New faces in office share their plans
November’s general election saw the majority of local officials reclaim their seats. However, four new faces were elected to office.
The Item spoke with those newly elected officials about what motivated them to run and what they hope to achieve while in office. Comments from District IV Supervisor elect Jason Spence were included in Friday’s article about the Board of Supervisors.
Jansen Owen was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives for District 106. At 26, Owen will be the youngest member of the legislature when he takes office in January. Owen has never held public office before, but has worked with the county for the past eight years in the circuit and chancery court clerks offices. Owen practices law and said he has spent his adult life around law and government.
Government transparency and accountability reform will be his top priorities in office, with a focus on public corruption and public misspending.
Owen said he wants to make it easier and more affordable for people to acquire records from the government.
Owen also wants to track government expenditures in real time. He is currently drafting ideas for bills but will not share them until the legislative session begins. He intends to introduce legislation on reforming open meetings and open records laws on his first day in office.
He is opposed to any tax increase or the creation of new taxes. Owen said he wants to support community colleges in the state by making sure BP money is being diverted to them. Owen said he believes there are plenty of funds to improve infrastructure without new taxes, especially now that a new state lottery system is set to begin soon.
Owen plans to hold two town hall meetings in early December, one in Lamar County and one in Pearl River County, to hear what his constituents want him to focus on in the Legislature. Owen can be reached via his cellphone at 601-522-3337, or via the Jansen Owen for Mississippi Facebook page.
Benjamin Breland was elected North District Justice Court Judge. Justice Courts have jurisdiction over traffic offenses, misdemeanor criminal cases and small claims civil cases. Justice Court judges can issue search warrants and hold bond hearings and preliminary hearings for felony criminal cases, according to the State of Mississippi Judiciary website.
Breland has no law degree or criminal justice experience, but believes it is best to have the common man or woman serve as justice court judge.
“You don’t want a lawyer in there, or a police officer, or someone who thinks you’re guilty as soon as you walk in the door. I have no criminal (justice) experience at all, but I think that’s a plus,” Breland said.
Breland’s dad, James Breland, served as Justice Court Judge in the North District for 28 years. Growing up around the Justice Court and seeing the interactions his father had with people in the county made Breland want to run for the position, he said.
Breland’s top priority will be keeping justice working for everyone in the community, he said.
Breland is preparing for office by job shadowing and will go to judicial college for two weeks in December.
Mark Herring was elected Pearl River County School Board Member for District 3. Herring has five children, two of which are currently in the Pearl River County School District. Herring previously did community service through the Rotary Club of Picayune. He decided to run for office, because he wanted to focus his community service on the school system.
His top priority in office will be meeting the needs of children in the school system. Herring said he looks forward to being part of a group effort to accomplish the school District’s goals.
Herring received his own education through Pearl River County School District schools, and said so far his kids have had excellent experiences in the schools.
Herring’s constituents will be able to contact him through his district email address, email@example.com. Herring will take office in January, by which point his email address will be active.