Jodi Emerson was excited about the experience of her first day as a legislator. Emerson, D-Eau Claire, was sworn in to her Assembly seat Monday afternoon.
“It was an absolute honor to have my friends and family here, and to be sworn in by Justice (Rebecca) Dallet,” Emerson said. “It was a beautiful ceremony, and it was filled with excitement. I’m excited about this session. There is a lot of excitement in the building; I heard from a lot of people that they haven’t felt that excitement in a while.”
Along with Emerson, Jesse James, R-Altoona, also was sworn in to office for the first time. The former Altoona police chief resigned his post last week ahead of being sworn in as Assemblyman. He was joined by 10 friends and family members, including all four of his children.
“I’m very excited,” James said. “I’m very honored and blessed to be serving the people of the 68th Assembly District. The reality hasn’t quite set in yet. But with my loved ones being down here, making the day of it, it was just quite an honor.”
With the swearing in and oath of office, the legislators took turns signing an official book, Emerson said. A few people spoke, and the legislators did some “housekeeping measures” of selecting some leaders of the party.
“It was very quick,” James said with a laugh of his first votes on the floor. “It was minor stuff, but it was exciting to be able to push that green button.”
Before running for office, Emerson worked for Fierce Freedom, which is an advocacy group promoting awareness of human trafficking. Emerson said that topic wouldn’t necessarily be among the first bills she sponsors.
“I’ve got my staff working on bills that are my own ideas,” she added.
Likewise, James said he’s eager to start working on bills on corrections and law enforcement matters and aiding children and families. One key goal is to create legislation that curtails the meth and opioid epidemic, he said.
“That’s where my passion is,” James said. “If we can address that, it will make our families better.”
Emerson replaces Rep. Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire, in the Legislature. James replaces Rep. Kathy Bernier, who moved to the Senate, claiming the seat previously held by the retiring Terry Moulton.
State Sen. Jeff Smith, D-town of Brunswick, also officially returned to the Legislature Monday. However, with only half of the Senate up every two years, he was among just 17 senators sworn in Monday.
“It is unique, because of the four-year terms,” Smith said. “It’s always great to share the big moments with family and friends.”
Smith agreed with Emerson that he heard a lot of positive comments about the changes, particularly after hearing a speech from Gov. Tony Evers.
“It gives us a lot of optimism, for a vibrant and new vision,” he said.
Smith said the first bill he would like to sign on for is redistricting reform.
“It’s really hit home with people, who didn’t realize how (gerrymandering) worked before,” Smith said.
Smith held the 93rd Assembly seat from 2007 until 2011. He lost his seat to Republican Warren Petryk in November 2010; he ran against Petryk again in 2014 but also lost. Smith replaces Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, who did not seek re-election after 12 years in the Senate.