TUPELO • When Rickey Thompson is sworn in for his first term in the Mississippi House of Representatives next month, he plans to use the elected position to advocate for improvements to healthcare and public education within the state.
Thompson, a Democrat, will be representing Mississippi’s 16th House district and wants a salary increase for public educators. However, Thompson believes teacher's assistants often get overlooked when state leaders discuss pay bumps.
“I think teacher’s assistants also deserve a pay increase,” said Thompson, a native of Lee County.
To help fill a shortage of public educators in the state, Thompson also wants a way for teacher’s assistants to become fully licensed teachers. While there are alternate routes for people who don't hold an education degree to become a certified teacher, Thompson believes there should be a separate bridge program for teacher’s assistants.
“Assistants already know what’s happening in the classroom,” he said.
Thompson said he wanted to run for the legislature to make his area “better for others.”
“I feel like we needed someone in office to bring different and fresh ideas to the state,” he said.
Thompson has a long history of holding political office in Lee County, having served as an election commissioner and a justice court judge. He is also a licensed nurse and Thompson believes this experience make him primed to make reforms to healthcare and the state’s justice system — an issue where he thinks the two topics go hand-in-hand.
Thompson said the state’s justice system should tackle the issue of opioid addiction, which he wants treated like a public health issue. In order to do this, though, Thompson believes all Mississippians need to have access to quality healthcare, especially those have been incarcerated for crimes related to drugs.
“You have to have resources in place for them when they get out of jail,” he said.
While Thompson did offer ideas related to healthcare, education and criminal justice reform, Thompson did not yet have concrete ideas on how to repair the state’s crumbling infrastructure.
When asked about his thoughts to any form of a gasoline tax increase, Thompson said he had not yet formed an opinion on the topic, but he would be open to studying the issue further and speaking to local elected officials and citizens to gather their input.
Thompson defeated longtime state Rep. Steve Holland in the general election in November. Thompson’s district encompasses portions of Monroe and Lee counties.