By STEVEN NALLEY
Tate Reeves, Mississippi’s lieutenant governor-elect, will address audiences at the Mississippi State University Library’s John Grisham Room Tuesday at 2 p.m. as part of the library’s Morris W.H. Collins Speaker Series.
Reeves is finishing his second term as Mississippi’s first Republican Treasurer and was named one of 42 “Rising Star(s) in the Republican Party” in 2007 by the Republican National Committee’s official magazine, Rising Tide. The event is free and open to the public.
Sid Salter, journalist-in-residence at MSU, said once Reeves won the Republican primary, it seemed likely he would win the November election against Reform candidate Tracella Lou O’Hara Hill. So, he said, MSU invited Reeves ahead to join the lecture series sometime in September or October, expecting his schedule to fill up once he took office.
“When we make decisions about the Collins Lecture Series, we try to invite guests who are on the cutting edge of leadership in the state,” Salter said. “The Collins Lecture Series is the most prestigious lecture series the university hosts.”
The series is named for Morris W.H. “Bill” Collins, the first director of MSU’s Stennis Institute of Government. Salter said the goal of the series its to give students the chance to encounter, hear from and pose questions to public policy makers firsthand, and Reeves has been and will be one of Jackson’s biggest policy makers.
“As lieutenant governor, he will be one of the three very powerful figures in how legislation gets legs and gets life over the next four to eight years,” Salter said. “As treasurer, he has been very active in the state’s fiscal policy.”
There is another reason Reeves was invited, Salter said: Reeves, now 37, was only 29 years old when he won the treasurer’s office in 2003.
“I think he’ll be able to relate better to our students than some (state officials) of another generation,” Salter said. “I think the fact that he’s had so much success so young will inspire some on public policy and the pre-law track to believe they can also enjoy a similar success.”
Even though Reeves has already won the election, Salter said, he has more than a few reasons to visit MSU and, like the students, will benefit from the visit.
“Tate and his family have an affiliation with Mississippi State,” Salter said. “Tate attended Millsaps, but I think he has been a longtime fan and friend (of MSU.) His brother is an alumnus; others in his family are alumni. Mississippi State is one of the most successful — if not the most successful —university in the state right now. I think it’s a good appearance for him, and I think it’s an outstanding opportunity for us, and for MSU students to have a conversation with the next lieutenant governor of Mississippi.”
In a previous visit to Starkville during his campaign, Reeves said the state’s public universities and other school systems figure heavily into his plans for the state.
Reeves has served as chairman of the College Savings Mississippi Board, which he said has given 35,000 children the opportunity to attend college.
“I think we need a new kind of leadership, one (which) focuses on improving our education attainment level,” Reeves said. “We have a lot of room for improvement. We can improve in our K-12 system by reducing the number of dropouts.
“We can improve our state’s education attainment level by convincing more of those who are currently graduating to attend community college,” Reeves added. “We can also improve the education attainment level by taking those who are attending community colleges or are graduating and convincing them to enter into one of our four institutions of higher learning.”