To Protect, Legislate, Litigate and Serve
Maj. Gen. Stephen Danner has given his life to public service in more ways than one.
Stephen Danner’s resume reads long enough for two lifetimes: three years as legal counsel to the Missouri Speaker of the House, three terms in the Missouri House of Representatives, a stint as the administrative law judge for the Missouri Department of Transportation, two years as chief of staff to the late Lt. Gov. Mel Carnahan, one term in the Missouri Senate, and, throughout that time, a 40-year career in the Missouri National Guard, where he is now adjutant general (chief administrative officer) of the entire state guard.
But where others see three careers — lawmaker, lawyer and soldier — Maj. Gen. Danner, JD ’80, sees one calling: service.
Danner’s service was recognized in February 2014 by the Truman School of Public Affairs, which honored Danner with its Gov. Mel Carnahan Public Service Award. The accolade is given to individuals who have made a significant contribution to the state through public service.
The award was a personal one for Danner, who, long before he worked for him, knew Mel, JD ’59, and Jean Carnahan as the parents of his law school friend and classmate Randy Carnahan, JD ’80, who was killed with his father in a plane crash in 2000.
“Mel Carnahan was one of the great influencers in my life,” he says. “He always tried to do the right thing regardless of the consequences.”
Perhaps more than any other, however, Danner was inspired by his mother, Pat Danner, who served in President Jimmy Carter’s administration, in the Missouri Senate (the two Danners served at the same time, forming the only mother-son legislative pair in the country at the time) and the U.S. House of Representatives. “I can remember as a kid stuffing envelopes for various cancer campaigns, the Red Cross and other community efforts my mother was involved in,” Danner says. “So I grew up with a family that was service-oriented.”
In the guard, Danner helps people in times of natural disaster or defends the country on overseas missions (he deployed to Iraq on an 18-month tour in 2005 and 2006). As a lawmaker, he saw his biggest responsibility as being an ombudsmen, helping his constituents navigate often confusing systems to get business licenses or solve a tax issue. He practices the same kind of advocacy as a lawyer for his clients.
“They are one and the same in the sense that you try to give back to your community and your state,” he says.