Being in a new culture, especially a culture so radically different from mine, means there is a new lesson around every corner.Sorrell Bourgeois / Hong Kong study abroad 2017
Florida State Senator focuses on reform, innovation
(Nov. 11, 2020) — Carson-Newman University’s 1999 alumnus, Jeff Brandes, serves as the state senator for Florida’s 24th district. Brandes seeks innovation and bold ideas to help meet the challenges of the day, which range from criminal justice reform and insurance to education and transportation.
Brandes’ office has focused heavily on criminal justice reform, including drafting the senate’s version of the state constitutional amendment allowing felons who are not convicted of murder or a sexual felony office and who have completed all terms of their sentencings to vote. This measure could open voting booths to as many as 1.4 million felons.
“As somebody who has worked on criminal justice reform for many years, I saw how that constitutional amendment needed to have somebody that was going to shepherd it through the process who was fair and open-minded to making sure that the spirit of the law was fully implemented,” Brandes said.
His office is always seeking forward-thinking ways to reform the criminal justice system, from education and job training to diversion opportunities and mentors for those leaving incarceration.
“We tend to focus on how we can use data and research to create a better criminal justice system that has improved outcomes and improved public safety,” he said.
He urges constituents to think big and bring forward bold ideas for how legislators can best serve millions across the state.
“Many areas of public policy require bold vision,” Brandes said. “One message that people need to understand is that much of the legislation that effects their day-to-day lives happens at the state level. People need to build a relationship with their legislators.”
A constituent calling his office will find that he is frequently the one to answer the phone. He encourages everyone to take the time to find out who their local state representative and state senator is, to meet with them, and to share what vision they have and what they want to accomplish.
“Make sure you’re thinking big, because we’re dealing with statewide issues that have implications for millions of people,” he added.
First elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2010, Brandes has held his seat in the State Senate since 2012. He chairs the senate committee on criminal and civil justice.
Brandes joined the U.S. Army shortly after high school and served in the U.S. Army Reserves until 2007. He served as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, went to work in the family lumber business and built a successful career in investment real estate. He currently serves on the board of directors for Tibbett’s Lumber.
The senator earned an AA from Marion Military Institute in 1996 and transferred to Carson-Newman, graduating in 1999. He is one of 13 family members to attend Carson-Newman. His mother, Mary Tibbetts Brandes, is a 1971 graduate and his grandmother, Polly Enix Tibbetts, began her collegiate career here in 1945.
He and his wife, Natalie, have three children, Lottie, Colin and Conor.