Father. Husband. Activist. Proud Missourian.
My name is Timothy Shepard, and I’m a proud Missourian. I grew up in Kearney and Excelsior Springs, MO, and my family’s roots go back in this state to St. Joe, Gallatin, and Theodosia on the shores of Bull Shoals Lake. I’m proud of the values that the people of Missouri taught me growing up.
We grew up without a lot, but that didn’t stop our community from blowing me away. It was Missourians who would show me the definition of sacrificial love as I grew up. When my mother was denied insurance due to her pre-existing condition, Multiple Sclerosis, our church helped us through it. When my parents lost their home due to financial crises, folks in the community rallied support and scholarships for us to attend camp and to participate in fine-arts.
My lesson in radical love for our neighbors would continue in Missouri. When my mom decided she wanted to solve food insecurity in our community, she attracted an army of folks from an intersection of faith and civic community. Working together, they have worked to ensure that no family in the area goes without the chance to put food on the table. I learned there’s no shame in needing to ask for some help to survive.
From the time I was little, faith played a huge role in my approach to community service. My faith lead me to accept the invitation to Morocco with my student church group in college. There, I learned about and contributed to several programs designed to help women have access to fair trade markets. It was the people of Missouri who made that service possible. Later, when I was invited to make that a career, it was Missourians again who answered the call to give generously of themselves to ensure that others have access to a living and healthcare.
It was on a fundraising trip back home in Missouri, In a time of intense prayer and searching, where I reconciled my faith and sexuality. My Kansas City faith community walked alongside me as we asked hard questions about how we engage our faith and each other. It was in this service, surrounded by thoughtful Missourians, that I would pivot from missions abroad to helping LGBTQ folks here at home find hope again.
Missouri would show me a new path for my career, thanks to the service and vision of the Kauffman Foundation. Diana Kander was in residence at the time, and it was at an entrepreneurship workshop that she led that shaped the trajectory of my career to come.
By the time I pivoted to LGBTQ activism within the church, I had decided to end my formal educational journey as I had accumulated more than $60K in student loans to acquire my skillset. I mastered the ability to design and produce websites, and I decided to begin to leverage those skills in pursuit of service for non-profits. I was a yo-yo millennial who came back home to my parent’s spare room, where I learned the virtues of entrepreneurship. Missourians with a vision to make Kansas City the most entrepreneurial city in America would provide me with vital career experience that enabled me to attract the attention of a phenomenal employer; the founders of Groupon invited me to be their venture arms Designer in Residence. This opportunity of a lifetime was made possible solely thanks to my roots in Missouri.
I pursued the opportunities made possible here at home with a new passion and grew tremendously during my interlude in Chicago, producing the web experience for Chicago Ideas, a TED-style ideas festival, and Future Founders, a non-profit dedicated to the same mission I was privileged to learn from at the Kauffman Foundation.
Ever learning and growing, I was privileged to live on Chicago’s south side, where a lot of folks would show me the same graciousness and hospitality that I was blessed to experience back home in Missouri. When the venture I launched faced a crisis due to a major client dissolving, it was my south side family who provided shelter and food as my partner and I went to work to find a new career.
Transition to Activist.
The resiliency, work ethic, and ingenuity I learned and forged in Missouri came to the rescue again. My father’s words rang true, I was turning 30 and facing a new financial crisis from the risks imposed by my pursuit of entrepreneurship; it was time for me to pursue a more traditional career. I posted my work experience on a work platform and took an enormous leap, couch surfing in New York City, enabling me to interview with employers there that I was counting on to provide stability for me and, ultimately, my family back home.
It worked; 8 months after launching the search and after being extraordinarily privileged to have been clothed, fed, and surrounded with love from dear friends and loved ones, I landed a contract gig with a large financial services firm. Stability and the chance to provide for my family were paramount, and I considered myself lucky to have earned the chance to make an impression. Not one to squander an opportunity and fortunate to have a friend offer me her couch as I saved enough money to secure a lease, I poured my soul into my work. At the end of my contract, I shared with my boss that the gig economy so popular in Corporate America to protect their profits while disenfranchising labor was a load of crock, and I demanded, politely, that he make me an offer to become an officer in the firm and share in the same upside that he enjoys. That conversation and my hard work paid off, and I was fortunate to secure a place for myself in an increasingly turbulent economy for American workers. None of which would have been possible without the tenacity and show-me attitude I was forged with back home.
My mission now was to secure a career that would enable me to provide for a future family, as well as my life ambition to help my parents and sisters finally get access to some kind of financial up-side. In this new role, I was able to stand-out and was invited to a conference for LGBTQ promising executive talent. Out Leadership would help me connect my new career to my life’s passion, service to the cause for equality for LGBTQ and, frankly, all people.
