Desoto County News

Harris: What it is like to be a first-time legislator

Photo: State Rep. W.I. “Doc” Harris is shown in the State Capitol in Jackson. (Courtesy photo) 

State legislators are between sessions since the 2024 session ended and ahead of the start of the 2025 session in January. For first term legislators, the beginning of the 2024 session marked the start of a new experience; taking their seat in the Chambers of their respective legislative body.  

We have attempted to contact the first-term legislators representing DeSoto County in the 2024 session, much like we did recently with state Rep. W.I. “Doc” Harris (R-Hernando). We asked for his impressions of being in the House for the first time as a lawmaker, his goals and thoughts on passing legislation representing the district.

As we hear from the other first-term legislators from DeSoto County, you will see similar articles from them.

Here is our Q and A with state Rep. W.I. “Doc” Harris.

Q. – As a first time legislator, what were your impressions? The first time that you entered the Capitol, entered the House chamber, and you said to yourself, “I’m a lawmaker. I’m actually doing work here.” What were your thoughts about that? 

My initial impression of being at the Capitol and in the house Chamber were feelings of pride and appreciation for the opportunity to work and spend time serving in such a beautiful and historic place.  There was also a small amount of anxiety that came from being a “Freshman” and not fully knowing what to expect. My anxiety was quickly replaced by the work at hand and the feeling of how important this work is to the people of Mississippi. This helped to keep me focused and attentive to discussions and debates taking place on the house floor.  My thoughts were centered around making sure I made the right choice when it came time to vote.   

Q. – So did you have any specific goals for your first term or or did you kind of take it easy to get used to the lay of the land first, or how did you approach that first session?

One specific goal I had was to help build a stronger unity between all of the legislative team who were elected to serve DeSoto County.  In the past this team unity did not exist which created problems getting the votes and support in Jackson needed to help secure funding needed for our county. I am happy to say that this unity is now in place in Jackson and I am glad to be a part of it.  At our first Republican Caucus meeting there was advice given to the Freshman class about things we should do/not do our first year of service.  This advice was 1) don’t introduce a lot of bills but limit it to only a few, 2) build relationships, 3) don’t sign anything that is not clearly understood and 4) listen, learn and then lead.  I listened to this advice and used it as my approach for the first session.

Q. – Do you have any specific priorities for the next session when you go back?

DeSoto County makes a huge economic impact on the state of Mississippi and it is very important that we fight in Jackson to make sure we get our fair share of return financially to help meet our growing needs.  To help with this I will continue to work closely and remain united with our representative team and continue to build relationships in Jackson with others who will be supportive of these efforts for our funding. This will always be a priority for me. To get ahead of the mad rush of bills that will hit when session starts I am working on a couple of bills that I will have completed by years’ end and ready to introduce when we start our next session in January.   

Q. – What might have been the most meaningful moment for you in this first session? That you’ll probably think back on pretty easily when you think about the first four months that you spent in Jackson.

Things I will always remember will be of course my swearing in ceremony, my first seat assignment, signing my first bill, presenting my first bill from “the well” and my committee assignments.

Q. – What was it like working with some of the other legislators in Jackson?

It was a great experience.  There were 24 Freshmen in my class and we have formed a pretty close relationship as a group.  As Freshmen, the guidance, advice and help given to us by the senior representatives was very much needed and appreciated.  They were always available without hesitation to offer their assistance when it was needed.  This was true from both Democrats and Republicans in the house.  Through all of this I have formed new relationships and made new friends for life.

Q. – What do you do in the off session now from Sine Die to starting it all over again in January?

There are always texts, emails and meetings to attend in the district here at home.  There are also meetings and other events in Jackson and across the state that I attend.  I try to read a lot to educate and prepare myself for what I hear will be some of the hot items coming up next session.  You blend that in with time to relax and time to spend with family.  So far the work hasn’t slowed much.