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Republican Senate begins cuts

March 01, 2001
By: Nick White
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Charlie Hildebrand went to work at the State Capitol on Thursday just like any other day. It was his one-month anniversary as a doorkeeper for the Missouri Senate.

Hildebrand, 65, said he liked his new job and co-workers.

"I try to get along with everyone," Hildebrand said in an interview.

Then the axe dropped.

Lester Marcum, the Senate's Sergeant at Arms, fired Hildebrand just before lunch.

"They told me I wasn't needed as of today," said Hildebrand, who recently retired after 40 years at TWA. "I was surprised ... I've never been fired before."

The order to fire came from the Administration Committee, a five-member, Republican-controlled Senate committee that is chaired by the new President Pro Tem, Sen. Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau. It controls the hiring and firing of approximately 50 Senate employees like Hildebrand.

The firing elicited passionate howls from the Senate's senior Democrat, while Republicans remained tight-lipped.

"I made the decision to let him go," Kinder said. "Beyond that, I don't want to get into it."

Kinder said his decision to fire Hildebrand came partially at the request of Sen. Larry Rohrbach, a California Republican who does not serve on the hiring committee.

Rohrbach said he requested that Hildebrand be let go, but he refused several times to explain why he wanted to fire Hildebrand, a self-described independent voter.

"When that doorman was hired, I did object," Rohrbach said. "Obviously the President Pro Tem said that was part of his decision. That's all I care to say."

Hildebrand's wife, Donna, worked as a secretary for a variety of House Democrats over 20 years in the Statehouse. She retired about a year ago from the office of Rep. Gary Wiggins, D-New Cambria.

Hildebrand's firing resulted in a diatribe from Sen. John Schneider, D-St. Louis County, that targeted the new Republican leadership in the Senate for the firing.

"It is astounding to me that we are now firing somebody because the senator from Moniteau's permission wasn't obtained when he was hired," Schneider said. "It's gotten to the point where a local senator is now going to have yes and no over who gets hired."

Schneider warned of repurcussions to the Senate over the firing.

"I want you to consider very, very seriously what kind of lawsuit might be filed and what damage this body is going to face ... I beg that this thing be reconsidered."

Schneider's criticism drew little support from fellow Democrats, although one did voice concern about the potential of partisan problems.

"When we start having all these rumors that are running rampant in the hall," said Jim Mathewson, D-Sedalia, "and this present administration is going to get rid of 25% of the staff, and there's going to be all these things happening around here, this family deteriorates."