Strain praises work of public safety departmentBy NIKKI ROWELL,
Many people know Warren Strain as the man who provides information on high profile cases across the state. However, when he isn’t representing the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, he serves his city on the Madison Board of Aldermen.
Before either of those positions, Strain got his professional start as an on-air personality on a radio show in ’76.
“I came through broadcasting through television and radio,” he said of his career.
Strain worked in broadcasting for nearly 20 years for many radio and television stations before he made the move into the public relations field in ’94 with the Mississippi Gaming Commission when he became the Director of Public Affairs.
“That’s the state casino regulators,” he said. “I did that and then came over here (to the Department of Public Safety) in 2000.”
“This is a great agency,” he said of the Department of Public Safety. “It’s a big, tight knit, close group. A great group of people. It’s amazing really.”
Strain said he feels like the department does a lot of good through its various campaigns, including “Click it or Ticket.”
“Click it or Ticket started in Mississippi as a pilot program and has since spread nationwide,” Strain said.
According to Strain, when the program began in the early 2000s, the seatbelt usage rate in Mississippi clocked in at around 50 percent.
“Now, it is up to a more than 80 percent usage rate, and the number of fatalities has decreased since then,” Strain said.
He added that the department is looking at ways to get that number higher.
Strain said every day is different for him as the Communications Director for the Department of Public Safety. His day could include anything from responding to media inquiries to Amber Alerts.
“There’s always a lot going on,” Strain said.
He deals a lot with Amber Alerts, Silver Alerts and Endangered Missing Child Alerts.
Strain said he was instrumental in bringing the Amber Alert system, which launched in December 2002, to Mississippi.
“It was a passion that we had,” he said. “It’s very satisfying to know we have this group of people who are passionate about protecting our children and doing whatever it takes to try and get these children back in safe arms.”
Typically, he will go with investigators and answer media questions and release information that the department is able to put out.
“My role is instrumental in releasing information for surrounding areas to be on the lookout for suspects,” he said. “Such as, ‘If you come into contact with this person or know where they may be, contact the authorities.’ And that type of thing. We answer anything that we can as long as it doesn’t hinder the investigation.”
Strain said public safety is the most important facet of a successful municipality.
“Without public safety nothing else matters,” he said. “You can have the best schools. You can have economic development. You can have all of these other government components, but without public safety, none of that really matters.”
Strain first decided to run for alderman when there was an unexpired term open on the board.
“So, I filed the paperwork, and nobody filed to run against me,” he said. “So, I got to finish out that term.”
The next time he ran, he won.
He serves as Alderman at Large and Mayor Pro Tem.
When he was 13 years old, he served as a page in the House of Representatives.
“Ever since then, I have followed and been interested in government and how it works,” he said. “I never really pursued being an elected official until the opportunity came along.”
When the opportunity presented itself, Strain talked it over with his wife, some trusted friends that he goes to for advice, the Mayor and other aldermen before he decided to go for it.
“I think what we do in Madison is important,” he said. “It’s incredibly important in terms of trying to maintain the city that we have. We are very proud of the work that has been put in there, and we want to maintain that.”
He said public safety is the main component.
“We spend a large part of the city’s budget on public safety, because that’s very important,” he said. “We want to maintain property values. We have not had a tax increase in a significant amount of time. We have excellent schools. Those are all pieces of the puzzle to have a successful municipality, and we want to maintain that.”
“It’s a wonderful place to live,” he said. Strain and his family have lived in Madison for 17 years.
He and his wife Sandra have two children, Tiffany, 21, and Brandon, 16.
When he isn’t responding to media inquiries or serving his city on the board, you can probably find Strain with his family or supporting the local schools at sporting events.
“We are deeply involved in the school system,” Strain said. “It is very important to us to maintain the excellence of our school system.”