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Springfield, MO

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A Conversation With … Robert Sweere

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You’ve hung out your shingle at 302 S. National Ave. since 2008. What type of law do you practice?
I went into private practice in 1981. I was by myself from 1984 until shortly after 9/11, when I partnered up with two other lawyers – Fred Moon and Raymond Plaster. Our partnership broke up in 2008, and I bought this building.

It was built in 1911 and busted up into apartments during World War II. It was the Parenting Life Skills Center when I bought it. I do family law, bankruptcy, real estate law, probate and general litigation. Also wills and trusts.

What else is on your docket?
I’m going to file for the legislature for this district, the 132nd, come February. That’s [Democrat] Charlie Norr’s seat. I already have an opponent in the primary, a young gal by the name of Crystal Quade. I was disheartened to hear, but I was told by the county chairman, there are, except for maybe Kansas City and St. Louis, no Democrats in the Missouri House south of Interstate 70.

Most people know you for the sign in front of your office, where you post commentary on current events, mostly political. How did it get started?
One winter, I was researching church marquees thinking I could put a sign up to draw some attention to my office. A client of mine referred me to the Sign Doctor, which cut me a deal. That was in about 2012. There was some profanity involved, but I wanted to be able to tell City Hall what I thought of them.  

How do you come up with the messages?
Most of my signs come from what I read in the paper in the morning or from watching “Morning Joe” on MSNBC. It’s kind of like writing a headline, which is a hard job. You have to be precise because you can only use so many letters. I get an idea for a sign, then sit down with my scratch paper. If I need facts, I Google it. I try to phrase it so it’s concise. A lot of times, I rephrase it while in the shower. That’s where I get some of my best ideas. I’m always laughing at my own jokes.

The sign’s page has roughly 1,170 friends on Facebook. Did you expect that?
I’m not surprised by it, but gratified. Probably the most frequent comment I get is, “Gosh, I feel like I’m no longer alone.” Being a Democrat in the most Republican part of the state, I sometimes feel like I’m the voice of the voiceless.

I can’t even remember why I started the Facebook page. I just thought it would be fun. I take a cellphone picture with my “dumbphone” and send it to Mrs. Sweere, who then posts it to the Bob’s Sign Facebook page.

How come your wife runs the page, not very tech savvy?
I don’t read my own email. It all goes to Peggy’s email, even if it is addressed to me. I couldn’t construct an email or read an email. I don’t know how to do it. If she thinks it’s something I need to see, she prints it off.

Do you think the sign helps or hurts your business?
A lawyer I have known for a long time told me he thought I would lose business because my statements were too controversial.

I can’t remember who said it, but to paraphrase that unknown person, I would rather have 40 percent of the people for me than 90 percent not know who I am. National Avenue gets 30,000 cars a day.

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