Catching up with freshman lawmakers at the Capitol

Published: Feb. 20, 2020 at 10:24 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WDAM) - We do a lot of stories about the Legislature and the various bills it deals with. But we wanted to step back from the issues and focus on lawmakers as people. On the 37th day of the session, we paid a visit to the Capitol to meet a couple of newcomers who just took office in January.

Visitors may be struck by the grandeur of the Capitol building and the complexity of the legislative process. But two freshman lawmakers are seeing it all from a different perspective. Jansen Owen of Poplarville is the new state representative for House District 106.

“It’s a slow process but it’s a good process. There’s a learning curve for all of us new members," Owen said of his first impression. "But it’s really humbling to see how the process works and what we can do here in this building to effect change in Mississippi.”

His House colleague Rep. Gene Newman from Pearl just went to work for the people of District 61.

“I’ve worked up here as an industry person before, so I had an expectation to know the first two or three weeks of a four-year term there’s going to be a lot of pomp and circumstance,” Newman said. “A lot of folks feel like we’re just spinning our wheels but it’s just part of the process. Next week we’ll get into the committees and get to work.”

At age 26, Owen is the youngest member of the Legislature. We asked him what he wants to say to young people in particular.

“If you want to effect change, it’s not always good to just post on Facebook or Twitter,” he said. “Sometimes you’ve got to put yourself out there, sometimes you have to make sacrifices and work a little hard if you want to see the world around you be what you want it to be.”

His colleague Rep. Newman comes to the Capitol with decades of experience.

“He [Owen] has the advantage of being an attorney and he understands how the laws themselves work better than I do,” Newman said. “But I’ve been around a long time, I’ve been involved with the criminal justice system for a long time and the insurance business for a long time, so a lot of the other aspects of life that I know about, he won’t have."

Like Owen, he encourages people to get involved.

“If you don't vote you're messing up the system, it’s not the system messing up,” Newman said. “You’ve got to vote. You’ve got to talk to your representative or senator and let them know how you feel, because we don't know what you want done if you don’t tell us.”

Of course, a lot of people don’t like politics.

“I don't like politics either,” Owen said. “But politics is the price you have to pay for public service. And doing the work for the people, it doesn’t matter how hard or nasty it gets, it's always rewarding to know that you're doing stuff back home for your people in the Pine Belt.”

You can find phone numbers and email addresses for your state representative or senator at the website of the Mississippi Legislature.

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