By David Owens
Republican State Treasurer Tate Reeves spoke to the Jones County Republican Women Wednesday about his intention to run for the state's second highest office.
Reeves, a native of Florence, kicked off his campaign for lieutenant governor Monday in his hometown, invoking the names of Gov. Haley Barbour and the late President Ronald Reagan.
Calling on the spirit of Reagan, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday Sunday, Reeves said, "While I take inspiration from the past, like most Americans, I live for the future," he said. "That is why I have decided to seek the Republican nomination to be the next lieutenant governor for the state of Mississippi."
Reeves said his whole life he has heard politicians "talk about how good they are and how bad the state is. Mississippi is moving up and it's time to stand up and say so."
Reeves said he believes in the "resiliency and values" of Mississippians.
"We have good families, good communities and good values that other places in the country are trying to remanufacture," he said. "Our best days are ahead of us, not behind us."
Reflecting back on his childhood in Florence, Reeves said he learned a few lessons when playing sports as a child.
"I learned don't quit, I learned how to win and I learned that every member of a team is worth what he is willing to do for the team," he said. "It didn't matter your social status or whether you were black or white. It was about commitment and values."
Reeves, an honors graduate from Millsaps College with a bachelor's degree in economics, said he got a job "in the real world" first before making the decision to run for State Treasurer in 2003.
At only 28 years old, Reeves said he was a "long shot to say the least." He was also the first Republican elected treasurer in the state's history.
"I was tired of watching my friends and new young families move out of Mississippi," he said. "They were leaving not because they wanted to, but because they thought they had to."
Reeves said the state government "had more than a few problems" in 2003, but he and others including Barbour decided to run for office "to make Mississippi a good place to do business again."
Reeves, who was the youngest state treasurer in the country, called himself a "watchdog for the taxpayers," and was faced with challenges almost immediately.
"After three months in office, I discovered the Legislature had overspent by $24.9 million and I had to make necessary cuts to balance the budget," he said. "I made those cuts to protect our most important functions -- public safety and public education."
Reeves said he also successfully sued "one of the strongest, most politically connected insiders" during his first year in office, returning "tens of millions" of taxpayers money.
"I've never been bashful about shining a light on wasteful spending," he said. "I've worked hard to get the tax burden under control and protect the state's credit rating."
Reeves said there are many elected officials in Jackson whose answer to the current problems are to "spend more, borrow more and tax more."
"They think they can spend Mississippians money better than Mississippians can," he said. "These people are in power in both parties at the State Capitol.
"They just want insiders to win," Reeves added. "They don't want a watchdog who answers only to the people of Mississippi."
Reeves said that attitude also extends to Washington, D.C.
"Far too many people in Washington are focused on right and left," he said. "Not enough are focused on right and wrong."
Reeves said he believes he was originally elected State Treasurer partially because he campaigned for six months "on why I ought to be treasurer, not why someone else ought not to be." He said he will run for lieutenant governor the same way.
"I'm the same guy, just more aged and with a few more battle scars," he said. "If you want more power in the hands of the taxpayers, I'm your candidate. If you want the state to be the best place to start and grow business, I'm your candidate.
"If you want the state to have no abortion clinics, making this the safest place in America for the unborn, I'm your candidate," Reeves added. "And, if you want the government to go in the opposite direction that Washington, D.C., is going, and want someone honest, decent and God-fearing like you, I'd be proud to be your candidate."
Reeves and his wife, Elee Williams Reeves, a native of Tylertown, have two children, Sarah Tyler and Elizabeth Magee. The family attends Galloway Memorial United Methodist Church. They are committed to several civic and charitable organizations including the Mississippi Society of Disabilities, UMC Children's Cancer Clinic, Boys & Girls Club of Mississippi and the United Way.
Current Mississippi Lt. Governor Phil Bryant has announced his campaign for governor, leaving the position open in 2011.
Reeves faces a tight battle against Billy Hewes (R-Gulfport), President Pro Tempore of the Mississippi Senate, in what political columnist Sid Salter called "perhaps (the) most interesting" of this election year.
State Auditor Stacey Pickering of Laurel had also been considering running for the office before ultimately choosing to seek re-election.
State Sen. Lee Yancey (R-Brandon) has already announced his campaign for State Treasurer. Lynn Fitch, executive director of the Mississippi State Personnel Board, and gubernatorial aide Lucien Smith are also expected to run for the position.