Sen. Dean Kirby, R-Pearl

Sen. Dean Kirby, R-Pearl, is poised to be elected during the opening day of the 2020 legislative session on Jan. 7 as president pro tempore of the Mississippi Senate for the next four-year term.

“All things point in that direction,” Kirby told Mississippi Today. “I do not have an opponent (for the post) and I have the votes as of right now. Of course, the senators still have to vote.”

The pro-tem, elected by the 52 members of the state Senate, is a constitutionally created position and presides in the absence of the lieutenant governor. The pro-tem also chairs the Rules Committee and oversees the management of the Senate and is third in line in gubernatorial succession.

Kirby, who has served in the Senate since 1992, said he has commitments from all but one senator. He said he has been unable to reach one senator, whose identity he did not want to reveal.

Traditionally, the pro-tem and lieutenant governor work closely together. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, who is the lieutenant governor-elect, praised Kirby.

“Dean Kirby is one of the most well-respected members of the Senate, and I’m so pleased his colleagues support and recognize his leadership,” Hosemann said.

Kirby, who owns an insurance agency, previously has served as chair of both the Finance and Insurance committees. For the past eight years, Kirby, has served as chair of the Public Health Committee.

Numerous members confirmed their support of Kirby for the post.

“I do support him,” said Sen. Angela Turner-Ford, D-West Point. “I have never seen him respond in any way that was inappropriate. I have always found him to be respectful of others, and I respect him. I know he is a long serving member of the Senate, and I believe he is going to provide good guidance.”

Sen. Brice Wiggins, R-Pascagoula, said he has enjoyed working closely with Kirby. Wiggins was vice chair of Public Health that was chaired by Kirby, and, in addition, Kirby served on the Medicaid Committee chaired by Wiggins.

“It has been a good working relationship,” Wiggins said. “Plus he has taught me some things. I appreciate what he has done. In addition to that he has the experience in the chamber to understand the position of pro-tem. So yes, I think he will make a good pro-tem when the time comes.”

While Kirby stressed that the senators still have to vote and that he is not taking the election for granted, he said he is excited about the possibility of serving as “the senator’s senator,” which is the moniker that has been given to the post.

“I am as excited as I was when I was first sworn in,” he said.

In the 2016 session, Sen. Terry Burton, R-Newton, was elected pro-tem, but resigned from the post during the 2019 session after being arrested on driving under the influence charges. Sen. Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, was elected to the post to fill out the remaining months of the past four-year term. Tollison did not seek re-election.

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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.