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Black legislators want to see more black House staffers

April 01, 1998
By: Joe Stange
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Black legislators say something's wrong with the Missouri House of Representatives, and they want to see it fixed.

The House employs about 13 supervisors for various offices, but only the head of Housekeeping is black.

Legislative Black Caucus members Paula Carter and Quincy Troupe say they are disappointed in the lack of effort to remedy the situation.

"This place makes demands on companies and other businesses and still we don't set an example. This building should represent the state of Missouri," said Carter, D-St. Louis City, the former chair of the Black Caucus. "I think that sometimes Jefferson City is a little selfish...This is government for all the people."

Troupe, D-St. Louis, blamed the legislative leadership.

"The House has always been reluctant to hire blacks," he said. "They're not here and that's because the House leadership is not committed to hiring blacks."

House Chief Clerk Anne Walker, in charge of the body's administrative offices, said the lack of black directors in the House is not because of a lack of effort. She said there often there are few viable minority applicants for the positions.

"We try to aggressively recruit," she said. "We do not always get applicants who are a) qualified, or b) a minority. But the House is an equal opportunity agency."

After his 20 years in the Capitol, Troupe said he believes much of the problem is a lack of respect from the Democratic Party.

While blacks make up about 11 percent of the state, they make up about one-third of Missouri's Democratic voters.

"The black people have really come out and voted for the Democratic Party. The Democrats have never reciprocated to blacks when they've shown great support for the Democratic Party," Troupe said. "The House leadership lacks the leadership to hire blacks into the economic benefits of this House."

However, Troupe said that Speaker Steve Gaw has made some effort to upgrade blacks in House employment to a limited degree.

Carter commended Gaw for his work to hire minorities.

"In the House side I know there's been a concerted effort by the Speaker to get the African-Americans in. There is some change going on. He's young enough not to be embedded with racism," she said.

But she said there are other members who are far from open-minded about race relations, evidenced by their hiring of legislative aides and secretaries.

"Some days I get very frustrated, and I have to sit down and pray for it. If even one white legislator had a black secretary, that would really let me know some change was going on," she said.

Troupe agreed, but said the leadership should go a step further.

"You look at all the white legislators in this House, I don't think one of them has a black secretary. Even the so-called liberals don't have blacks," he said.

Troupe said the first thing that would show him change was occurring is for the House to elect both a black and a woman to leadership positions.

He added that if the Democrats don't catch on soon, they could be facing more cooperation between black legislators and the Republican Party.

"Whatever kind of coalition you see building between the Republicans and the blacks is going to be rock-strong," he said.