Gov. Eric Greitens has tapped Harry Otto, one of Jefferson City's most well-known civic and business leaders, for the crucial slot as director of legislative affairs at the Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED).
As such, Otto may be the highest ranking Jefferson Citian in the Greitens administration. He'll certainly be among the most well-known members of the team at work for the new governor in the next four years.
Cole County Circuit Judge Thomas Sodergren said of Otto, "Harry has been my treasurer for all of my elections going all the way back to my municipal judge days. It's really nice to get to breathe easy about all the necessary filings being done professionally and honestly. And what does Harry get in return? Nothing.
"As a matter of fact, on most of our many fishing trips over the years, I've hit him up for free tax advice," Sodergren said.
Now operating from the sixth floor of the Truman Building, Otto's not a newcomer to the Capitol, however. Otto was deputy state auditor under the late Tom Schweich and, most recently, was a tax fiscal analyst for the Joint Committee on Legislative Research in the General Assembly.
In the auditor's office, Otto worked with Trish Vincent, then chief of staff for Schweich and now deputy secretary of state and chief of staff for Secretary Jay Ashcroft.
"He's a great person, a great leader," Vincent said. "We had a lot of fun working in the auditor's office, but we worked very hard. Because of Harry's leadership, our team was successful."
Prior to leading that team of field auditors for the state, Otto, a certified public accountant, was an owner and manager at Williams-Keepers LLC for 34 years. After graduating from the University of Missouri, Otto worked as a staff accountant at Williams-Keepers for five years before joining the Missouri Department of Revenue as manager of the Tax Bureau in the Division of Taxation.
Jefferson Citians have been crossing paths with Otto in many high visibility civic, church and political endeavors throughout his career.
Greitens' choice for the key post with the state's economic growth agency has held no fewer than seven of the most prestigious leadership posts at prominent organizations in the community.
Otto's resume of civic work includes: president of the Helias School Board, president of the St. Mary's Foundation, president of the Jefferson City Host Lions Club, president of the Jefferson City Country Club, president of the St. Peter's Catholic Cemetery Association, president of the Mid-Missouri Medical Foundation and chairman of the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce.
Penelope Z. Quigg, chairwoman of the Cole County Republican Central Committee, is one of those who's worked alongside Otto in the political realm.
"I would say he is quiet, competent and unassuming," Quigg said. "He is the ultimate professional, a great family man and a loyal friend. I can honestly say I have never heard a negative remark spoken about Harry, which is something when you consider we live in the highly political Capital City."
Long-time Jefferson City and Cole County public official Carolyn McDowell has another take on Otto. "He's a true gentleman, very supportive of his community, very American," McDowell said. "And he's always been supportive of women being active in government and politics, long before it was popular for women to even be involved. He's always been there for women who wanted to get into public life. And he had a wonderful mother."
His colleagues in the accounting profession also have recognized Otto's leadership skills. He is a past president of the Missouri Society of CPAs and chairman of its legislation committee, a position which required his frequent interaction with the General Assembly. He also has been a member of the leadership council of the American Institute of CPAs and has been active in both the state and national organizations representing CPAs.
Early in his post-college life, Otto was a member of the U.S. Army Reserve for six years. He is a member of American Legion Post 5.
A member of St. Martin's parish, he and his wife, Mary Kay, are the parents of three children and have four grandsons.