Desoto County News

Keen: What it is like as a first-time legislator

Photo: State Rep. Justin Keen (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 for the first time.    

We have contacted the first-term legislators representing DeSoto County in the 2024 session, much like we did recently with state Rep. Justin Keen (R-Byhalia). 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.

Here is our Q and A with state Rep. Justin Keen.

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? 

As a first-time legislator, I was taken back by the fact that I had been selected by my peers to represent them to begin. Once entering the Capitol, I was enamored by the architecture and beauty of the building. The House chambers seemed huge. I immediately felt like a small fish in a big pond. I felt and still feel honored to represent District 6 residents and DeSoto County. 

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?

My focus this first session was to learn and make relationships. For years, our incumbent Representatives and Senators haven’t had a one voice support. I think we accomplished that this past session in the House. We were able to show unity and a strong DeSoto delegation. We had a few initiatives based on County infrastructure that we were able to get because of that. Being able to create relationships and learn the processes and procedures proved to be vastly important. 

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

There are a few specific things I’m working on for the upcoming 2025 session. I was selected to be on the sub-committee for tax reform. My focus is there; however, we have a few things revolving around judicial redistricting, county infrastructure, public safety, individual rights, protecting our kids, DEI, etc. that will be towards the top of the list as well. We will have more specific needs for DeSoto County discussions later in the year, with meetings amongst our mayors, supervisors, and school superintendent.

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.

Being able to witness and experience the transportation of our two fallen National Guardsmen that lost their lives this past spring was the one thing I’ll never forget. To me, it means a lot to support our military and first responders in every way possible. Having served as a LEO myself, I understand the sacrifice one makes in that career and the support and sacrifice by the families as well. I hope that the younger generations of today really understand the importance of those that choose to protect us each day at home and abroad. Without the overwatch, our freedoms and luxuries wouldn’t exist. 

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

I really enjoyed working with everyone in Jackson. It was a good experience to get their local views on issues and work together to come up with solutions that best support the state. I think the more engaging we can be, the more productive we can be as representatives and as a state.

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

In my out of session time, I tried to catch my breath. It has been difficult at times, being a husband, father, and a business owner. I’ve enjoyed being back home with my family and just being a dad. Work is work and it never stops. I constantly remind myself that God has blessed me with these opportunities for a reason and try to do the best I can. It’s all in his plan.