State Representative Jason C. Stephens is serving his first term in the Ohio House. Stephens represents the 93rd House District, which includes Jackson and Gallia counties, and portions of Lawrence and Vinton counties. Stephens has a background in local government, having served as Lawrence County auditor and Lawrence County commissioner. Stephens graduated from Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics/Finance and Business Management.
Stephens is a small business owner and a licensed insurance agent at Stephens & Son Insurance Agency, Inc and is a co-owner of Stephens & Son Insurance of Chesapeake, Inc.
Why did you become involved in government?
I really care about my community and my area of the state. When I was in my twenties, I became involved in local politics, and in the year 2000 I was elected Lawrence County Commissioner at the age of 29. I have served as an elected official ever since. It is challenging at times to help move an area forward, but I enjoy making government work better for our people.
What are your legislative policy priorities or goals for the upcoming session?
I believe in making government at all levels operate in an efficient manner with the goal of helping, not hindering, the growth of the communities and individuals in our state. That being said, one goal of mine is to widen the access to broadband across Ohio. There are over 300,000 families across the state that do not have internet access, or only have internet access at unusable, low speeds. We need to do something to fix that and help the nearly 1 million Ohioans get access to internet. I believe that if we prioritize issues like broadband, we can help local governments better serve the people throughout the state of Ohio.
What surprises/unexpected challenges did you encounter when you started?
I had to buy some new suits and a couple of new pair of wingtips after being appointed State Representative. There is a little different dress code in Columbus than Southern Ohio.
If you could change one thing with the state system, what would it be?
I would like the state system to be less focused on the state system and more focused on the impact of state policy on the actual communities within our state. Our communities are what make Ohio such a great place to live.
How do you stay in touch with your district?
I stay on the move. My district is made up of four counties and is almost 1500 square miles, which is geographically bigger than the state of Rhode Island. I try to attend as many events as possible throughout my district, and I keep an open line of communication with the leaders of each community.
What is the most interesting/unusual request from a constituent?
Probably the most interesting requests are the ones where a few people think that I know every other elected official in the United States. The best (most entertaining) examples are when people ask me to tell national political figures (whom I have never met, by the way) what to do on some issue or another. Believe me, people can be quite passionate when it comes to these issues. The look on their face when I tell them that I don’t know the person they want me to tell can sometimes be pretty interesting.
What are some of the attractions or hotspots in your district?
The natural beauty of my district is amazing. From the ridges and the hollers, to the beautiful sunsets along the Ohio River, it truly is a great place to live. We have many state parks and the Wayne National Forrest. We also have some of the best small towns in America with all of the great festivals, parades, Friday night football and county fairs that make small town living the best.
Ohio is so diverse, what are the primary challenges you’re facing?
Although beautiful, my district faces a lot of geographical challenges when it comes to infrastructure development, and frankly, it is one of the reasons our part of the state still struggles economically. It is more expensive to build roads, run water lines, develop broadband internet service in our area, but it is essential for Ohio to invest in these vital infrastructure resources in order to keep our state growing in all regions.
What have you done to help your district?
I try to have a positive attitude. Sometimes, it is easy to look at our problems and be negative, but I believe in the future of Southern Ohio. I believe that we can move forward. At the local level, over the years, I have helped develop a power plant, a small hospital, a sewer plant, an industrial park, and many other projects. I believe that my experience in local government has been very helpful in developing policies at the state level that will continue to help my district greatly.
How has your district benefitted from the budget?
I was appointed after the budget had passed, but I am already thinking about the next biennium budget. We have so many challenges in our area, and we always have to be looking forward. I hope that budgets in the future will be continuously mindful of the fact that local governments are the actual implementers of most of the state’s policy. These local on-the-ground agencies and governments need the adequate resources and commonsense rules to effectively carry out good policy in an efficient and cost-effective manner.