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LOU Women on the Move: Kilpatrick Looks to Move from the Courtroom to Legislature

By Talbert Toole
Lifestyles Editor

*Editor’s Note: Hottytoddy.com is reinstating its “Lafayette-Oxford-University (LOU) Women on the Move” series with women who are on the forefront of their respective career fields. In its second installment, Hottytoddy.com editor Talbert Toole interviews Tiffany Kilpatrick who is running for Mississippi District 12 House of Representatives, which encompasses the city of Oxford and parts of Lafayette County.

Photo courtesy of Tiffany “T” Kilpatrick for House of Representatives.

At the age of 17, Tiffany Kilpatrick began to plant her roots in the Oxford community with the hope that the roots would blossom into a budding career. She wanted to continue the dream she laid out for herself since her adolescent years—practicing law and defending what she called “fairness” in the judicial system.

Born and raised in Mississippi, Kilpatrick, commonly known as ‘T’ by friends and family, decided she wanted to become a lawyer at a very young age. As she practiced her cursive writing, she recalled writing a letter to her grandmother which read, “I will be a great lawyer one day.”

Kilpatrick said her passion for law stemmed from the ideology of protecting and defending “fairness.” As she studied and worked diligently through grammar school, a document hung in her practiced cursive on her bedroom wall – “The Bill of Rights.”

“I don’t know why but I just loved the law,” she said. “I just love the idea of fairness.”

However, Kilpatrick’s story of pursuing her dream differs from the standard of simply graduating high school and moving onto higher education. She took a different path by not finishing high school and enrolling in the early entrance program at the University of Mississippi. With her high school counselor advising her on the matter, Kilpatrick took the chance with a paid-for education at the university.

Upon graduation, she continued to seek out her dream by attending the University of Mississippi School of Law and receiving her Juris Doctor degree, cum laude, in 2005. Kilpatrick, now practicing law for 14 years, said she had always wanted to be a public defender – “always,” she repeated with enthusiasm.

Kilpatrick began her law career in family law, criminal defense and civil rights. As she described her experience in the Lafayette County Courthouse, Kilpatrick mentioned how she is also the public defender for youth court. She said she began to realize a correlation between the large white building in the middle of the Square and the municipal courthouse (where youth court is held) adjacent to it.

“Now I defend the children, who eventually will come here, if we don’t fix it,” she said. “If we don’t fix them down there they will end up here.”

Campaigning for Children

This correlation between the two courthouses and the cases both oversee led Kilpatrick to one of her main platforms as she campaigns to be the next legislator for the Mississippi District 12 House of Representatives—education.

Tiffany ‘T’ Kilpatrick discusses legal matters with a colleague in the courtroom of the Lafayette County Courthouse. Photo by Talbert Toole.

The daughter of a public school teacher and a student of the public education system herself, Kilpatrick said the infrastructure of schools in Mississippi is a cause for several issues within the state.

As students flock to public libraries to gain access to the internet for homework, Kilpatrick said these smaller issues lead to bigger issues and the cycle continues.

“We have to start with education so we have a workforce [in Mississippi],” she said.

Kilpatrick’s number one issue with the education system in the state is over-testing of students. She said Mississippi does more testing in the public school system than is required by the federal government. In 2018, the Mississippi Department of Education renewed its 10-year contract with Questar—an independently-operated subsidiary of Educational Testing Service—for over $10 million. The state must renew the contract each year prior to the beginning of the fiscal year. 

“We can easily stop that,” Kilpatrick said. “We can do testing in other places.”

Kilpatrick said the $10 million that the state is using could not only be used for college entrance exams, like the ACT, but also to pay teachers a better wage.

“Our teachers are too stressed out,” she said.

Bridging the Gaps

In Kilpatrick’s line of work, she said lawyers do not place cases solely in courtrooms to be tried; she said real lawyers work out the issues at hand—a tactic she plans to take to Jackson and implement in the state’s legislature.

Kilpatrick said she is the type of lawyer who listens to the opposing side while still being able to effectively communicate her position.

“Jackson needs somebody who will go down there and start bridging gaps,” she said.

Once elected to the House of Representatives, Kilpatrick said she plans to continue actively engaging the community; however, she said she will be also be reaching out to districts outside her own.

With Oxford being a “destination town,” Kilpatrick said many constituents in District 12 have concerns with Oxford’s rapid growth. Infrastructure is a statewide situation that Oxonians also have many concerns with, such as the widening of Highway 7, Kilpatrick said. Although both situations go hand-in-hand, she said infrastructure is another top priority to address once she represents District 12 in the state Capitol.

Kilpatrick will face Republican candidate Clay Deweese for District 12 House of Representatives on Nov. 6 in the general election.

For more information on Tiffany ‘T’ Kilpatrick, visit her campaign website.

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