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Missouri State Treasurer Candidates

October 27, 2000
By: Lauren Shepherd
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY -The two candidates for state treasurer come from opposite ends of the state, but both have a passion for politics and a committment to service.

Republican Todd Graves and Democrat Nancy Farmer will face each other in the Nov. 7 election for the office.

Nancy Farmer

Inside Nancy Farmer's campaign office, a box of neglected donuts waits for a hungry campaign volunteer on a makeshift wood bar.

Collapsible walls and metal pipes sport Farmer for treasurer t-shirts--available for a $10 contribution to the Democratic candidate's campaign. The phones rings occasionally in this St. Louis warehouse-style office on Sutton Blvd., but it's nothing the three workers can't handle.

In the midst of the boxes of fliers and the hand-made calendars, Farmer's campaign manager Judi Roman relaxes in her chair, thinking of just the right words to describe her boss.

"She understands ramifications of things in the political environment," Roman said. "If this happens, how will it affect not only my race, but other races."

Labeling the candidate as a "policy wonk", Farmer's longtime friend Barbara Floreth, attempted to open a window to the life of a woman both she and Roman described as a determined and straight-forward hard worker.

Floreth, who has known Farmer since the two shared the same seventh grade home room in Jacksonville, Ilinois, helps with fund raising for the campaign and also serves as Farmer's travel aide. Floreth said Farmer has always been a dedicated woman on the fast track--even in high school.

For example, Floreth said the two worked side by side at Tempo Department Store in Illinois as cashiers.

But "she quickly was promoted off to the office," her friend said. "She was hot stuff because she got to handle the money."

Besides working together, the two entered the Thespians club in high school. The friends did a duet comedy act from Blythe's Spirit and took it to the state championships in Wood River, Illinois.

Floreth said her friend has not changed much through the years and that her determination to succeed has not wavered.

"She hasn't had a specific track in mind as to what she wanted to do but always looking ahead," she said.

In college, Floreth, Farmer and two other friends lived together in a house in Florida for the summer. Out of the four women, three worked as waitresses while Farmer worked in a home for children.

"She always had this public service, even if she hasn't defined it as that," Floreth said.

Farmer began a career in public service at Illinois College. During school, Farmer worked at a state facility for the developmentally disabled working with behavior disorder patients--a position that she continued for eight years after she graduated in 1979.

"It was a very interesting experience," Farmer said. "I had chairs cracked over my head. There was a real physical challenge."

In 1992, Farmer won her first elected office as a state legislature representative for St. Louis County. She was reelected to the House three times, eventual chairing the Ways and Means committee.

Farmer said she was proudest of helping pass the sales-tax exemption on groceries as well as the Historic Preservation Tax Credit.

In 1994, Farmer married industrial organizational psychologist Darell Hartky. Hartky and Farmer met in high school and went their separate ways, but they kept in touch.

After several terms in the legislature, Farmer was tapped by St. Louis Mayor Clarence Harmon as his director of governmental affairs in 1997. But that same year, state treasurer Bob Holden appointed Farmer assistant treasurer.

During her term as assistant treasurer, Farmer said helping to develop the Missouri Saving for Tuition (MOST) program which allows parents to invest money for their children's education into tax-deferred savings accounts was one of her biggest accomplishments.

"I think it's one of the most aggressive in the country," she said.

Farmer described the treasurer's office as a "very efficient, well-run office," but she added that there are also a lot of opportunities to make the office better and more efficient.

Specifically, Farmer said she wants to expand the First Linked Deposit program to help small businesses qualify for loans and wants to help create affordable housing.

Although Farmer said she is only looking as far as this election, she does not think of the treasurer's office as the last stop of her political career.

"Right now, I'm focused on this campaign," Farmer said. "It's an office that's limited to two terms, so I'm not looking past eight years."

"But I know I won't be retiring," she said.

Todd Graves

As a junior in college, Todd Graves had more worry about than an upcoming midterm exam or the next big party.

While his classmates enjoyed the last few years of school at the University of Missouri, Graves successfully battled lymphona, enduring a year of chemotherapy to fight against the deadly cancer.

A normally polished politician, Graves doesn't talk much about the disease, focusing instead on his next challenge -- winning the state treasurer's office on election day.

Graves, a 35-year-old prosecuting attorney in Platte County, grew up on a family farm in Tarkio -- a small town background that Graves says taught him the value of hard work.

"It was a stable, loving environment," he said. "It was a modest upbringing, but we never lacked for anything."

In the family for six generations, the farm grew corn and soybeans and raised hogs, cattle and chickens.

"It ran the whole gamut," Graves explained.

Besides working on the farm with his two brothers and sister, Graves spent his high school days playing football and marching in the band. He said he was one of 39 members of the graduating class in 1983.

Graves campaign manager Jeff Roe said Graves' modest life story attracted him to the campaign and the candidate.

"He's a common guy from an agriculture background," Roe said. "His family values are along my lines."

After graduating from high school, Graves went to the University of Missouri, earning a degree in agriculture. During college, Graves met his wife -- a traveling consultant with her sorority. The two married his third year in law school at the University of Virginia -- a place he calls a "very intense academic environment." Graves went on to earn a master's degree in public administration at the school.

Graves said he began to be interested in politics after reading George Will's book, "In Search of Virtue" -- a book that still resonates with him as an adult.

"It meant a lot to me and it made sense to me," he said.

In 1986, Graves began working as a field representative for former Republican governor Kit Bond in a successful U.S. Senate bid.

"My formative moments were with Kit Bond," he said.

He said Bond's "mainstream conservative values" taught him that "wealth is not created by government -- it's created by opportunity" -- a idea he hopes will help him to victory against his Democratic opponent Nancy Farmer.

Besides his work with Bond, Graves has also worked at Bryan Cave, a large Missouri law firm, and served as an assistant attorney general for the state in 1991.

Graves is now the prosecuting attorney in Platte County, managing a staff of six other attorneys. When he was elected to that position in 1994, Graves was the youngest person to hold the office at 29 years old.

Graves said his business and managerial experience could also help him in the treasurer's office. He and his wife now live on a 220-acre commercial cow-calf farm near Kansas City. The couple has two young children and one newborn.

In addition to the farm, the family owns and operates an educational toy and teaching supply store north of the city called Noggin Noodle.

"I've set a budget and had that responsibility," said the self-described small businessman.

Roe, Graves' campaign manager, said business experience has taught Graves to be goal-oriented.

"He's real driven and focused," Roe said. "And he's not a micromanager. He's more of a set the goals for the office guy."

In setting the goals for his campaign, Graves has mainly focused on fiscal responsibility for the state and promoting existing programs. Fund raising has also been a central aspect of the campaign, with Graves taking in over $800,000 as of September -- substantially more than his opponent.

Graves' brother, state Sen. Sam Graves, R-Tarkio, said his brother's ability to raise money and manage finances would serve him well in the treasurer's office.

"The bottom line is he's responsible," Sam Graves said. "He's a good fiscal conservative and that's what the state needs in a treasurer."

Sam Graves also said his brother's personality would be an asset to the job.

"We need somebody looking out for our tax money and that takes a lot of integrity," he said. "Todd is somebody that's honest and has a lot of integrity."