Mississippi State Representative / College Senior
By Mary Branham, CSG Managing Editor
Jeramey Anderson is trying to think of a way to top his 22nd birthday celebration. That likely will be hard to do.
Anderson was sworn in as Mississippi’s youngest state representative Dec. 6, 2013, his birthday. He knew elective office was somewhere along his path in life, but Anderson didn’t expect it to happen so early. He is, after all, still in college.
Even though the Tulane University senior is sitting out this semester, he still feels like he’s in the classroom.
“What haven’t I learned?” Anderson said after his first few weeks of the legislative session. “It’s really just one big learning experience. You learn something new every single day in the legislature.”
It’s not just being young, he said, but also being brand new to the system.
“The language is so different,” he said. “Of course, you have different procedures and house rules and different things that you have learn and observe and then the lingo itself is so different, as far as the wording of bills and how things are said on the floor.
“Honestly I think of myself still in school this semester because I’m still learning.”
He plans to take a full load of classes in the summer, when the legislature is not in session, to complete his degree in homeland security with a minor in public relations.
Even though he still had time left on his degree, Anderson started contemplating a run for public office in 2012. He was looking at an alderman at-large position for his small community of Moss Point. The election was scheduled for fall of 2012 and Anderson thought that would be a good place to start.
But then-Rep. Billy Broomfield was toying with the idea of running for Moss Point mayor. Anderson talked with Broomfield about succeeding him in the legislature and decided the time was right.
“I’m a strong believer that when God has a plan for you, you follow that plan,” he said. When the opportunity presented itself, Anderson decided to put his hat in the ring. “If it’s meant to be, if it’s God’s will, we’ll do it. If it’s not, then it won’t happen.
But it did happen.
Anderson is grateful that his district had enough faith in him to elect him to the seat.
“Most agree that they definitely took a leap of faith,” he said. “Not every day do you see a house district elected a 21-year-old.”
He would, in fact, like to see it more often. Anderson hopes his service sends a message to other young people across the country to get involved.
“When I decided to run, one of my campaign points was that I was running to inspire my generation to be better than what’s being perceived of us,” he said, “to be better than the average Joe. When I ran, I ran specifically for that purpose to inspire young people to get involved.
“Even if you’re not interested in running for office, you need to get involved in the system because we’re making decisions that affect your everyday life, some of them you don’t even know about.”
That involvement is nothing new to Anderson—he’s been hooked on public service since he was a teenager.
Class president for his sophomore, junior and senior years in high school, Anderson got involved with Boys State and served as lieutenant governor for Mississippi during his junior year in high school. At Boys State, sponsored by the American Legion, members participate in the legislative process, including such things as holding committee meetings and passing bills.
But even before that, Anderson had sought ways to help his community. At age 16, he started Purple Knights of America Inc., a nonprofit organization that mentors boys ages 11 to 18. He incorporated the organization in 2012.
“We’re trying to expose these guys to opportunities they aren’t naturally afforded at home,” Anderson said. “A lot of the boys that we work with come from single parent households or where their grandparents are their guardian. With our organization, we try to give them that male influence, that father figure they’re lacking at home.”
When he started the organization, some of the participants were older than he was.
“It started with just some friends that were looking for something for positive to do,” Anderson said. “Of course we didn’t really know what we were doing, but we were looking for something positive. What came out of that was what we have today.”
Anderson also started Real South United, the first soccer recreation program in his community. It serves boys and young men ages 4 to 30.
Anderson’s attitude is about helping others. He’d like to focus part of his energies in the legislature to improve the education and corrections systems in Mississippi.
“On the outside we see kind of the overall picture of corrections or overall picture of education, but we don’t have opportunity to dig deep into our system,” he said. “I’m looking forward to doing that, especially during the time we’re out of session, … looking at our corrections system and education system to see how we can make improvements.”
He looks forward to starting that this summer—while also wrapping up a summer semester at Tulane and running his nonprofits.
He’s not a typical member of the millennial generation, but Anderson believes others can learn from his example. He gets calls from young people across the country seeking advice. That’s an achievement of which he is proud.
“That’s kind of what we set out to do, to spark the flame in young people to say, ‘This guy can do it, so can I,’” he said.