Ellen Brandom reflects on years as state representative for 160th District

Monday, January 7, 2013
Ellen Brandom

SIKESTON, Mo. -- Mandated welfare drug testing and boosted state economic development are among accomplishments Ellen Brandom said she's most proud of during the six years she's served as state representative of the 160th District.

The 70-year-old Republican from Sikeston officially will say goodbye to the Missouri House of Representatives when the new legislative session begins Wednesday.

Brandom ran for the 27th District Senate seat but was defeated by Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau, during the August primary election. In running for Senate, Brandom also gave up the possibility of a fourth consecutive term as state representative.

But Brandom is leaving her position on a positive note. She said she's grateful for the opportunity and experience being state representative has given her over the years.

"I'm most appreciative of all the support from my district -- not only to elect me into office but those who were so helpful to provide the information I needed," Brandom said. "There were lots of issues I really didn't have the background to understand to consider."

Brandom, who served on the economic development committee, said the issues she related to in her district also are the ones that meant the most to her.

"We worked very hard [on] legislation to help the economy and job creation in Missouri, and I was really glad to be part of that -- even though not all of it got passed and signed by the governor," Brandom said.

One of the most important acts the committee passed that is used in Southeast Missouri is the Quality Jobs Act, Brandom said.

"That legislation was used as one of the enticements for Orgill to come to Sikeston and Pioneer Seed Co. to come to New Madrid," Brandom said. "That legislation I helped initiate in committee."

The most important legislation to Brandom personally, she said, was the bill that required welfare applicants and recipients to submit to drug testing.

"I have been assured that is going to be in effect in January," Brandom said. "The state has taken applications for new drug testing programs where any agency that uses drug testing will use the same test. When that contract is given out, the drug testing for welfare will begin."

Another highlight during her tenure was getting legislation passed that allowed Missouri counties to use electronic monitors for nonviolent prisoners they house in their jails -- even if it's for a few days.

"The state only reimburses a little over $19 per state prisoners per day, and the actual cost is $35 to $40 per prisoner per day, so they're losing money," Brandom said.

She also chaired the professional registration and licensing committee. She noted there are 40,000 people in the state who receive licensing.

"We worked really hard on where we tightened the Board of Healing Arts' ability to take action quicker on doctor danger," Brandom said. The board oversees doctors in Missouri.

Over the years, Brandom has served on several committees, including agriculture appropriations, financial institutions, health-care transformation, disaster recovery and corrections.

The agriculture appropriations committee hit home, Brandom said.

"I learned how much money the agriculture department receives and [how it] is spent," Brandom said. "I learned about the great shortage of veterinarians for large animals, which I didn't know."

Brandom said the best and most rewarding part of her service was helping her constituents solve some of their problems.

"It was always a priority of my staff to do the best we could to help every constituent we had that called with problems. The agencies knew us well," Brandom said. "Fortunately, I have a tenacious legislative assistant who could help people get answers to their problems."

Brandom said she's sure her successor, Holly Rehder, will offer the same assistance. She also noted some of the people who were in her district will not be in Rehder's district, which was redrawn and is now the 148th District.

State Rep. Steve Hodges, D-East Prairie, Mo., who was elected the same time as Brandom, said Brandom responded well in service to her district.

"Ellen and I were always very amiable. I appreciate the job she did up there [in Jefferson City]. She's very intelligent," Hodges said.

Hodges couldn't recall he and Brandom ever serving on any committees together over the past six years.

"But I know she was very interested in what she did and was passionate about it," Hodges said.

He continued: "This opportunity is a lot more than people think. It's pretty demanding of your time, consideration and intellect -- and you have to be very patient. You get inquiries from different subjects and different areas."

Brandom said she definitely has more patience now than ever before.

And with the new year also comes new beginnings for Brandom.

"I plan to catch up on lots of personal paperwork and responsibilities, and enjoy visiting with family members," Brandom said.

Unfortunately, Brandom said, none of her family members lives in the Sikeston area so she will have to travel a little bit.

"I've also been asked to participate in a couple of projects in Sikeston," Brandom said. "And I'm more than happy to help on them."

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