Jay Nixon is about to enter the final of his eight years as Missouri’s governor. In an interview with Missourinet, he discusses what he sees as the legacy of his time in that office, but offers little hint of what he hopes will follow it.
Nixon has been steadfast in his backing of a plan to extend debt on the bonds that built the Rams stadium in St. Louis to pay for part of the cost of a new, roughly $1-billion stadium. He says the chance to redevelop the riverfront in St. Louis is “once-in-a-lifetime. I’ve been in public service for coming on 30 years and nobody has tried to redevelop that difficult site before.”
Yet, he denies viewing that as a possible part of his legacy. When asked to consider that, he pointed to other things he sees as accomplishments of his terms.
“The legacy I see is that we took the state in a very difficult time when the unemployment rate was heading towards 10-percent, and it’s now at 4.7-percent and heading down. We took a state where college costs were spiraling out of control and we’ve been number one in the country at keeping those costs down. We started with a state with a seven-year wait list on developmental disability services, it’s down to zero, so for the people that were least among us especially those that had mental challenges we were up front for them and made a big difference. We passed in a bipartisan way an autism mandate,” said Nixon.
He also pointed to the developments in the auto industry in Missouri, saying its rebirth, “is right here in the Show-Me State. 60 companies have expanded. Billions of dollars have been spent. Tens of thousands of jobs, in a special session I called that we paid for by getting pension reform that other states are still searching for.”
Nixon has also been criticized for his handling of some crises, such as unrest in Ferguson following the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, Junior, by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Some accused him and his administration of not reacting quickly enough to the situation, and how he utilized state resources when he did respond.
Nixon said he believes his administration, “listened, we learned, and we’re moving forward.”
“I’m very proud the legislature in a bi-partisan way passed sweeping municipal court reform measures. I’m very glad that the [Peace Office Standards and Training] Commission is working on getting additional police training,” said Nixon. “So rather than backing away from those issues we’ve used the energy to try to make things better in the state. Those are difficult issues. Race, and police, and courts, those are all extremely difficult and I’m very cognizant of how challenging they are but also cognizant of what great discipline law enforcement and the National Guard showed in not ending up in some sort of Kent State situation in what could have happened in a very difficult time.”
“Those are challenging issues that hopefully we’ll make a step in the arc of progress here in our state and I know with the Ferguson Commission and some of the things we’re doing both here in Jefferson City as well as around the state, we’re going to make progress there,” said Nixon.
Nixon didn’t offer any insight as to his plans for life after the governor’s office, but said he will remain focused on that office through the end of his terms.
“There have only been three other people since 1821 that have had the high honor and unique distinction of serving consecutive terms as governor, and the people of Missouri that have given me that high honor can rest well assured that I will spend until the very last minute giving it 100-percent of my effort,” said Nixon. “I never, ever, have doubted the importance of this position and of public service. I thank very much the public for giving me this chance.”
“You’ll be able to sit here a year from now and I’ll be talking just as fast and working just as hard,” Nixon told this reporter.
“The other side of that coin – when I pass it off to the person that takes it on after me, when folks like you call me and ask me to criticize them, you’re going to get a really bad interview,” Nixon promised. “‘Cause this is a challenging job and I’m not going to be one of those guys out there four years from now, eight years from now, ten years from now that’s going to answer the press’ comments about whether the governor made the right calls or not.”
“I’ll figure out a way to continue to serve the public as well as live a good life after I’m done as governor but my focus is on making sure that I finish a lot of the things we’re in the middle of and that I pass this state on to the next chief executive stronger than I got it,” said Nixon.