Columbia College - Lake of the Ozarks: Leaving a Lake Legacy: He’s happy to help

By Samantha Edmonson
The Lake Today

For John LaVanchy, his current excitement in working at the
Missouri Capitol during the last Missouri General Assembly session was a simple
matter of fate.

Being able to get on as an intern, for a large part of the
remaining state legislative session LaVanchy was able to serve as a legislative
assistant for State Rep. Diane Franklin, R-Camdenton. Now, back in his native
Lake Area stomping grounds working locally and volunteering for Franklin’s
campaign, LaVanchy hopes he gets to continue his rewarding and challenging
career as another legislative assistant for the next session with a different
politician or perhaps throwing in his own hat into the political arena one day.
For now, LaVanchy credits his educational background and
continued support from Columbia College-Lake of the Ozarks, his connections in
the community, his family and his own experiences and education from state
legislators to his future possibilities at the Capitol. However, his own
optimism truly carries his fate in a successful future path no matter what that
journey may be.

“We are led to be at the right place at right time in our
lives. For my life in general, a lot of times things happen and you think,
‘Well why did this happen.’ But there is always a silver lining in the end
where things work out,” he said. “If we keep optimistic as people and keep an
open heart for the good, things work out in the long run. It might sound
cliché, but I really do believe that.”

Forming a foundation

LaVanchy grew up on the Lake’s West side attending the
Camden Christian School in Camdenton. He also grew up with politics a popular
topic in his family.

“I come from a very political family; I have had a lot of
relatives that were in the military, so you usually politics and the military
go hand in hand,” LaVanchy said with a smile.

His father was an aviation machinist in the U.S. Navy,
retiring as an E-3 officer after serving about four years. He also has had many
cousins and uncles, one relative serving in Afghanistan recently. His mother is
also a very politically minded person.

LaVanchy also delved early into politics by helping out a
friend with putting up signs for former State Rep. Wayne Cooper’s campaign, as
well. However, LaVanchy also developed skills in the construction field,
working HVAC and doing sheet metal fabrication in his later teen years and for
a short time after graduating high school.

Even though LaVanchy tried his hand at a larger university
and earned a associate’s degree, he said staying at a big school was

“I felt that the one-on-one that Columbia College (Lake of
the Ozarks) gave to their students was much better and a better fit for me,” he

In 2010, LaVanchy graduated with a bachelor’s degree in
history with a minor in political science and ethics, religion and philosophy
and ethics/religion. For the young man who was still finding his path in life,
he was able to find the right direction in an education through his time at
Columbia College-Lake of the Ozarks.

LaVanchy highly enjoyed his experiences meeting his
different teachers, students and faculty at Columbia College-Lake of the
Ozarks, however, one instructor was particularly inspirational – Jim Pasley.
“He came from a similar background in construction and wound
up going to Columbia College, going through the same program. I loved many of
his classes, but really enjoyed his History of Russia class,” he said. “He goes
into the whole explanation and can get really dramatic, like you are watching a
stage production. He has these outrageous stories and you think there is no
possible way they are true. But, you look them up and they are true. It’s hard
to call his bluff. He is an excellent storyteller and just a really great guy.”
After graduating from Columbia College-LOTO, LaVanchy
continued work in the construction field. However, as work slowed with the
economic downturn, he looked to other outlets to seek networking and employment
opportunities in a path more geared toward his developed knowledge and skills
from Columbia College.

“I decided to apply and was accepted for the Leadership
Camden County program (the 2011-2012 Class XVII term). I thought it would be a
good opportunity to find leads out in the community and I always have had a
desire to help out in the community, as well,” he said. “One thing led to
another and Sam Fleury (Columbia College-LOTO communications and alumni
relations coordinator) told me about an internship up at the Capitol. I interviewed
and worked for State Rep. (John) Cauthorn as an intern.”

Then, during his time there, he was able to “come to the
rescue” of State Rep. Diane Franklin. LaVanchy noted her previous legislative
assistant had to leave mid-session.

“She needed somebody who already knew the ins and outs. With
my training from my internship and my degree, I was able to fall into that
position and help her out, and did just that until session ended early this
summer,” he said. “My resume came to her desk, we hit it off well and she hired
me on the spot. With session going on it is a sink or swim situation, and what
you don’t know you have to learn fast.”

Steps to the Capitol

For LaVanchy, the whole experience was a “wild transition.”
Yet, his internship under Rep. Cauthorn was one that helped him gain additional
experience needed to step up into the legislative assistant role for Rep.

