Of the 13 candidates to qualify for the May 12 special election to fill Mississippi’s 1st Congressional Seat, only Fulton’s Chip Mills hails from Itawamba County, one of the 21 counties in the congressional district.
The Times recently held a Q&A session with Mills to ask why he wanted to run for Congress, what he plans to do if elected, and why he believes an Itawamba County resident is the right man for the job.
Q: For those who don't know you, can you provide a little bit of background information?
A: I grew up in Monroe and Itawamba counties. I graduated from IAHS and after that went to Ole Miss, where I was a walk-on member of the football team. I have a degree in mechanical engineering as well as a law degree from the University of Mississippi. I tried criminal cases as an Assistant District Attorney for a few years before starting my own law practice. In addition to local folks and businesses, today I represent the City of Fulton and the Town of Mantachie. I am the Itawamba County Prosecuting Attorney.
[My wife] Jada has taught in K-12 schools and today teaches at Itawamba Community College. I’m very proud to say she will receive her PhD in education this May.
After school, Jada and I chose to move home to Fulton to raise our family here. We have two little boys, Luke and Levi, who keep us very busy. We're very proud of them.
Q: Why did you decide to run for Congress? What led to that decision?
A: As most folks know, I am a proactive community-oriented person. This is a difficult time for our country. Our economy is struggling. Every day, we face threats from abroad. Families are suffering, from attacks on family values and from over-taxation. Washington itself is broken. Jada and I often think about the world we will leave our children. As opposed to sitting back and complaining, I want to actively work to resolve the issues that threaten our country’s future. I see this election as an opportunity to do that. I want to be part of the solution.
Q: What makes you more qualified than any of your opponents?
A: It is time to dispense with politics as usual in Washington. It is time for new conservative leadership. I am not a career politician like most of my opponents. The only special interest group I represent are the folks of North Mississippi. I will bring new energy and fresh leadership to the table. Both the metropolitan and rural portions of our district deserve a loud voice. I know that I can give all of North Mississippi a voice in Washington. And I have the energy to serve tirelessly.
My work with municipal and county governments has given me insight into how good government should work. I understand local needs such as roads and bridges and good schools. I also understand how senseless regulation and taxation by Washington stands in the way of local economic growth.
Being married to a teacher, Jada, has given me a deep respect for education. Strong schools are essential to strong communities. Schools teach us values and how to be good citizens. They also play an important role in economy. An educated workforce is essential to attracting industry and jobs to our area.
Q: Your advertising campaign so far focuses on "sending Itawamba to Washington." If elected, how will you work to benefit the people in your home county?
A: I want to be a Congressman for all of North Mississippi, including, of course, Itawamba County. We feel blessed to call Itawamba home. Folks from Itawamba County are hard-working, tax-paying, church going men and women. I believe our nation's capital could benefit from a strong dose of Itawamba Values.
I will serve Itawamba County by being a Congressman to whom Itawambians can actually talk and relate. While in Washington, I will always have their best interests in mind.
I will also serve Itawamba County by making all of North Mississippi stronger, by fighting for investments in jobs and by promoting all forms of education and work-force training programs.
Q: What will be your priorities if elected? What will be some of your first year goals?
A: My top priorities are the economy, our national security and protecting traditional family values.
I will fight the senseless regulation and over-taxation, including repealing and replacing Obamacare, that inhibits economic growth. I will work every day to bring jobs to North Mississippi. I will fully support community colleges and their workforce education programs.
I will fully support and fund our military. I will work with national leaders to secure our borders and make all of America, including North Mississippi, safe.
I will devote my first year to these priorities. In addition, during my first year, I would like to meet with and listen to as many people across the district as possible, including people in Itawamba County, to better understand how I can serve them best.
Q: What do you personally see are the greatest needs in our area?
A: The short answer: Jobs. Continued investment in education, with an emphasis on workforce training. Continued investment in the kind of infrastructure that industry depends on.
I also think the people of this district need a leader who shares their values. Someone who listens and who walks the walk. Alan Nunnelee did that. I intend to do that, too. I intend to serve the people of this district, not myself and not special interests.
Q: Finally, can you provide a pitch for your campaign? Why should people vote for you?
A: This election is not about me. It's about the future of our country and North Mississippi. The people of this district deserve a Congressman who knows them because he is one of them. They deserve a Congressman who will listen to the people of North Mississippi, as opposed to playing political games in Washington.
I believe in North Mississippi. I believe in our people and our values. And I have the energy to serve. I encourage folks to check out my campaign Facebook page, where they can see how hard I'm working to earn their vote every single day. I pledge to you that I will tirelessly serve all of this district with the strength and humility it deserves.
Mills has plenty of competition facing him in the race to fill Mississippi’s 1st Congressional seat, left vacant by the death of longtime Congressman Alan Nunnelee. The election is non-partisan, which means that all candidates’ names will appear on the ballot. The top two vote getters on May 12 will advance to a runoff election on June 2, should no candidate receive a majority vote.
A full list of candidates follows:
• Boyce Adams – Columbus businessman
• Sam Adcock – Columbus businessman
• Nancy Collins – State senator, R-Tupelo
• Ed Holliday – Tupelo dentist
• Starner Jones – Memphis emergency room physician
• Trent Kelly – District Attorney of Saltillo
• Chip Mills – Itawamba County prosecuting attorney
• Greg Pirkle – Tupelo attorney
• Henry Ross – Eupora lawyer
• Daniel Sparks – Tishomingo County attorney
• Mike Tagert – Transportation Commissioner
• Quentin Whitwell – Oxford attorney
• Walter Howard Zinn Jr. – Pontotoc attorney