February 19, 2015

Catching Up with Virgil Troutwine

   Two days after winning the election for Jackson County Legislature in November, 1972, representing Inter-City in what was then the 7th district, Virgil Troutwine filed for re-election.  He told a Kansas City Times reporter it was so that his name would be on top of the ballot, and he had another reason.  “I think most of the people will want to vote for me after the outstanding job I’m going to do,” he explained.  Asked if he had done an outstanding job so far, Troutwine couldn’t say.  “We haven’t been sworn in yet!”

   The job he did that term was outstanding enough to get him re-elected for two more terms.  

   Before and after he served on the county legislature, Troutwine was a political powerhouse in the Inter-City.  Inspired by politicians like Judge Jack Gant and Bill Royster, he founded the Sugar Creek Young Democrats in 1962 and served as 5th Congressional District chairman of the Missouri Young Democrats.  He worked with other young future political leaders, like Carol Roper Park, campaigning for local, state-wide, and national candidates. 

   It was Royster who suggested that Virgil should run for the County Legislature in 1972.  Faced with fourteen candidates in the primary election, Troutwine easily won with over 50% of the vote.

   Some of the accomplishments during his years serving the citizens of the 7th district include setting up the County Auditor’s office, reforming property value assessment, getting a county leash law, bringing street lights to Blue Summit, sewer improvements, and he’s especially proud that as Chairman of the Land Use Committee he was able to help Sugar Creek get the appropriations needed to acquire the land for what is now Kaw Field, where for decades St. Mary’s High School played their football games.

   After leaving the legislature, Troutwine worked for six years in Jefferson City as Jackson County’s lobbiest.  After that he became the Director of Roads and Bridges in the county’s Public Works department.  During his first year on the job his department built over 100 miles of roads, more than his predecessor had completed during a decades-long tenure.  All of the county’s gravel roads were paved, and his department was recognized for its outstanding accomplishments every year by the State of Missouri.

   So what’s Virgil Troutwine up to now?

   He’s officially retired, unlike his mother, Goldie Troutwine, who at the age of 93 still serves her district on the Jackson County Democratic Committee and works one day a week at the Cash Saver’s grocery store on 24 Highway.  Virgil spends his time helping out his extended family and enjoys hunting, fishing, and searching for Native American artifacts.

   Is he still interested in politics?

   “Oh I’ll always be interested in politics,” he said.

     Have his political views changed over the years?

   “It’s not that I’ve moved to the right,” he said, “It’s that the Democratic party has moved so far to the left.  When I was serving in office were weren’t dealing with the social issues that define the parties today. The Democratic Party was the party for lower taxes.”

   How does he feel about government today?

   “The lower down you go the better government you get. In towns like Moseby and these smaller towns, you see those people out doing physical work to their town so they give their people good government.  The higher up you get, the only thing they’re interested in is their pay, their pension, and keeping their office.  But if you don't stay in line with the party you can't run.”

   And how does he feel about today’s Jackson County Legislature, with nearly half as many legislators serving a greater number of people?

   “I can tell you one thing… we worked a lot harder than they do.  The first three years when we were changing the government over  we worked all the time.  They certainly don't have to work as hard as we did back then.”

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