Mississippi Capitol Press Corps
What is your name, age, where are you from?
Briggs Hopson, Jr., 52, of Vicksburg.
What is your title? Where did you attend college? What degrees do you hold?
“My title here in the legislature is senator, but we also have titles like chairman of certain committees. And I’m chairman of the Energy Committee, and then I’m vice chairman of Appropriations. I went to the University of Mississippi and got a bachelor of business administration [degree] in 1987, and I got my juris doctorate [degree] in 1990. Both degrees from Ole Miss.”
What are some of Mississippi’s best qualities?
“The quality that I like the most is Mississippi’s hospitable nature […] I’ve been fortunate to go all over the world, and I’ve never found people as nice and kind and endearing as we have here in Mississippi. So I think that’s our best asset, is our people.”
What are Mississippi’s biggest problems and challenges?
“Well you can’t deny the fact that we’ve been very low on the education totem pole, and healthcare issues have been a concern for Mississippi. Unfortunately, we rank rather high in a lot of categories that are ones where you don’t want to be high – things like teen birth rate, sexually transmitted diseases, obesity, diabetes, and other conditions that have a tendency to shorten your lifespan. But I am proud to say since I’ve been here in the legislature, we’ve done a lot to improve in those areas.”
What legislation or policy are you currently working on, and how will it impact the state?
“I could give you a list of about 15 or 20 bills that I’ve already filed […] For instance in education, I’ve got a few bills that I’ve worked on to help streamline the administration in schools. Something I’m real proud of that I authored and got passed last year was a bill that allows for distanced learning in our schools. Now there’s another component to that – we’ve got to get more intentional about getting broadband to our schools throughout the state so that every school has access to this, but the idea is that we can have a teacher located in one place that can teach to classes located all over the state. So I’m very optimistic that we’re going to improve our educational delivery in the state a lot over the next few years.”
Tell me about an issue that you feel is important that hasn’t received a lot of media coverage.
“Again, one that I’m real proud of was that distanced learning act. It has not received that much coverage. And truthfully it’s not been implemented in the ways it needs to be yet, but I think we’re going to look back on that piece of legislation many years down the road and see where it made a dramatic difference in education in Mississippi.”
What do you like most about your job?
“The people I deal with. I love working with people to help come to solutions and
work together to make things better in our state. And the second one is a bit of a byproduct of the first one, just creating good policy. I really like the policy-making authority and control we have in the legislature. It comes with a lot of responsibility, but you can really change the outcomes of this state.”
What is the hardest part of your job?
“Hard or unpleasant? There can be a difference. Hardest part is you have a lot of late nights and you have to work really hard to come to solutions. From an unpleasant standpoint, it’s the criticism that comes with the job. We know that that’s part of it, but we know we were trying to do something well that’s going to make a difference. Sometimes it’s fair, sometimes it’s unfair. But nobody wants to be criticized and nobody wants to be disliked. But if you know that you’re in it for the right reasons, you know that you’re willing to accept the yolk of that criticism.”
What issues keep you up at night?
“Let me say this. I rarely have issues keep me up at night because I generally feel like I’m doing what I think is the right thing. My conscience is pretty clear about the fact that I’m trying my best to do the best for Mississippi. So I sleep well at night. There are occasional issues that come up that I know will be controversial, and I know I’ll draw a lot of criticism for my vote, and that’s no fun. That just gives you an uneasy feeling deep in your stomach. But you do feel good that you made the right decision even when you know some criticism is coming forward.”
What drives you to continue serving the people in this role?
“Trying to help make changes that will help make our state better and knowing that my heart is in the right place. I can’t always say that I always get it right. I’m sure I miss the mark plenty of times on getting something done in the best way, but I know that I’m trying to get it done in the best way possible, and I feel like I’m providing good public service when I do that.”