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Five questions with Rep. Donna Lichtenegger, R-Jackson

1. What was your first campaign experience?

My first campaign experience was in 1974 with my husband who was running John Ashcroft’s campaign for state auditor. Personally, my first campaign was in 2000 [for state representative] and I lost by 25 votes.

Rep. Donna Lichtenegger
Rep. Donna Lichtenegger

2. In what ways have you made a tangible effect on your constituents’ lives during the past legislative session?

I think the biggest thing any state [representative] can do is listen, and I’ve tried very, very hard to listen to my constituents. They want someone who will listen to them. You don’t always have to agree with them, just listen to what they have to say. I answer every email myself because I think they want to communicate and I figure if they are willing to send an email, I’m going to be willing [to respond]. If it’s something where I’m getting multiple emails from the same person that doesn’t live in my district, then maybe I won’t respond after a while, but I try to otherwise.

3. Who from the opposing party do you most respect? And your own party?

In the opposing party, I work well with Jeanne Kirkton because she agreed to be my co-chair on the Oral Health Issues Committee, and at least I can talk to Jeanne. Even if you disagree with the other side, sometimes you can find an inkling of something to discuss. I’m a dental hygienist so I think my colleagues know me and trust my judgment.

I respect a lot of people from my own party. I’ve known Jason Smith for years so I’m a huge fan of [him]. I was really happy when he was elected to Congress. I am also very much impressed with Todd Richardson and T.J. Berry, John Diehl, Tim Jones, Jeanie Riddle — they’re all usually cool and business-like and for the most part will listen to you. You’ve got to listen to your members.

4. What was your dream job growing up?

I wanted to do something in the medical field, but I didn’t know what. For the longest time, I wanted to be a physical therapist, but my dentist kind of drove me into that field because when ever I went to see him, he knew I would love to be there. He would let me stay there for half a day and I started doing stuff around his office during high school and got real experience in the field.

5. What do you most enjoy about the interim?

This year is quite different for me. My husband has cancer, so it has been a really hard summer. Normally, I like that I can talk to my constituents, and I planned to have an educational meeting with administrators and teachers, and another one with parents, but everything got pushed aside. You have to go with your priorities.