Director of Government Affairs, Columbia Chamber of Commerce
JOB DESCRIPTION: Representing the Chamber of Commerce in areas of government and public affairs; working with the chamber’s investment group, Centennial Investors; and serving as a registered lobbyist for the chamber on both the state and local levels.
YEARS LIVED IN COLUMBIA: I attended Mizzou from 2002 to 2006 but officially made Columbia my home after marrying my husband, Brian, in July 2006.
ORIGINAL HOMETOWN: Fulton
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Volunteer and staff member for the Ronald McDonald House Charities since 2003 and resident manager since 2005. Advisory board member for the Sisters of the Benedictine at Our Lady of Peace Monastery in Columbia. Volunteer for Columbia’s Visioning Process. Member of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church.
PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND: Assistant to Rod Jetton as both the Speaker Pro Tem and Speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives.
A COLUMBIA BUSINESSPERSON I ADMIRE: Kathi Posch vom Saal is one of my heroes. She has made it her business to make Columbia a better community for everyone through her work with not-for-profits. I can’t think of a more noble cause.
WHY I’M PASSIONATE ABOUT MY JOB: I have always been fascinated with government and what it takes to make public policy that works. Government can and should improve the lives of the people it serves. The Columbia Chamber of Commerce is a powerful group of leaders who all deserve to have their voices heard. Every day I try to make that my mission.
IF I WEREN’T DOING THIS FOR ALIVING, I WOULD: Be in a business dealing with not-for-profits. The lessons I’ve learned about life and what really matters through my work with the Ronald McDonald House are invaluable and have totally shifted my view of what I find to be important. Knowing that you have helped someone when they needed you is very gratifying. You can sleep well that night knowing that you spread good that day.
BIGGEST OBSTACLE I’VE OVERCOME: I was 16 the first time I flew an airplane. Becoming a pilot was a great opportunity to find out how brave and capable I am. Once you learn to do something you never thought you could, then the world looks completely different.
A FAVORITE RECENT PROJECT: Recently our chamber began a series of legislative breakfasts in Jefferson City that give our members an opportunity to speak with the legislative leaders from around Missouri. For our April breakfast we are expanding to include individuals from other chambers around mid-Missouri to meet with each town’s business leaders. After all, the business communities from our neighboring cities can ultimately have an impact on the business community in our area, so we should be talking with them and addressing issues regionally. That’s what neighbors are for.
WHAT PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THIS PROFESSION: The Columbia Chamber of Commerce was built on the principle of helping all through encouraging and engaging leaders—no matter their age. The bottom line is if you want to be active in the community, then speak up and get involved. There is room for you at our table.
WHAT I DO FOR FUN: My husband and I love to spend time with our families. My parents have owned a farm for many years that we all affectionately call “The Patch,” as it is our patch of the world to take care of. We spend our weekends planting, playing, fishing and enjoying each other’s company. Life doesn’t get much better than that!
FAMILY: My husband, Brian Bernskoetter, is originally from Jefferson City, and my parents are Rick and Paula Nickelson of Fulton.
FAVORITE PLACE IN COLUMBIA: My favorite place in Columbia is Shelter Gardens. My dad is a drummer in a Dixie Land Jazz Band, and they played there often while I was growing up. The yard in front of the stage holds a lot of memories for our family of dancing, relaxing and enjoying Dad’s music.
ACCOMPLISHMENT I’M MOST PROUD OF: I am not ready to say. I’m only 23 and have too much opportunity ahead of me to narrow it down that much, but in general I make it a point to live my life based upon the values my parents taught me. Being proud of the decisions you make for your life and being content with who you are is an accomplishment in itself.
MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW THAT: My older brother Clint is a fourth-generation policeman for the Columbia Police Department. He has chosen a career that makes our community safer, just as our father, grandfather and great-grandfather did. The Chamber of Commerce works to make Columbia a better community to live and to work in, and Clint works to make it safer.