District 39 State Representative Jeff Smith was named Chairman of the powerful Ways & Means Committee in the Mississippi House of Representatives last week by House Speaker Philip Gunn. Of the appointment, Smith said, “Being Chairman of Ways and Means is a dream come true. It is not the influence you have, but the ability to help people. I love the thought of all economic development coming through our committee, and the possibility of making Mississippi and our Golden Triangle a better place, to find a job and keep our kids home as they finish their schooling and training. I am likely the least of those qualified, but figure the Lord has some plan for me in this regard. Thanks so much for your confidence, people, hope I can live up to it.”
Smith, who only lost by a single vote being named House Speaker four years ago, was anticipating a chairman position after being considered early-on as a front-running Speaker candidate this go-round. Philip Gunn was elected to the position instead and named Smith Ways & Means Chairman.
It’s doubtful that had it not been for Jeff Smith’s near-victory four years ago (though he was still a Democrat at the time, he’s always been a conservative. RW), so many conservative Republican’s would have been elected this time, much less a chance that the House would have a Republican majority or elect a Republican Speaker. Smith paved the way for it all and I’m sure that Gunn recognized this very fact. Thus the naming of Smith as Ways & Means Chairman.
Many had thought with the retirement of former House Speaker Billy McCoy that North Mississippi would lose representation in the legislature. But with the naming of District 17 State Senator Terry Brown as Senate Pro Tempore of the Senate and Smith as House Ways and Means chairman, North Mississippi (and the Golden Triangle in particular. RW) has probably never been in a better position than they are right now when it comes to influential elected officials in powerful, decision-making postions.
Wednesday afternoon, Smith told me he had just got through meeting with officials of the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) about economic development projects being worked on and looked at for North Mississippi. “Aside from the MDA, the governor and my colleague in the senate (Terry Brown), it’s nice to be in on hearing about these projects ahead of time. There are some exciting things going on for our part of the state as far as economic development goes,” he added.
Smith said that after being named Ways & Means Chairman, he was speaking with MUW President James B. Borsig and MUW’s Perry Sansing. He said he told them that “you do know what this means, don’t you?” He told them that, in the past, MUW has been relatively ignored when it comes to funding and projects. He told them, “They’ll never be ignored again.” (As part of the Ways & Means Committee, funding and projects involving Mississippi institutions of higher learning come through Ways & Means, he explained. RW).
Smith is not new to Ways & Means. He’s been involved in the committee since 2000. But now as chairman, he’ll be in on the ground floor and creation of all economic development projects. And that’s a real plus for the local area.
Ron Williams can be reached by email at Ronsings2you@aol.com0