Republican contenders are lining up for a shot at defeating sitting Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill in the 2018 Missouri Senate race. When Congresswoman Ann Wagner, the favorite in the Missouri GOP primaries, announced she plans to run for reelection, rumors swirled of a libertarian-Republican, a NASCAR driver, and an Italian from Brooklyn all jumping in the race.
53-year-old Tony Monetti is the Italian boy from Brooklyn who now calls the Show Me State home after serving more than two decades in the Air Force.
Monetti wasn’t originally on the path towards the service, though; his grades weren’t strong enough. A captain, who Monetti’s mother met by mere happenstance, put in a call to a Santa Barbara prep school. Monetti spent six months in California studying to eventually be accepted into the Air Force Academy. Once in, Monetti had a long career in the service.
He raised his family in several different nations (his oldest son attended three high schools in three countries), led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Time Sensitive Targeting, and even while on voluntarily recall late in his military career, served on the squad that raided Libya (although he did not partake in that mission.)
He also ran an Italian restaurant with his brother right in the Heartland; Monetti was actually mentored by the Sbarros as a kid, working at their original location in Brooklyn.
After a long career in the Air Force, and some time moonlighting as a restaurateur, Monetti has found himself back in education. He is an Assistant Dean of the University of Central Missouri Aviation School.
As dean, Monetti advocates on behalf of his students to several major airlines, generating interest in his future pilots as early as their sophomore years — quite fitting among a presidential administration that has promised the moon and back in regards to bringing jobs to America.
Now Monetti wants to advocate for all Missourians as their Senator, but only for two terms; Monetti is part of the growing movement calling for term limits.
Missouri itself has certainly had a rough time the last few years. National controversies of race — specifically the hunger strike over accusations of racism at the University of Missouri and the Ferguson riots following the shooting death of Michael Brown – have put a dark cloud over the Show Me State.
Monetti, however, sees an opportunity to invoke the spirit of his personal heroes, who are important figures in American history.
“I look at what happened at Ferguson…I always point them to the positive, and that is let’s not forget where we came from…and then I point to the Tuskegee Airmen,” who Monetti admires for using their talents to power through segregation in World War II, honorably serving America.
One might be skeptical that a candidate for office is simply invoking historical figures for political gain on the campaign trail, but that’s not the case with Monetti. He truly admires the Tuskegee Airmen and honored them a few years back by painting his school’s aircraft tails red in a nod to the P-51 “Red Tails” the squadron flew.
Outside of teaching and overseeing the aviation program, Monetti keeps tabs on student life and the campus climate.
“I get a little upset when I hear about these campuses that won’t allow people to express their point of view, or there will be violence. Shame on them. What we should allow is the dialogue and the debate,” he told Red Alert Politics over the phone.
He’s also found that millennials and Young Republicans put the “conserve” in conservative in regards to the environment — another issue the GOP has not been known for championing.
“I always ask young people, ‘What can you do to help that cause?’… maybe go into solar energy or wind energy.”
Monetti himself became a community spokesman for the Lions Lake Initiative, a fundraising project to clean a local, deteriorating lake. Missouri was projected in 2016 to lead a dozen Midwest states, including Ohio and Michigan, in clean energy job growth.
Through talking with him, one gets a sense that Monetti has a Pence-like love of country and dedication to service. This holds true, specifically in his role at Central Missouri, where he pours into his college students daily. He knows first-hand that the generation stereotyped as lazy is anything but – they hold a set of core values just as he espouses while on motivational speaking tours: integrity, excellence, service before self, relationships, and joy.
“What you have to do is really provide them with a mission and a vision of how and why they matter, and put the why in front of them.”
The key to success and happiness, he says, involves using your talents, combined with a plan, to serve others and dive into life with both feet.