The person who replaces state Sen. Alice Harden, who died earlier this month, will have some big shoes to fill to continue Harden's legacy of fighting for public education.
One person who thinks she's up to the job is Harden's niece, Tamarra Grace Butler.
"Never forget whose you are and who you are," is the most valuable lesson Butler said she learned from Harden, a reminder to remember where she comes from and the people who helped her along the way.
For Butler, a Jim Hill High School graduate and resident of west Jackson's Washington Addition neighborhood, that means in part continuing Harden's work on education issues. Butler said she wants to improve the relationship between Jackson Public Schools and the Legislature as well as attract and retain Mississippi teachers by increasing their salaries.
Butler said she would like to keep public school funding in public schools, referring to legislation that will likely arise in the coming legislative session. Butler said she would have to look at the particulars of the bill before deciding whether she would vote yes or no to establish charter schools, which are publicly funded but run by private organizations.
A community health advisor for the American Cancer Society, Butler focuses on promoting cancer prevention in minority communities. She said her work has demonstrated the need for the state to expand Medicaid under the federal health-care law known as the Affordable Care Act. The decision on whether to grow the state's Medicaid rolls is expected to be the focus of intense debate during the session.
She also wants to work on economic development along U.S. Highway 80, and is encouraged by the city's decision to relocate a number of offices and services in Metrocenter mall.
Butler received bachelor and master's degrees from Alcorn State University and the University of Southern Mississippi, respectively. In addition, she clerked in the state Senate for former Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck.
A special election for Senate District 28, which is approximately west-central Jackson, including Jackson State University, is scheduled for Feb. 5.