In fact, one of LaVanchy’s favorite individual experiences
was as an intern helping research Cauthorn’s bill involving utilizing gold and
silver as a legal currency throughout the state. Rep. Cauthorn asked LaVanchy
to assist in changing the wording of his bill, and LaVanchy went right to work.
“The bill was about the balance of currency, and it allowed
me to do some research. I utilized the skills I learned in Mr. Pasley’s course,
digging into research and using multiple sources to find the solution,” he
said. “It was pretty interesting. It showed me that I had the skills to work
there and a great learning experience. I got to go down into the basement of
the Capitol where legislative research was and go over to the Missouri Supreme
Court building to do additional research. That was really a defining moment; it
was my baby, I did the work and I saw it through.”

While as a legislative assistant, LaVanchy not only did
research on legislative actions and expand to do more people relations on
behalf of Rep. Franklin. He attended community meetings, helped organize events
and saw the resulting representatives’ work on the State House floor.
“I got to attend on behalf of Rep. Franklin the E.coli
meetings regarding the Public Beaches No. 1 and 2. Overall, I was able to help
her out with whatever she needed, primarily relating to the people to get
messages across. It was a very neat job and kept you on your toes a lot,” he

LaVanchy found another rewarding and challenging aspect of
being a legislative assistant was connecting and interacting with the people.
He recalled an interesting moment where a group of the Muslim community in
mid-Missouri were reacting and expressing their concerns that dealt with
proposed legislation regarding religious rituals and issues.

“You get to meet people from different backgrounds and
different perspectives than your own. There are so many different people that
you are representing; you don’t realize the vastness and diversity of people
and a goal to where you try to help these people out with the different
problems that there are,” he said. “That was a unique experience. You never
really know what you are going to see in the realm of politics. Even locally,
you don’t get to see that people have a sense of politics as an exciting
platform, but it is a rewarding career. You see the different things that go on
within a community.”

“Connections with the people were both the highlight and
also challenging. You have people that want a more limited government and
others that want the government to run their lives. You have two ideologies
that can be difficult to deal with. They expect you to solve that problem
immediately, and you have to have time to solve the problem. Anything worth
doing has to be thought out and done the whole way,” he added.

A political platform

Between giving tours to Leadership Camden County to brownie
troops in the Capitol and listening to the governor give a speech to delving
into legislative research and enjoying communicating with concerned citizens,
LaVanchy found his experience as a legislative assistant at the Capitol one he
hopes to do again in the near future.

“I do hope to get back into politics as a legislative assistant
in beginning of session. They encourage you to travel to different departments
and you get to enjoy the whole experience and meet more people,” he said. “I
enjoyed my time with Rep. Cauthorn and Rep. Franklin, and even though I’m out
of a job, the rotation keeps people honest and it keeps the system from getting

Even though he is volunteering for Rep. Franklin’s campaign,
he knows he would work as an assistant in a different department or different
politician once session goes back into term. However, he enjoyed his time with
Rep. Franklin and at the Capitol, just knowing being in the historic Jefferson
City and the state capitol is in his future.

“Missouri has a wonderful history; you have such a mixtures
of rural and urban developments. At the Capitol, you see that with talks of
interesting production in agriculture and representation from St. Louis and
Kansas City urban developments,” he said. “Plus, you have the Lewis and Clark
monument there, and the landing with the steamboat trade that came through in
Jefferson City. It is neat to see how we have progressed as a people and
society just in looking at the many historical structures and sights in
Jefferson City and at the Capitol. It is representation that many don’t get to
see on a daily basis and a constant reminder of who we are as Americans.”

During his summer retreat to the Lake, LaVanchy has enjoyed
doing some HVAC work, training for the Run for Your Life Challenge 5K event
near St. Louis, where he might be able to participate dressed as a zombie, and
enjoying involvement with the Bible Baptist Church in Camdenton. However, he is
looking forward to return to the political realm.

LaVanchy is excited to keep his connection with Columbia
College-Lake of the Ozarks through alumni events, as well. But even though fate
brought him his state government experience, it is certain that his education
from Columbia College, his continued support from family, friends and peers,
and most importantly his own intellect, experience and beliefs will propel him
forward to a successful career in the field.

“I would like to become a politician myself. There are a lot
of problems in our country as we see in the world today. I remember my
grandfather talking about his generation, visiting the butcher when he was in
St. Louis in Germantown. We had mixtures of people of Germans, Italians and so
forth in St. Louis; they were Americans and looked out for each other and their
community,” he said. “And now, the technology and our success as a culture we
have pulled away from that and lost that aspect what made us strong as a
country. My ultimate goal is to help bring people together and despite their
differences. We are Americans and by the Constitution that we share and have a
historical background of western civilization and ideal. I think that we need
to come back to that basics and better community and society if everyone can be
at that mindset. We have become so apathetic, but we can change things for the
better. Hopefully that is worth fighting for.”