Ex-state representative relates keys of lobbying

Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Former State Rep. Jerry Burch shows the sign awarded by the state to his and his wife Jenise's farm near Walker, showing it has been under their family's ownership for over 100 years. Burch is now a Jefferson City lobbyist who represents Missouri State University and other important clients. Photo James R. Campbell/Daily Mail

Among the 1,500 lobbyists registered with the Missouri Ethics Commission in Jefferson City, Jerry Burch of Walker is one of only about 75 who pursue the profession full-time.

He said one of the keys for a former legislator is to recognize "that you no longer vote" and show deference to those who do. It's also important to understand the range of options the representatives and senators have, considering the makeups of their districts, which vary from rural settings like Nevada to St. Louis and Kansas City.

Conceding there are many ways to approach his work and some lobbyists earn bad reputations, Burch said, "You give the legislators information and try to get them to make a decision that's favorable to your client.

"You have to be able to talk to them and relate to them. You cannot lie or you will get a reputation for not being honest. I've tried to represent clients I could agree with so I wouldn't have a problem being objective about what they wanted or didn't want. I had an opportunity to represent a gambling casino about 10 years ago, but I didn't think it would look good, representing Missouri State University.

"What you are as a lobbyist is a salesman and if you don't have your client's point of view, it would be hard to get people to vote for what they're wanting."

Burch credits his late parents, C.T. "Bill" and Gladys, for emphasizing schoolwork and church attendance when all he wanted to do was play sports. "I once asked my father-in-law, Raymond Kennedy, if there was anything I could do for him and he said, 'The best thing you could do is keep the farm together for my grandchildren,'" he said.

"We sold the Harwood farm a few years ago and I'm glad to say Jenise and I have been able to increase this one from 900 to 1,700 acres, working with our son, who lives just down the road and manages it."

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