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Kevin C. Roberts – Roberts Wooten & Zimmer

Credit a South Dakota intercollegiate rivalry, former Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and the lure of rural life for Kevin Roberts’ lengthy stint as both small-town lawyer and civic leader in Hillsboro.

Roberts grew up on a beef cattle farm and graduated from South Dakota State University. An undergraduate advisor who’d earned two advanced degrees from Mizzou recommended the University of Missouri School of Law — allowing Roberts to avoid having to attend the rival University of South Dakota, home of that state’s sole law school.

“It would be like someone from Missouri attending KU,” Roberts joked. “I would have been disowned from my family.”

Kevin C. Roberts

Kevin C. Roberts

After law school, Roberts moved to St. Louis, where he clerked for the late U.S. District Judge John Regan and met his future wife, a Spanish Lake native who was a deputy court clerk at the time.

Like more than a few transplants, the South Dakota farm boy who married a St. Louis girl now called the region home.

“That sometimes has a way of changing your life’s plans,” he said. “It was decided that we would stay in St. Louis.”

After working briefly at Brown, James & Rabbitt in St. Louis and ready to strike out on his own, Roberts teamed up with Jefferson County attorney Nixon, his law school classmate and aspiring politician, to practice in Hillsboro.

Though he remained in greater St. Louis, the South Dakota farm boy was back in his small-town element.

“I didn’t know anybody, and Jay had lots of connections down there but didn’t have a lot of time because he was running for the state Senate,” Roberts said. “I moved in and was able to try cases almost immediately. And when I came here, it had that hometown feel.”

Nearly 35 years later, Roberts knows plenty of folks in Hillsboro. He’s developed a practice focused on personal injury, property and commercial disputes, and civil and criminal litigation, with highlights that include prevailing in a class-action suit involving an industrial chlorine spill. He’s currently representing the family of one of the victims of the Branson duck-boat sinking that killed 17 people last year.

He’s president of the county bar association, spent 15 years on the Hillsboro School Board, has led the town’s civic club and is a board member of the Jefferson County Rescue Mission.

Roberts was appointed by Nixon to both the Missouri Lottery Commission, serving as chair for five years, and the State Fair Commission, which he chairs.

“Kevin is a quiet community leader who has driven the bulldozer in the summer heat to prepare rodeo grounds [at the State Fair],” wrote one of his nominators. “[He’s] a father, husband and neighbor who always brings a smile to everyone — a Renaissance man for today.”