As a newly elected member of the Missouri General Assembly, Wayne Wallingford was asked which committees he wanted to serve on. '"All of 'em,' 1 said, and I was only half-joking," he recalls.
Nine years later, Wallingford's appetite for the nuts and bolts of legislative work--digging into issues, holding hearings, introducing bills, moving them forward--remains undiminished.
Indeed, rather than giving it all up next year, when he is term-limited out of the Senate, he's decided to restart the clock by running for what will be an open House seat in his southeast Missouri district.
"I've never been in favor of term limits. You just lose so much when people are forced to move on--knowledge, experience, institutional memory, the relationships you've built up," says Wallingford, a Republican who over the course of his life has been a career Air Force officer, a college professor and a corporate executive. "Besides, I'm not ready to retire."
A native of Geneva, 111., Wallingford, earned a bachelor's degree in business and completed an officer-training program at the University of Nebraska. In 1970, he was sent to Thailand for what would be the first of five deployments during the Vietnam War, serving as a navigator aboard the B-52 Stratofortress, a long-range strategic bomber, for more than 300 missions.
On one of the last of those missions, his plane was hit by antiaircraft flak and limped back to base with nearly 700 holes in the fuselage. "The plane got the Purple Heart. The crew members didn't. I liked it that way," he says.
In 1985 he was offered a position as professor of aerospace science at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, a picturesque Mississippi River town where he and his family decided to settle down.
In 1990, Wallingford returned to combat, serving six tours as an intelligence officer in Iraq during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He retired in 1993 at the rank of lieutenant colonel, having earned 47 medals, including the Silver Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross.