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AARP AARP States Missouri Advocacy

AARP Missouri Advocacy Director, Jay Hardenbrook is Awarded 2023 Lyn Bodiford Award

Congratulations, Jay Hardenbrook, Advocacy Director, AARP Missouri, for Winning the 2023 Individual Lyn Bodiford Award

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Get to know Jay:

Hometown: I currently reside in St. Louis, Missouri, though I spent most of my childhood in Southern Idaho.

Joined AARP: I first started with AARP back in 2007.

Hobbies: I enjoy traveling with my family, doing anything outdoors, reading – there's nothing quite like sitting down with a good book.

Favorite book: Oh man, there are so many. Instead of giving you a favorite, I’ll tell you what I’m currently reading: Bitcoin Billionaires by Ben Mezrich.

Favorite movie: This is a tough one too. The usual one that I say is Star Wars: A New Hope because I watched that over and over again as a kid. Since I’ve become an adult, I’ve become a The Big Lebowski fan.

Favorite Food: I really enjoy Kansas City BBQ (if it was as good for you as a salad that’s what I would eat all the time).

Hidden Talent: Construction. I used to joke that it’s a good thing that I got into public policy because I’m only good at this and lifting heavy things. I do a lot of construction projects; I’ve even built my own cabin in Alaska.

Before AARP: Almost my entire career has been in public policy. I started out working for the Alaska Legislature when I was 20.

Alma Mater: University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Proudest Professional Accomplishment: This is a tough one as well. I always joke that I like looking at the Missouri State Budget and seeing things that I got in there about 20 years ago. However, my proudest accomplishment was Medicaid Expansion here in Missouri—a 15-year project in total. This significant endeavor has also paved the way for future successes.

A Path to a More Secure Retirement in the Show Me State

The Accomplishment

Jay Hardenbrook, ASD of Advocacy for Team Missouri, was selected to receive the 2023 Lyn Bodiford Award for Excellence in Advocacy. This recognition celebrates his integral role in securing the passage of historic Work & Save legislation, making Missouri the first red state in the nation to do so. In addition to being the first, it also has the benefit of giving nearly 1,000,000 Missourians a path to a more secure retirement who otherwise wouldn’t have one.

"It felt amazing to be recognized, of course,” Jay shared when asked about receiving the award. “The experience was also humbling, knowing that many other dedicated individuals across different states are also doing remarkable work in this field."

A Strategic Approach

But Jay’s massive victory didn’t come without challenges. Recognizing that he would face an uphill climb in a difficult legislative environment, he would have to think outside of the box to get this done. This led him to devising a robust “Red State Strategy,” engaging with several important stakeholder. This included connecting with his state’s Rural Chambers of Commerce, making the case that W&S would be a massive benefit to small businesses.

His ability to transform the conversation around Work & Save showcased his adaptability and innovative thinking. “It was a turning point when my perspective shifted from discussing the impact on employees to emphasizing how this was truly advantageous for small businesses, as these enterprises faced stiff competition from larger corporations that could offer an array of benefits. This was just another piece that they could use as a way to recruit and retain employees,” he shared. “This has become somewhat of our modus operandi for many of our issues now. We knew that not everyone we engaged would be fully on board, but we understood the importance of maintaining open lines of communication.”

And, we would be remiss if we left out that Jay also leveraged his strong relationship building skills, securing a full throated endorsement from the State Treasurer to help ensure success.

Power of Collaboration

And while we acknowledge that this is an individual award, Jay took this opportunity to celebrate all those that helped him along the way. "This was truly a team effort," he emphasized.

He praised the contributions of colleagues like Communications Director Jamayla Long (their coordination, akin to "skipping through the legislative session arm-in-arm”). “Much of advocacy hinges on effective communication, an aspect I struggle with when it comes to sharing my own achievements. Having someone who can step in and actively promote our accomplishments is a true asset.”

Jay also extended recognition to State Director Craig Eichelman, who empowered Jay to explore innovative and proactive approaches. The dedication of the community outreach team was underscored, with their commitment to effective communication and strategic leadership playing a pivotal role in their successes. Support staff like SOA Ginny Kelsey and Joann Rose were also “invaluable.”

Jay made sure to mention his “instrumental partnership” with Government Affairs and Campaigns. “They graciously allowed us to experiment with a gradual strategy to gauge its effectiveness. They consistently offered support, armed us with ‘red state’ talking points, and provided assistance when needed.”

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