From student council president to State Representative hopeful, Alumna Trish Gunby shares strategy for getting into office


Joe Dietrich

Posing for the photo, alumna Trish Gunby smiles for the camera. If elected, she will be representing homes of the Parkway West District that are North of Manchester Road, West of Weidman, East of Baxter and North of Fontbonne West. “After Michael Brown was killed, I started learning about racial justice and voting rights,” Gunby said. “So I’ve had this arc of LGBTQ+ inclusion, racial justice and voting rights and all that led me to where I’m at right now.”

After hearing much encouragement from her peers, 1979 alumna Trish Gunby decided to take her involvement to the next step by choosing to run for Missouri State Representative of the 99th District.

If elected, Gunby will be representing cities such as Manchester, Valley Park and Twin Oaks.

“When our representative resigned Feb. 4, folks came to me [saying] that I should run given the work that I had been doing for the past few years,” Gunby said. “I decided to talk to a bunch of people about that, had meetings and talked to my family and friends and decided this was my next chapter. My hope is that I’ll win this in 47 days and be heading to Jefferson City in January.”

Since her childhood, Gunby knew she had a call for leadership and politics.

“I was involved in student government in what we then called junior high, now middle school, and was president of my sophomore and junior high school classes. Then, I went to college and was involved in student government there and majored in political science. I also majored in advertising and public relations, so I had a career in marketing but was always interested in politics,” Gunby said. “The platform that I used when I wasn’t actively seeking office was just being a very engaged citizen. That’s how I utilize my political interest.”

Prom was not always held off-campus, and juniors were in charge of planning it. Gunby and her peers used their platform in student government to allow the first off-campus prom for juniors and seniors in Parkway due to the growing support of the idea. 

“At that time, prom was held on campus in the gym, so a number of student government representatives from all the high schools got together, met with the superintendent and advocated for prom to be taken off-campus,” Gunby said. “We were able to take prom off-campus to Chase Park Plaza. This was an effort formed by a bunch of active student government counsel folks, and we were excited that we were able to do that.”

In taking advantage of her role as an active citizen in West County, Gunby got involved with many organizations.

“I was very active in Parkway schools which is where my kids attended. I worked at the local school level but also helped beyond that in terms of bond issues and propositions that they wanted to pass, knocking on doors,” Gunby said. “I canvassed in support of those and stood at polling stations, holding signs encouraging people to vote. I’m one of those people who write letters to the editor about things, and I was on district-wide committees.”

One of the things I plan to take to Jefferson City is the feeling that you know me; I’ve been here, and you’ve passed me on Manchester Road. We’re all in this together, so elect a neighbor, and send me to Jefferson City,”

— 1979 alumna Trish Gunby

Gunby recommends that people get involved in what their passionate about even if they do not have a large platform to act on. 

“I would just suggest that you identify what you’re passionate about, attend meetings and get to know folks that are active in local groups. Almost every group is a welcoming group in the sense that they are always looking for volunteers, and there are a number of things people can do within that group,” Gunby said. “You meet folks that are passionate about the same things you are, and they just work to make changes. It’s great to be able to call representatives or call legislative leaders, and tell them how you feel or send emails or do rallies.”

Gunby believes that if one does not expose themselves to groups outside of their comfort zone, one will never be able to make the change they want to see.

“So much happens on a level where you need to actually go out and meet face-to-face with either industry leaders or legislators telling them how you feel. That way, they can make changes to legislation. That’s what inevitably changes that,” Gunby said. “People protesting is a great way to raise awareness, and it makes people take note of that, but that doesn’t change anything. You have to go that extra mile and that extra step which most people are not comfortable doing, but most groups have people on staff who can show you how to do that.”

Before Gunby began her campaign, she was able to take the position of the plaintiff on the conflict of photo ID laws in Missouri by getting involved in the West County Community Action Network, a group that focuses on racial justice. There, Gunby was able to advocate on her beliefs of a law that ‘disenfranchises persons of color and people who are socioeconomically stressed.’ Although they won the case, the secretary of state appealed, and the case will be taken up to the Missouri Supreme Court Oct. 3.

“We’re confident we can set aside the photo ID law so that people can go back to using the different forms of ID that they were using in the past,” Gunby said. “That’s the hope, but the point of all that is I did that as a citizen, I did not do that as a legislator. There’s a lot people can do to create change as a citizen and that’s what you can do in some of these groups that you may decide to join and work with.”

With all the involvement Gunby has done in the 99th District for the past 25 years, she feels that she has the experience necessary to be elected this upcoming November.

“I have lived in the 99th district for 25 years, and I’ve done neighborhood watch and been active in my kids’ schools, in church, so I know a lot of people in the area. I really feel like all of them are my neighbors. One of the things I plan to take to Jefferson City is the feeling that you know me; I’ve been here, and you’ve passed me on Manchester Road. We’re all in this together, so elect a neighbor, and send me to Jefferson City.”