Newly inspired and learning the ropes of the equality movement and how public servants from across the private sector in America were advancing the cause for equality, my employer announced they were moving their world headquarters from NYC to Tennessee. I jumped at the chance to be closer to home and soon found myself one of the first employees on the ground in Nashville. They asked me to be the LGBTQ employee resource group chair, and we got straight to work on the cause for equality in Tennessee.
Working on getting senior officers of the firm to sign letters to the state legislature advocating that we make the state a more welcoming place for LGBTQ people provided me with a deep sense of satisfaction, and it also worked. My employer made headlines by being the first corporation in the state’s history to take a position on behalf of being a welcoming environment for its employees; enthusiastic activist employees worked together to get every other major corporation in the state to join the movement. Not a single one of the seven discriminatory bills made it out of committee.
Tennessee gifted me with a lot, formal training in advocacy work, proximity to my family back home in Missouri, a boyfriend who became the love of my life, and my husband, our beautiful daughter, and clarity of purpose. Shortly after experiencing the thrill of advancing the cause for LGBTQ equality, I was impacted deeply by my visit with a friend to Montgomery, Alabama. There, I became more immersed in the sins that corporate monopolies have been forcing upon America. I became incensed at the pro-profit prison industries imposing modern-day slavery, voter suppression, and horrific humans rights abuses on our society. This is just one of the symptoms of the runaway greed that is stifling the American economy and destroying the livelihoods of so many here at home in Missouri and across our great country.
Looking for a way to make a difference, I was soon presented with an opportunity to stand against Core-Civic, the largest for-profit prison operator in the United States, alongside many tireless activists who have bravely dedicated their lives to ensuring that we as Americans can live up to our standards of freedom and equality. Core-civic decided they wanted to join the very same LGBTQ chamber that had been an instrumental partner in advancing the cause for equality. This image campaign they were on didn’t sit well with my fellow activist, and we got right to work. I pursued my employer again, this time to take a stand in defense of BIPOC, LGBTQ, and underprivileged people from having to suffer the sins forged by a mentality rooted in American slavery.
This time, my employer was less enthusiastic about taking a stand, but I didn’t let that stop me. I joined my fellow activist on the right side of history, and we made a case against Core-Civic joining the LGBT chamber that is synonymous with the equality movement. The board listened and was convinced, and they rescinded Core-Civics membership. That was an enormous victory, but it didn’t go over well initially at my employer. In pursuit of justice, I appeared to have made an enemy, and I was stripped of my role as Chair of the LGBTQ employee resource group, my bonus was trimmed down, and some tried to smear my reputation for fighting for justice. Some, it happens, are threatened by a vocal defense to advance the cause for equality for all. And they threatened that if I dared to continue this pursuit of justice or to share the story of those opposed, that they would terminate my career in that place. Fortunately, that didn’t sit well with many, and I’m pleased to say that for-profit prisons are no longer a part of a single portfolio in their sizable investment footprint. But it was a wake-up call for me.
Father. Public Servant.
My husband and I decided that we need to dedicate our lives to public service in the fullest way possible, and so we arrive at this renewed emphasis in my life in dedication to public service. Lacking family roots in Tennessee and desiring to be closer to family, we moved back home to Missouri. I’ve been blown away anew with the deep commitment to the service of folks across our great state. Whether it was working on Tammy Harty’s State Senate campaign in Missouri’s 8th U.S. Congressional District or being in awe of the win that Betsy Fogle was able to accomplish in Green County. Or the inspired work of the folks in Southwest Missouri who have forged new community bonds in the wake of the devastating tornados that tore Joplin apart. They have a model for us across the state in how to love our neighbors anew, Republican or Democrat, they just love each other, and it’s beautiful to see the healing that they’ve been able to achieve in their community that rises above the partisan rancor.
My family and I are thrilled to be home, to be fighting for justice, and to fight for Missouri families to be able to thrive again in the face of the many challenges ahead of us. Be it the corrosive influence of monopolies that have stifled our economy or the need for us to rally together in pursuit of expanding participation in our democracy to BIPOC people, and those working-class people, like my family growing up, who’ve witnessed how runaway monopolistic greed has stolen opportunity after opportunity. I’m here to fight for equality for my daughter, for my nieces and nephews, for our family’s multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-class, and multi-abled existence to thrive in a more free and fair world.
I’m Timothy Shepard, and I look forward to being your United States Senator from Missouri. Together, we can show the country and the world our commitment to a free society where all may prosper.