JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) -As new Mississippi officials are sworn in, one is in his final days. Governor Phil Bryant has less than a week left in office. He first served in the legislature, then as State Auditor and Lt. Governor. But he says the thing he thinks he was unprepared for was the sheer time demands for the office of Governor. He described the juggling act and fondly looked back on his tenure.
“We worked hard," said Bryant. "Proud of the things we’ve done.”
In this time of reflection, that seems to be the overwhelming thought for Phil Bryant. He’s proud of many changes and accomplishments during his tenure.
“If I had one thing to talk about it would be public education,” added Bryant.
He points to the third grade reading gate, special needs scholarships, early childhood programs and increased graduation rates.
“Foster care...we separated child protection services from department of human services. Now, we’ve doubled the number of adoptions. Foster children in custody are now down by 13 percent.”
He also says he’s glad the religious freedoms legislation was signed into law despite the naysayers.
“Economic development," he added as another accomplishment. "The number of jobs, almost 80,000, that’s been created. 5.3 billion dollars of private investment. Those are things I hope people will look to and remember.”
We asked if there was anything that didn’t get quite wrapped up that he wishes he’d been able to see that all the way through.
“I don’t have many regrets but when we began criminal justice reform and part of that saved us about 33 million dollars and asking the legislature to put that money back in.”
Bryant doesn't think the latest crisis would've happened had the legislature followed the request to reinvest those dollars into the system.
“Maybe I should’ve pushed harder on that,” he admits.
But he says it was a time when there were other money demands but he's still pleased with the overall progress of criminal justice reform.
So, what’s next for Phil Bryant?
“I’m not sure," he said. "I love economic development. I love Mississippi. I want to continue to help Mississippi but I’ve always realized you can’t take your eye off of this ball being governor. You cannot turn away from your duties to do something else.”
Bryant explains that his relationship with President Trump has made a significant impact and believes it’s served an important role for the state. He points to various cabinet members who have visited the state to see various projects. We asked if the future may include more time in D.C.
“We will see if there is an opportunity that I feel comfortable with then we’ll explore that in the future,” said Bryant.
One of the more immediate plans for Bryant will include a return to the campaign trail for President Trump’s re-election bid.