Field Representative and General Counsel, Office of Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith
How, when, and why did you decide to study Public Policy Leadership?
I decided that I wanted to study Public Policy Leadership during my senior year of high school. A mentor of mine first told me about the Lott Leadership Institute, and he encouraged me to apply. I looked into the program and eventually decided to apply, because I wanted to learn about policy making and leadership while also being in a major that would build my political skills and relationships. I had been interested in politics and leadership for a couple years, and I wanted to pursue a degree where I would learn meaningful information. But I also wanted to be in a department where I would gain skills that would shape me into a competitive person in the professional world. The Lott Leadership Institute at Ole Miss encompasses all of those different values while providing a valuable degree at graduation that has prepared the students to go out and fulfill leadership roles in society.
Please discuss highlights of your undergraduate experience?
My undergraduate experience at Ole Miss was one that I will never forget and will always treasure. Ole Miss holds a very special place in my heart, and the love for our university and the state of Mississippi encouraged me to get involved and make a difference on campus. Meeting my wife at Ole Miss, Ann Ferrell, was by far the main highlight of my undergraduate experience. When I think about all of the things that I cherish from undergrad, my service opportunities stand out as well at the forefront. Service to the student body and to Ole Miss was very important to me while I was a student at Ole Miss. I am very thankful to have been elected as the Student Body President of Ole Miss from 2013-2014. Serving as ASB President, my senior year was a highlight of my undergraduate experience that I will never forget. Being able to serve the student body at Ole Miss and lead the student body forward in enacting policies and fulfilling goals to make the student body experience better for all students is something that I will forever be grateful for to the students. The Lott Leadership Institute and Senator Trent Lott played a big role in my election, and the Institute is capable of forming dynamic leaders. The Lott Leadership Institute and Public Policy Leadership molded me to understand the importance of effective policy making, which is important when leading a student government. When you have a leader like Senator Trent Lott who is able to provide his own personal experience in leadership at one of the highest levels of government as well, it can only serve as a benefit to the students like me who are interested in leadership positions whether that be in student government or in the professional world. I was fortunate to serve the Ole Miss students as an ASB Senator, member of the ASB President’s cabinet, and eventually ASB President; and the Lott Leadership Institute played a major role in forming me to not only be a leader but a leader that can work with others to effectively get things done for our students. When you are in a leadership position, you have to listen to your constituents and advocate for their voice. Leaders also have to stand up for what is right and for what they believe in. I will forever be grateful to Senator Lott for his advice when I was leading the student body. I can not talk about service without also mentioning the service opportunities that the Lott Leadership Institute is able to provide. Being able to go to South Africa with fellow public policy students my sophomore year to assist with building a garden at an AIDS orphanage was something that I will always remember as a highlight of my Ole Miss experience. For somebody like me from South Mississippi to board an airplane for the first time and fly to the other side of the world really showed me the importance the Institute places on service. The Lott Leadership Institute places policy, leadership, and service training on a world class stage, and everything I was able to do at Ole Miss would not have been possible without my educational experience in the Lott Institute. When I look back on experiences where I was able to serve students and the recognition of being inducted into the Ole Miss Hall of Fame in 2014 with fellow Lott Leadership Institute students, I owe so much to God and the Ole Miss family for supporting me every step of the way.
Please talk about your career path since graduation and career path goals at this point?
After graduating from the Trent Lott Leadership Institute at Ole Miss, I enrolled at the University of Mississippi School of Law. Similar to my undergraduate experience, my experience in law school was one where I was very blessed to receive opportunities to serve and lead the student body. My first year of law school, I was elected by the student body as a Senator, and I was elected as Treasurer of the student body my second year of law school. My experience in being able to serve in these two positions and gaining the trust of the law school students allowed me to eventually be elected as the President of the Law School Student Body from 2016-2017. Being able to serve as LSSB President at the University of Mississippi School of Law was a highlight of my law school experience. I also was very fortunate to serve as 2 years as the C.E.O. of the Business Law Network at Ole Miss, which is housed in the Business Law Institute at the law school. The Business Law Network is a student organization that places a focus on connecting law students who are interested in business law with practitioners in the business law field and puts a tangible focus on connecting those students with job opportunities. After graduating from law school and passing the Mississippi bar, I continued to work for Senator Thad Cochran as I had done in law school where I interned in his Oxford office. I served as his North Mississippi Field Representative where I was eventually named General Counsel in the Office of Senator Thad Cochran. When Senator Cochran retired, I continued to serve in the same position as the North Mississippi Field Representative and General Counsel to United States Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith. In this position, I am able to represent the Senator at meetings and events in the north Mississippi region, but I am also able to provide legal advice on different issues that arise within the Senator’s office. Serving in these roles to Senator Cochran and Senator Hyde-Smith has been one of the greatest honors of my life.
Outline your career.
During my freshman year of college at Ole Miss, I decided that I wanted to pursue work on political campaigns in the state of Mississippi. Political campaigns have been an important part of my career. I do not think I would be working for a United States Senator without having first getting involved with political campaigns. The first campaign I ever volunteered on was Alan Nunnelee’s campaign for United States Congress. I was not in a paid position, but the experience I got from that campaign was so important to me. Since then I have had the opportunity to serve as a member of the campaign staff’s for both of State Treasurer Lynn Fitch’s campaigns, Governor Phil Bryant’s re-election campaign, and a staff member of Governor Phil Bryant’s inauguration team. The most important campaign that I worked on that I did not previously mention was Senator Thad Cochran’s 2014 re-election campaign. This campaign was perhaps the most important of my campaign experience and would be a catapult to later working for him. Being able to serve Senator Cochran in his last campaign and eventually obtain an intern position in his Oxford office is very valuable to me. When I think about how to outline my career to answer this question, I really do not know where God will take me on this road. I believe that God has blessed me to serve in many different leadership positions, and I hope that I am able to continue to serve others in my career moving forward.