Politics is getting into full gear and so are the visitsBy PAT BROWN,
A s a rule we stay away from writing about politicians during political season; however, when a statewide official comes to town it is news and particularly if the visitor is a gubernatorial candidate.
This was the case last week. Chris Caughman, our senator for district 35, called and said that Lt. Governor Tate Reeves was coming to town and asked if I would like to join them. Reeves is now seeking the office of Governor.
Donnie Caughman relayed the story that in 2001 Reeves was seeking the office of State Treasurer, and Jim Hood was seeking the position of Attorney General. Caughman said they both sat at the table with him and now, ironically, they are both running for Governor, Reeves as a Republican and Hood as a Democrat.
Reeves, whom we have known since he first went into office said he has officially hit the campaign trail.
One of the biggest issues he plans to focus on if elected is that of economic development. He said a variety of different plans are needed, as many as nine, to suit the needs of a particular area. He means that the same strategy that works for metropolitan Jackson may not fit the mold of rural Simpson County. His goal as governor, he says, would be to make daily contacts with CEOs of companies promoting Mississippi and learning what they have to offer. He said that will be the first order of business on a daily basis.
He says he believes that we do things backwards when it comes to recruiting business, particularly in the training of work forces. He said rather than waiting for a company to locate and then training people we should get ahead of the curve and recruit businesses to our community which has a trained workforce. This is part of what is being accomplished through the community ACT certification that is being done by the Simpson County Development Foundation. He also thinks we need to offer better training and funding though our community colleges.
Reeves said, “Small town Mississippi is what makes Mississippi unique.” He explained that this is what sets us apart and once prospects visit here they see why they would like to relocate.
He said we also need to focus on smaller industries and grow them. He said in the big picture a 200 employee industry is not big, but it would be major for places like Simpson County, and if we work hard from the state level one could be located daily to an area of the state. He said landing a Toyota plant only happens once every ten years.
Reeves sees the lottery as part of the way to solve infrastructure issues as well as problems in education, but good management of lottery funds will be required once they are doled out to the county level. But much of that money will go to municipalities and county governments, according to Reeves.
Reeves told the group that the recent school teacher raise of $1,500 approved by the legislature was going to cost the taxpayers $58 million. There was discussion about the value of the retirement benefit that state employees receive in the current program, which is very substantial, and that teachers would accumulate $1 million for retirement if they work the new 30 year program which was previously 20 years.
The group discussed vaccinations in state. Reeves reminded everyone that vaccinations are not required unless a student attends public schools. According to Reeves, Mississippi has the highest vaccination rate in the nation and there are now 48 different vaccines that are administered.