A State’s Legislators are All on the Same Team
By Krista Rinehart, CSG Leadership Center Coordinator
Before entering public office, Larry Teague, as a private insurance agent, learned an important leadership lesson he still values today.
While serving on the Board of Directors of the Arkansas Independent Insurance Agents Association, Teague spoke out against a measure with which he disagreed despite being the only dissenting opinion.
“I recall speaking against the idea and I remember the shock on their faces when I suggested that they were wrong,” said Teague. “It confirmed for me something my dad had always told me: ‘Don’t run with the thundering herd.’ That there was some value in being the one to say no and that as a leader, I needed to be prepared for those situations when someone said no. I think that lesson has helped me in my years in the House and Senate.”
Teague’s ability to stand by his convictions has continued to guide his service as an elected official in Arkansas. Whether arguing for a position he believes in or positioning for votes, the determination he learned earlier in life has served him well. That determination and work ethic comes not only from early professional experiences, but also from important role models like his father, a Korean War vet who instilled in his son an understanding of what it means to fight for what you believe in and want.
Teague’s father, Herschel, served during the Korean War as a 17-year-old Marine. He went to school under the GI Bill and later coached. Vince Lombardi was a role model for the elder Teague, who kept an article Lombardi had penned and would often read it to his children.
“The article was titled ‘You Have to Pay the Price.’ I always try to remember that if you want something you have to work for it,” Larry Teague said.
Teague’s work ethic has led to his rapid ascension to the Arkansas Senate’s top leadership position in his first term. He was recently elected president pro tempore for the 2013 session and also as a member of the 2012 Toll Fellows class.
Teague, who is looking forward to his leadership of the Arkansas Senate, sees a number of continuing challenges. Many of the issues looming for the Arkansas legislature include continued budget and funding issues similar to those facing most states.
“Thankfully, Arkansas survived the economic downturn very well,” said Teague. “There are always needs for K-12, higher ed, corrections and human services for additional funding. In the 2013 session, Medicaid funding is going to be a huge issue as we struggle with increased spending and reworking the system.”
While those funding issues likely will occupy much of Teague’s time during the session, he sees growing partisanship as the biggest challenge in the country.
“There are always issues that energize the parties,” said Teague, “but it is most important that we avoid allowing partisan politics to rule the day. In the newspapers and television news, we daily see the difficulties party politics plays in our nation’s capital. My district includes members of all parties—as does every other member’s district, and each constituent deserves to have their voice heard.
“As the president pro tempore-elect, my job will be to keep everyone working for the greater good,” he said. “We will approach the upcoming session as a team effort. I have friends on both sides of the aisle and I am committed to our working together as we move Arkansas forward.”
Just as he has in the case of his father, Teague will look to legislative role models like Tim Massanelli, the former Arkansas House parliamentarian. He learned many lessons from Massanelli, among them the importance of remembering that all the members of the legislature are ultimately on the same team.
“After someone in the leadership group made a disparaging remark about another House member,” said Teague, “I remember House Parliamentarian Tim Massanelli saying late one evening, ‘Boys, the House has always been run by eight or 10 members, but you need to remember: It takes the other members to pass legislation and to carry out leadership’s plan.’”
As he seeks to lead the 89th session of the Arkansas Senate, Teague will call upon these lessons from his past and the understanding of effective leadership they have provided.