When he was 16 years old, Travis Childers, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for the 1st District Congressional seat vacated by Roger Wicker, lost his father on Christmas Day.
The death changed his life, he said, cementing an already-installed ethic of hard work.
Childers, 49, recently was elected to his fifth term as Prentiss County chancery clerk, but when he heard Wicker's seat was open, he recognized a "great opportunity."
"I felt it was an opportunity to put my business experience, along with my public service experience, to work," he told The Dispatch editorial board Wednesday, answering questions about the war in Iraq, President George W. Bush's recent tax rebate plan to stimulate the economy, rising health care costs, Social Security and immigration.
"I feel like the people want to see that resolved," he said of the war. "It seems to be going on with no plan of completion. I'd like to see the war in Iraq over.
"While I support us in getting our young men and women home, I would never leave (military personnel in Iraq) in a bind," he added. "We need to make sure they have all the proper equipment. (And) when these people come home, they deserve a hero's welcome and we need to give it to them."
Of Bush's economic stimulus plan, he admitted, "I don't know of one soul who doesn't like a tax rebate."
"But we also have to learn to live within our means," he said. "I think the stimulus package has at least good intentions."
Childers and his wife, Tami, have a son, Dustin, and a daughter, Lauren.
Travis and Tami Childers own and operate an assisted living/personal care facility and a nursing home in Booneville.
"It concerns me a great number of people do not have health care," he said, referring to the State Children's Health Insurance Program. "I would be for supporting SCHIP. SCHIP is part of the answer."
Created by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, SCHIP enacted Title XXI of the Social Security Act and allocated about $20 billion, over 10 years, to help states insure more children by authorizing (and partially funding) states to provide health care coverage to low-income children, who are not eligible for Medicaid and are uninsured.
"Perhaps this is an opportunity to look at the big medicine' pharmaceutical companies and (look at) tightening the belt there," Childers said. "The people in North Mississippi deserve health care."
Additionally, Childers, who is opposed to privatization, suggested changing the "cap" on income from which contributions are made to ensure the Social Security fund stays solvent.
"I'm a big proponent of the Social Security system," he explained. "I believe Social Security was a promise made by the United States of America. I'm for strengthening Social Security. We need to keep our promise. We cannot let Social Security fail."
Asked how he planned to bring opportunity to Mississippians, while reining in spending, Childers noted he is a "North Mississippian by birth (and) a North Mississippian today by choice."
"I want North Mississippi to have its share," he explained. "(But) I like to spend my personal money wisely (now). As chancery clerk, for the past 16 years, I've balanced a budget. We can't just continue to spend and spend with no plan of paying for it. Everything has to be prioritized. I intend to have a plan to pay for it."
Finally, Childers was asked his views on immigration.
"Illegal immigration has to have immediate attention," he responded. "I think this Congress and administration has taken an out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach.
"We have to close our border to illegals," he continued. "We can't provide services to people who aren't our citizens. Good government begins at home. We have people in North Mississippi who don't have access to health care and, by circumstance, illegals are getting access to health care."
Childers suggested enforcing laws already on the books and giving "border patrols resources to do something about it."
"It's a serious problem," he added. "I'm keenly aware of it."
He concluded by noting bringing greater job opportunities is a high priority.
"The greatest gift you can give someone, especially the head of a household, is an opportunity for a job," he said. "A job strengthens self-worth. That's what it's about. I come from a hardworking family. I am very much conscious of those who are not able, but I also believe those who can work, should work.
"We all know that what's good for one county in North Mississippi is also good for neighboring counties," he continued. "(And) regionalism is good. If I'm elected congressman, I will go to Washington, (D.C.) with that attitude; I will work with other people. A wagon's a lot easier to pull when you've got several horses.
"(It's about the) same common sense principles and same common sense values (I've had). I'm just working for more people; I'm just working for a bigger territory. I won't compromise my values up there. I think I have the experience and the background for it."