UM System Hires Director of Governmental Relations to Oversee Day-to-Day Operations

Oct 17, 2017

The chief of staff for the leader of the Missouri Senate has been hired as director of governmental relations for the University of Missouri System, according to a UM news release Monday.

Credit Sara Shahriari / KBIA

  Dustin Schnieders — who has worked for Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, since November 2012, according to his LinkedIn page — will help spearhead a push to “rebuild relationships with elected officials and citizens of Missouri” through communication and coordination with lawmakers and the UM System, according to the release.

“Dustin is a product of public higher education in Missouri, and his experience and expertise are what we need moving forward,” UM System President Mun Choi said in a statement. “He understands and has deep relationships with elected officials and the citizens of Missouri.”

In a statement, Schnieders said MU was critical to the state’s future.

“I’m looking forward to working with our legislators and helping university leaders ensure that the university’s priorities align with the state’s future success,” he said.

He will be paid $105,000 annually, MU spokesman Christian Basi wrote in an email.

As of Monday, Schnieders was not registered as a lobbyist, which he must do before he can lobby the government, according to the Missouri Ethics Commission website.

Schnieders is not taking over the job of executive director of governmental relations for the system — a search for that was called off last week. Contractors, campus and system leaders will take over the responsibilities of long-term strategic planning, while Schnieders’ position is to oversee day-to-day operations.

The UM System has three main legislative priorities: increasing core funding, paying for maintenance and repairs of school buildings and supporting the Missouri Department of Higher Education review process.

The relationship between the Missouri General Assembly and the system has become strained for a variety of reasons, David Steelman of the UM System Board of Curators said last week. A strategic push by MU to recruit more out-of-state students over the past decade has led to a weakened connection with the state and its flagship institution, Steelman said, and the events of fall 2015 were a “slap in the face” to the legislature.

Enrollment and state funding make up the two largest sources of revenue for most higher education institutions, and with falling enrollment at MU the cutbacks to state funding have been devastating. MU has laid off hundreds of employees and is undergoing a top-to-bottom academic review to decide the future of the school’s programs.

Schnieders (pronounced “SCHNEE-ders”) earned an associate’s degree from St. Louis Community College-Forest Park and a bachelor’s degree from Lincoln University in political science. He worked for U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, and interned with former Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt before joining Richard as his chief of staff.

Richard has served as the Senate’s president pro tem since 2015 and oversaw a rocky 2017 session, during which many considered the Senate to be dysfunctional. Only 71 bills were sent to the governor’s desk, but at least 113 and as many as 184 were in the previous five sessions. Richard himself also came under scrutiny, introducing a bill that would have undercut the ability to bring class-action lawsuits against companies accused of fraudulent practices, such as selling defective products. Richard has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from millionaire David Humphreys, whose roofing company was facing a class-action lawsuit at the time.