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Meet Mississippi’s youngest legislator, a college senior

There are worse ways to celebrate your 22nd birthday than being sworn into office. That’s how Mississippi’s Jeramey Anderson plans to start his day on Friday. The college senior will officially become the newest representative for Mississippi’s 110th district, making him the state’s youngest elected legislator since at least 1995, according to the Associated Press. Anderson won his election last Tuesday by getting 59 percent of the roughly 2,500 votes cast. We chatted with him earlier in the week about how he won and what he plans to do as a state lawmaker in Mississippi. Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation.

GovBeat: Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? Why did you get involved in politics?

Jeramey Anderson: Sure. I was born and raised in Moss Point, Mississippi. I went to Moss Point High School and graduated in 2010. From there, I went off to Pearl River Community College on a soccer scholarship. I majored in criminal justice, and from there I went to Tulane University, and I’m a senior this year, studying homeland security with a minor in public relations. I have two nonprofit organizations. One is the Purple Knights of America, which is a mentoring organization for young boys, ages 11 to 18. And then the other one is a youth soccer program for the city of Moss Point that just started last year.

My interest in politics came in the 11th grade. I was class president my sophomore, junior and senior year, but in 11th grade I went off to Boys State, which is kind of a political camp. I ran for lieutenant governor and won that election, and I was able to meet the lieutenant governor for the state at the time who is now the governor. That’s where my interest came from in politics.

GovBeat: Why did you decide that now is the time?

J.A.: I was going to stick to municipal government and, in my opinion, it’s go big or go home. I felt that with that position opening up I felt like my service would be better off in that capacity than in a local position. It goes back to looking at the opportunities that are presented to me and going with that.

GovBeat: Why do you think you won? What do you think you did right?

J.A.: We had a great campaign team. I think that we got our message out to the community. They saw the energy that came from our campaign. We also of course used the Obama model as far as our social network. We were honest with all of our constituents, and we got the message out as best we could. If we continue to do what we’ve always done, we’ll always get what we’ve always gotten.

GovBeat: Tell us more about that “Obama model.”

J.A.: We did a lot of paid advertisements on Facebook. We also did a lot of the commercials, utilizing YouTube, linking all of the social networks together like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube — just finding a way to push the election onto the social sites.

GovBeat: Tell us about what you are looking forward to working on.

J.A.: Throughout the campaign we focused on education and flood insurance because of the area we live in. I think that a lot of the problems that we face in education is because our community is so distant from what’s going on with our kids. What we want to do is to make our community accountable to our kids, who are produced out of our high schools. Be that mentoring or whatever. I think that that’s going to be something that will benefit not only our community but the students in general. Of course, I’m a big advocate for increased funding in education. Eventually I want to see education in Mississippi fully funded. I think that that’s going to be a good starting point — improving our education system in the state.

GovBeat: What’s going to be the hardest part about balancing school and the responsibilities of office?

J.A.: Well, Tulane University is willing to work with me as much as they can. I only have a year left, but they’re willing to work with me as much as I need them to. Time management is something else that’s going to play a major role in this whole thing.

GovBeat: Will it be hard to be a Democrat in a majority Republican legislature?

J.A.: I don’t think so. I’ve had contact with several different Republicans locally. And everybody in general is just excited to have a different perspective in the House. I don’t see party lines. I want to do what’s best for my district and do what’s best for this state, before I see an R or a D behind somebody’s name. And I’m willing to work with whoever I need to work with in order to make sure that that happens. The response from the [Mississippi] House and the Senate has been very positive.

Niraj Chokshi is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.

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