SIKESTON - For Ellen Brandom, the 160th District's new state representative, being a good legislator means being a good listener.
Whether sitting at a lunch table with senior citizens at the Sikeston OAKS Center or across a conference table from an AT&T executive, Brandom said she listens and learns more each day.
"I have found it helpful to visit the places that are affected by funding from Jefferson City, to listen and learn about them. Then when legislation comes up these experiences guide my vote," said Brandom.
Describing her first weeks in office as interesting, Brandom added she is working hard. "There is a lot to learn but I'm trying to learn as fast as I can."
From her conversations with senior citizens and those working with them, Brandom said she is concerned about the needs of seniors for services such as Meals on Wheels and transportation. In a meeting with the governor and other senators and legislators last week, she voiced those concerns.
According to Brandom, House Speaker Rod Jetton has agreed to establish a committee to explore seniors' needs and services in depth. Over the summer, the issues will be studied to determine what Missouri can do to expand what is offered.
Already she has contacted local senior center administrators in her district and encourages other senior citizens to contact her about their needs.
"I think these are important issues to our area," she said. "If people have input that they want to share, this would be the time to share it. With more people growing older, the needs are only going to increase."
Another issue Brandom is hearing a lot about since her election as representative involves the cemeteries which were taken over by Sikeston and Scott County. In addition to speaking with county and city leaders, Brandom said she has spent time working with lawyers from the attorney general's office.
Currently, Brandom is working on a bill to deal with the problem. As part of the preparation she is meeting with officials from cemetery and funeral associations when she returns to Jefferson City on Monday.
"These problem need to be resolved, we just can't wait to bury people," said Brandom, "We need to look at how we audit these funds for prepaid burials and cemetery plots. Missouri will have to improve the auditing procedures so we know that money doesn't disappear."
Scott County officials have approached Brandom about seeking a state solution to the dwindling monies for emergency 911 services, which currently are funded through land line telephone usage. As more individuals opt for cell phones, those providing 911 services have seen their tax revenues decline.
Brandom said she has had conversations with AT&T officials about a way to finance 911 services. She added with the rapidly changing world of communication, any legislation will have to take into account all types of telecommunication devices.
While it is important that she listen to her constituents, Brandom is working to ensure the House leadership also hear local voices. To make this possible, Brandom is hosting a roundtable discussion with House Speaker Jetton at 2 p.m. April 13 at the Scott County Courthouse.
During the meeting, civic and business leaders are invited to voice concerns as well as constituents of the 160th District.
"My campaign promise was to be sure the 160th had a strong voice in state government. Since we can't all go to Jefferson City, this will give constituents in this area an opportunity to ask questions," Brandom said.
And, she urges voters to continue to call, write or e-mail their views on issues.
"I really encourage constituents to make me aware of legislation they are interested in," she said. "Already this year there have been 1100 bills introduced so I may not be aware of something unless I'm serving on that committee. But if they let me know I will look it up and be aware of their concerns."