District 7 Representative
Dennis VanDyke, Democrat
I grew up on a small acreage farm at the North edge of Marceline in Linn County and now live on a family farm West of Marceline. Forty years ago I married Debbie Nichols, raised five children and now have nine grandchildren.
I graduated for the University of Missouri in 1976 with a degree in agricultural mechanization with an emphasis on agriculture economics. During my senior year at Mizzou, I traveled to Central America and Europe with the college of agriculture. Upon graduation, I worked at Ameribank as an ag loan representative. After two years, I made a career change and became a conductor/instructor for the BNSF Railroad and retired after 37 years.
I have served as elder and chairman of the board in the past for the Marceline Christian Church. I was a members of the Jaycees and have served in various offices, including district and regional director. Over the past 20 years, I have served as president of the board of directors at the Walsworth Community Center. I am presently the legislative representative of retired veteran railroad employees Unit 154.
In late 2016, it became apparent to me that people needed to be better informed of what was going on in our state and country. I became involved in the formation of Indivisible of North Central Missouri. Our job was to inform people of what was happening in both Washington D.C. and Jefferson City. It is my mission to listen to all residents of District 7. I will hold regular town hall events all year throughout the district. Let us work together towards the future for a stronger Missouri.
Why should Linn County citizens choose you over your opponent?
I consider myself the progressive, all-around candidate. I have worked in a lot of different fields, including my background in agriculture. I am involved in Downtown Marceline, which is working to revitalize downtown Marceline. In driving around the district, I have seen so much poverty. The poverty that is in our district and all rural districts is very striking. Main Streets in rural communities are drying up and we need to do more to get business back on Main Street in the district. We need to do more to help these businesses grow and stay open. As a member of the Walsworth Community Center, we started a farmer’s market and small business incubator. We are seeing the beginning of some small businesses that may be able to open their own store fronts. I want to grow tourism. Tourism is the second biggest export of our state, next to agriculture. We’re sitting on a gold mine in District 7 with Marceline, Chillicothe and Trenton. If we can grow tourism, it would be very beneficial to grow businesses and bring more money to our area. I would like to grow healthcare in our area. We have to do everything we can to keep our rural hospitals. I will work to expand Medicaid for our state. It’s wrong that we have citizens going bankrupt from medical bills and we have one of the worst mortality rates for pregnant women. It’s appalling and we have to do something to get that straightened out. Too many of our hospitals have had to do away with their pediatric departments. There is work to do be done all around the district, not just focussing solely on agriculture.
What legislation, if any, will you sponsor to help the citizens of Linn County?
I am onboard for Medicaid expansion. I would like to see some sort of legislation, or study to find out why our mortality rate for pregnant women is so high. I would like to approve legislation to improve our roads in District 7. We have to get our spending under control to get our roads fixed. We can’t have progress while maintaining to cut taxes. We have to make a decision. Do we continue to cut taxes for the wealthy, or do we spend the money and take care of our infrastructure? Our infrastructure is an investment we’re making for the future. If we don’t keep up with our infrastructure, we are passing on a huge mess for future generations to clean up.
What is your stance on Amendment 1?
I’m favor of the amendment. I’m from Marceline and I’ve seen gerrymandering at its worst. We are not the only area that are gerrymandered the same way. I’m not going to tell you that Democrats are not at fault for doing the same thing when they had the power, but just because both parties have done it, does not make it right. We’ve got to do something to make it better. In order to make it better, we have to choose a nonpartisan committee and give them instructions that they have to draw the lines according to natural lines. Reducing dark money in politics is also important. I’m favor of making legislatures wait longer to become lobbyists. That is not to say I don’t think lobbyists aren’t important, I believe they are, they do provide a lot of information, but you need to take that information with a grain of salt. Legislators should be able to listen lobbyists without having to be bought.
How do you hope to work with colleagues across the aisle?
I am open to listening to all parties, when it comes to new ideas. I believe the constitution and the founders used the two party system to compromise. Compromise makes for betters laws for our citizens. It may seem like things are moving slowly with compromise, but having one party in power, laws are going to be passed, which are not in favor of all constituents. Over the years, I have worked with many people, including many Republicans. Just because someone has an ‘R’ behind their name, does not make them my mortal enemy. I think my record over the years stands to show that I can work with people from any background.
Infrastructure is a big problem in northern Missouri, roads are in need of repair and many buildings are very old, how do you hope to change this?
Funding is number one. We have got to figure out how to fund this. In the past, the legislature has been more intent on reducing taxes on the wealthy and we need to find a way to fund our infrastructure now. We can look at a lot of programs to clean up our infrastructure. For instance, there is a study that shows for every dollar we raise the minimum wage we can take up to three-percent of people off of welfare. If we are able to raise our minimum wage this November, think of all the people we could take off of welfare and use that extra tax money in other areas, for example on our infrastructure. It goes a long way to fund other things that we need. Are we looking to make progress, or are we looking to continue cutting taxes for the wealthy? I’m not in favor of raising the lottery to produce more tax money for infrastructure. The lottery is a tax on the poor that I don’t agree with. We have to help our rural communities to be able to receive community improvement grants, so they can improve their water, sewer and everything else. As we improve the infrastructure, we will be able to bring more people to our area. Bringing people back to our rural areas and increasing potential tourism. The infrastructure will pay for itself because of the increased business that it will generate. Look at all of the businesses that continue to pop on and around U.S. Highway 36, I want to continue that effort.