government aligns itself with big corporations, it leads to racketeering and corruption that holds society back and degrades the work people do. It spoke to me as a business owner why it is important to not be beholden to the government.
How would you describe your management style?
Rehder: I am a very Type-A personality. I am a hands-on, go-getter type that puts everything I have into the job and do it with honesty and integrity. With that being said, one thing I have learned is that you cannot micromanage and expect your business to thrive; one huge aspect of leadership is being able to delegate. I believe in hiring the right people for the job, people who will do the job with honesty, integrity and determination. I love allowing people to do their jobs and to do them well, to give them a goal and to allow them to come up with the way to accomplish that goal, in their own style. We all learn from each other.
And your vision of your personal public service?
Rehder: Above all, a public servant must be available to the people. Be responsive to constituents, take the calls, help them in any way you can. Turn over every stone for them. As a representative, I am often the liaison to the people, helping them cut through government red tape. I take that very seriously. As a legislator, I think we need a smaller, more efficient government. We cannot waste the people's money on ridiculous schemes and then demand more from the people. A public servant should help make the government more accountable and transparent to the people.
What would colleagues say is your biggest strength? And weakness?
Rehder: I would say my colleagues would consider my persistence and determination my biggest strength. I never give up, I don't back down, and I don't quit. I stand on principle and will fight for what I believe is right. On the flip side, I would say my colleagues would also consider that to be my biggest weakness! I will frustrate colleagues when I continue to stand on principle when they want me to compromise. Sometimes compromise works and is the right solution. But when it's not the right solution, it's just not.
Tell about a specific time you faced adversity.
Rehder: When I was 16, my husband and I moved us to Mississippi for a job at a chicken plant. Our only option was to move into a crowded house in Mississippi; my daughter, Raychel, was almost a year old. It was just us and a few others only a few years older than me. The house had no heat, and we had little money to feed us until my husband's first check.
The other people living in the house were not working -- their choice -- but I knew I couldn't allow their needs to take from the little we had for Raychel. I walked to the store daily and got four cans of vienna sausages for $1 and rationed those out to me and Raychel, and we relied on a $15 space heater in our room to keep us from freezing.
I learned that I have to stand my ground, regardless of who it upsets. I had a child counting on me to get it right. I needed to do the responsible thing and take care of her, my child who fully relied on me, even though that meant it made others angry. I knew they had the power to change their situation but weren't. We were trying to change ours. I was only 16 and weighed about 100 pounds, but I found out I could be a bear if I needed to be, and at that point, my daughter needed me to be. I stand for what is right.
What can state government do to best help businesses and workers?
Rehder: We need to have a Department of Revenue that is responsive to business owners and works with them, not against them. We need less bureaucratic red tape and to make it easier for people to run their businesses. Businesses shouldn't have to hire attorneys just to argue to the government that they paid their taxes and the mistake is on the Department's end. I've seen this over and over. The money wasted on bureaucratic concerns is money that does not go back into the business or to employees. We need to continue to cut restrictions and regulations and to unleash the power of Missouri businesses.
As a business owner, I've also seen the devastating affect the opioid epidemic has had on our workers, on our families. We need to continue finding solutions to help those entrapped in this crisis get out and get back to a healthy, happy lifestyle.
Why do you want to serve in government -- right now, at this moment in time?
Rehder: I want to serve as Senator right now because we are constantly fighting against a government that wants to explode. We need people with backbone ready to push back against government expansion and corporate welfare.
President Trump ran to stand up against an entrenched political establishment that got too comfortable in their positions. I'm running to challenge Jefferson City to be accountable to the people and respect their rights. I got tired of waiting for someone to serve with a backbone, someone to stay in the fight and be responsive to the people -- then I realized it was me I was waiting on.
Those are my qualities -- a fighter for the people. Someone you can't break. I want to protect our rights which are at stake, including our cherished 2nd-Amendment rights. I will stand up for the Constitutional rights of the people, be a loud voice, and I want to serve as senator to protect our liberty.
What message would you tell young people who are just starting their careers about how to be successful?
Rehder: Find the field you want to work in and get a job. Any job. It could be low pay or a non-paid internship, just work it. You are building real-world experience and relationships with people who will help you later on. Your education matters, so don't give up. An impressive resume and credentials help, but relationships are key. If an employer knows you, knows your character and trusts you, they will speak for you and help you. Be the person who says, "Teach me, and I'll be the hardest worker you got," and that will open doors for you like nothing else can. Work hard, be happy in your task, give the glory to God, and he will open doors for you.