"I remember my mom and dad at the table, looking at what we have left. Those things have an impact on you. Can we get through the month? I watched my parents prioritize their spending every month. They sacrificed to make sure their kids could have a little," said Brad Lager, 34-year-old Republican Missouri state senator from Maryville.
Lager said he also learned the value of hard work on the farm outside of Maryville, in Nodaway County. Although he described his family as "hobby farmers," when he was growing up, the family had hogs, cattle and a few hundred acres full of row crops.
"I was raised in a rural community where every dollar matters," Lager said. "It was an environment of personal responsibility to take care of yourself first, then those around you. Not looking to the government for a handout," he continued.
Lager stayed close to home for college after being one of 10 to receive the Northwest Missouri State University's Presidential Scholarships. The recipients were 10 of 120 interviewed and got a full-ride scholarship, contingent on keeping up their GPA and working 10 hours a week on campus.
After always being actively involved on campus, Lager took his leadership skills to a telecommunications company. He started out as the first employee and headed up the wireless communications company with a few hundred costumers. It wasn't long before there were over 6,000 customers, 15 employees and a multi-million dollar company under LagerÔ019s control.
But in 2001, when Lager saw that the Maryville landfill was causing city finances to go into the red, he and two other business owners ran for, and were elected to, city council. The three vowed to apply business philosophies to government.
"You can't spend more than you have coming in. We made common sense decisions and did what voters wanted us to do. ThatÔ019s how we brought the budget back to black, and thatÔ019s how I learned to make a difference in government," Lager said.
Bryan Twaddle, who served with Lager on the Maryville City Commission, described Lager as someone to whom he frequently looked for advice, even though Lager was considerably younger.
"That kid is intelligent financially," Twaddle said, listing off capital improvement projects that Lager had been influential in. "He's probably got the best head on his shoulders of anyone in Jefferson City."
Lager left the city council before completing his term in order to run for state representative.
When Lager ran against a 16-year city commissioner, he said that most people did not think he would win. But he knocked on doors, told people what he was about and, in 2002, was elected to the House and just four years later, to the state Senate.
Lager's passion for fiscal issues led to his selection in his first year as vice-chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee that puts together the House version of the state's multi-billion dollar budget.
Just a few years later, he became chair of the committee -- but not for long.
Lager developed a reputation for legislative independence. In late 2005, he lost his job as the Budget Committee chair after making statements contrary to the rosy budget predictions of the Republican governor and House speaker. He had held the post for less than one year.
This year, Lager joined two other Republican senators who agreed to resist any efforts by their fellow Republicans to shut off debate by Democrats in the Senate as had occurred the prior year. Democrats were threatening a slowdown for the entire session without some sort of assurance protecting their filibuster rights.
With just two years in the Senate, Larger said it was after the current State Treasurer, Sarah Steelman, abandoned her re-election campaign that he decided to seek the office himself.
Steelman launched her unsuccessful campaign for the GOP nomination for governor after Gov. Matt Blunt announced earlier this year he would not seek reelection.
Fellow Senator John Loudon, R-St. Louis County, described Lager as a senator who made his reputation in fighting what Lager considered excessive taxes.
"He's distinguished himself early on as someone who wanted to go after taxpayer waste issues and taxpayer waste programs," said Loudon.
Loudon spoke of a time that Lager took on 25 programs that he wanted to sunset or bring up for review.
"He worked his way around all the senators saying taxpayers were being rooked. They only work for a few people, and we have no way to measure how effective they are," Loudon said of Lager.
Senate Majority Floor Leader Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, described Lager as hardworking.
"He gets up in the morning thinking about public policy and goes to bed at night thinking about public policy," Shields said.
Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis County, who said he's donated a considerable amount to Lager's opponent, Rep. Clint Zweifel, D-St. Louis County, also described Lager as hardworking.
"HeÔ019s very into talking about politics and policy," Smith said. "He works late, till 10 or 11 at night. He works hard to be responsive to his constituents."
Loudon also described Lager as friendly, but focused. "He's always a generally affable guy. He wouldn't pick a fight with anybody, but if he felt strongly, he wasn't afraid to stand firm. He's very unapologetic about defending the taxpayers in the face of government waste," Loudon said.
Many describe Lager as a family man in his personal life.
Although Lager said he's enjoyed traveling across the state, he misses time with his family, his one-year-old daughter, Addison, and his wife, Stephanie, who was his high school sweetheart.
Former Councilman Bryan Twaddle described Lager as the kind of guy at the party who's "nursing one beer the whole night."
"He's just a clean-cut, all-American guy," Twaddle said, "He probably still owns the same vehicle he had his first date in, a Chevy Blazer." Lager subsequently confirmed that he, indeed, still has that Blazer.
"He's a great friend. Unflappable. He never gets mad," Shields said. "No one would consider him a flashy person."
But his responsibility and restraint with money has made an impression on some people.
"I'd give him my wallet to hold on to," said Twaddle. "If I had a million dollars, I'd give it to him to invest instead of me. He's just a responsible guy whether it's his or somebody else's (money)."