When Russell Bennett arrived at the Mississippi Bankers Association to assume his duties as vice president for government relations, the public perception of the banking and financial services industries was at an all-time low.
However, the Jackson native has worked with the Mississippi Legislature for the past three years to reverse the perception. Bennett said his purpose was to ensure that lawmakers didn’t respond to unfavorable news reports of the banking industry by enacting laws that would hurt Mississippi banks and the overall economy of the state.
“We forged some trusting relationships to educate policy makers about the financial industry,” he said. “I feel like my success in these efforts is shown by the lack of legislation at the state level that would be adverse to the industry.”
Bennett added that he’s worked diligently to defeat anti-business and anti-banking legislation that otherwise would have increased litigation.
The MBA represents 104 Mississippi banks and savings institutions. The 37-year-old defines his role at the state capital as a “watchdog” for his banking constituents.
“Partnering with other business associations, we protect and promote pro-business public policies,” Bennett said. “These contributions are vital to the health of Mississippi’s business climate. My most valuable personal skill is the ability to see the ‘big picture’ and facilitate communication among people on both sides of the fence.”
His father, Marshall, serves as the young Bennett’s role model.
“My dad has been a caring father and a constant mentor to me,” Bennett said. “He has served our state in a number of public offices and has always been humble, hones and hard working. I try to emulate his example and earn the respect of my peers.”
State Rep. George Flaggs isn’t surprised by Bennett’s success as a lobbyist, having known him on both a professional and personal level for many years.
“Russell’s greatest attribute is the possession of an innate ability to excel in whatever endeavor he’s undertaken,” Flaggs said. “He has equipped himself with the necessary skills for his role in the public and governmental relations arena.”
An Ole Miss football fan, Bennett enjoys hunting and fishing in his leisure time.
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