News & Features

Student Bleeds Purple, Gold — & Red?

Kit Crancer comes across older than his 22 years. He’s well-spoken and thoughtful, someone who’s clearly comfortable in his own skin. And he’s not about to let youth be a liability.

Crancer is a senior at Fontbonne University majoring in human services. Most college students pay the bills working at the mall, fulfilling internships or finding work-study jobs on campus. But, defying typecast, Crancer serves as chief of staff for Missouri Republican State Senator Jim Lembke. He’s the youngest to hold that position in the state legislature by about five years.

Crancer says his age occasionally elicits questions about his capabilities, but his decision to take on roles as working professional and student is due to a strong sense of independence.

“It’s been difficult to balance these two aspects of my life,” he conceded. “I’ve had to make sacrifices but, at the same time, I’m financially secure and independent. I’ve been able to better myself and my community. And I’m getting life experience.”

As a Conservative Republican, Crancer’s political views are influenced by his faith, upbringing and ideals, he said, and he’s driven by a passion for politics — and making a difference.

One gets the impression that Crancer, a Crestwood native, has always been a bit of an old soul. But certain events in his life have contributed to aging him more quickly than most.

“My father died when I was in high school,” he explained. “His death, and others within my family, helped shape and mold me. They really showed me not only the value of a life, but how quickly it can end.” Crancer is matter-of-fact about these observations, but he clearly still feels their impact.

The summer after his high school graduation found Crancer on his own; his family had moved to Florida that same year to pursue job opportunities and be near warmer weather. Alone in Missouri, he jokes that he had to “sink or swim.” So he channeled his inner entrepreneur and swam. Just 19, he began managing political campaigns, the first for Republican Colleen Wassinger who was running for the St. Louis County Council; the second for Republican Jim Avery, Missouri State Representative candidate. Both won their elections. Around the same time, Crancer and a business partner began a consulting business, offering direct mail services for state level political candidates. Again, his efforts helped guide successful campaigns.

In 2008, Crancer served as a general consultant for Lembke. After another successful campaign — the candidate won the election by just 70 votes — Crancer accepted the position as Lembke’s chief of staff.

“No two days are the same,” Crancer said of the time he spends in the state’s capitol, Jefferson City. He mentally strolls through a typical day on the job, elaborating on briefing Lembke with the morning news, meetings with other legislators, preparing press releases and working on legislation. Crancer said he is particularly proud of his role in drafting Senate Bill 435, which was signed into law recently. He describes it as legislation to help prevent sexual predators from engaging in further predatory behavior from jail or detention centers.

When the legislative session is complete — a period that lasts from January through May each year — Crancer returns to St. Louis and registers for class at Fontbonne.

“Kit exemplifies what the Fontbonne experience is all about,” said Sharon Jackson, an instructor of behavioral sciences and Crancer’s faculty advisor. She is also director of Fontbonne’s human services program. “He’s a talented student, but also a successful political organizer and policy maker, respected by many for his integrity and dedicated work. He’ll achieve great success in his career, but he also understands and appreciates the purpose of community and working together to achieve goals.”

Crancer made a very conscious decision to attend Fontbonne. He wanted a small school with a personalized class structure and the flexibility to accommodate his intense schedule. And he received all of that, he said, plus an insightful and dedicated advisor in Jackson. If all goes as plans, he’ll graduate in December 2009. But unlike other graduates, he won’t have to look for a job.

His advice to fellow students? “Don’t be afraid to dive in,” he said. “If you decide you want to work in politics 15, 20 years down the road, it’s probably too late. Take your shot while you’re young — create a schedule that will allow you to have flexibility, find a cause and work for it.”

Crancer says if he ever loses his idealism, he’ll leave politics behind him. But until that time, he’s clearly thriving on the political process.

“When you get a bill passed that you know will help your constituents, you get a feeling like you’ve done something,” he said. “The ability to enact change within your community is remarkable.”

Learn more about Human Services at Fontbonne.