It hasn't always been pretty in the past six years for former State Representative David “Bubba” Powers of Hope; but Powers could always, in the words of a sage performer, “Git 'er done.”
“I was thinking about that not long ago,” Powers recalled in a recent interview. “Although we all campaign and act as though we have all the answers going forward, that's not true.”
Powers said every representative's first term should be spent learning the process, and building an expertise for himself or herself to rely upon in that process.
“I think the average person would be a little overwhelmed and surprised by the parliamentary, I don't want to really term them tricks, but the parliamentary protocol,” he said. “The other thing you do is develop a reputation. It can be as simple as when you say something people can count on that.”
Government and those that govern are not all self-serving, Powers said.
“Most of the people I have worked with, whether Republican or Democrat, we may differ about issues, we may differ philosophically, to a degree, but, most of them really have their constituents' interest at heart,” he said. “What I believe makes a good legislator is, not only someone who can walk on both sides of the aisle, and doesn't mind voting for issues that a Republican has or a Democrat has; it has to be legislation that is going to benefit Arkansas, because that is what you are there for: to take your state forward and make sure your citizens and their children all have the best opportunities possible.”
Consequently, without the gravitas to be taken seriously at one's word, a legislator stands the risk of simply becoming furniture, Powers noted.
“You can go up there and vote; but, ultimately, in issues that mean something, not only to the folks back home, but to the entire state, there has to be a reputation to be able to think and understand and be someone you can depend on,” he said.
Putting all of that into practice doesn't come until the second term, Powers notes.
“Everybody has their niche,” he said. “When I went to Little Rock, I was not an expert in public utility law. I learned a great deal from a lot of smart people and a lot of input from folks back home. My niche was in judiciary issues and age and children's issues; that's where I spent my time in committees.
“But, you learn to be able to look at issues; and, that is why knowing people is so important,” Powers said. “When I sat in a budget committee hearing and the director of the department of health is presenting a budget, then I go and talk to people who are experts in that field, knowing that what they tell me I can trust, I can have a better understanding of what I'm voting on.”
Page 2 of 2 - Understanding compromise is essential, he said.
“It's knowing what fifty people, plus you will support; and, knowing that your reputation will precede you, that's why it's important to develop your reputation in the first term,” Powers said. “That's a long way to go to say, simply that I don't think there was anything that I wanted to get accomplished that I didn't get done.”
Git 'er done.
“I ran a lot of legislation for DHS, and ran a fair amount in the judiciary committee and affected juvenile justice law,” Powers said. “Those were things I was glad to do; and, by and large, I'm satisfied. I think I presented a couple of bills my first term that didn't get out of committee; but, that was a good pre-season game for me, to get slapped down a little bit and to know how to be prepared in the future.”
Learn, then, work hard. Git' er done.
“When you're not in Little Rock, you spend your time listening to the folks back home,” Powers said. “And, there were things that you just simply couldn't possibly get done; so, I didn't win every battle. But, I won most of them that I really had an interest in, and I'm proud of that.
“I think we've been fortunate in Hempstead County over the last decade and more to have had good legislators; not just here, but in Southwest Arkansas,” he added. “You could start naming names like Jim Hill, Larry Teague, Chris Thomason, Sandra Rodgers, Steve Harrelson, Randy Stewart, Larry Cowling, Ken Cowling... we've had people that just to be among that group has made me proud.”
Powers' impression of newly-seated State Representative Brent Talley, D-McCaskill?
“He will make a solid impression of being trustworthy, and he is not afraid to work; so, I think he is going to hold his own,” Powers said.