Business News for the Mississippi Delta

Anne Hall Brashier

Chief of Staff for Governor Tate Reeves

By Jack Criss  •  Photography by Greg Campell

Anne Hall Brashier’s path to becoming the Chief of Staff for Governor Tate Reeves in January, the first female in state history to ever assume that role, was something the Indianola native never would have imagined growing up in Indianola. 

In her current role, Brashier is responsible for leading the Governor’s staff, as well as the eleven executive agencies that report directly to him. She previously had served as the Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff overseeing his policy and legislative agendas, among other positions, as well as his interim Chief of Staff.

But, these critical political roles and the position she now holds was not how she intended her life’s career to go, she says.

While in college at Ole Miss, Brashier’s major was Exercise Science, not exactly the usual starting point for any political position, let alone Chief of Staff for a governor.

“Yes, my dream was to become a physical therapist initially,” says Brashier.  “I played sports growing up, and still do as a matter of fact. So, as an athlete, I had to get physical therapy on a few occasions and connected with it. However, when I got into college and started having to do the internships required for my degree, I quickly realized that I wouldn’t be working so much with fellow athletes but instead with broken hips, bad knees and elderly out-patient clinic work. That opened my eyes a little bit and helped change my career direction. However, with the Exercise Science major, I did pick up a great deal of critical thinking skills due to the math and science courses I took and I also took many psychology classes which, I have to say, comes in handy in the world of politics,” she says. 

Brashier says that her greatest life learning and lessons, though, came from her family and where and how she was raised.

“I grew up in Indianola, went to Indianola Academy and my family still lives there, in fact,” says Brashier. “Needless to say, I’m a true Deltan. My parents, John Rodgers and Patricia, and my grandparents, Rodgers and Bette Brashier, have farmed in Indianola for generations and so I was exposed to agriculture, including doing farm work, and that lifestyle from the time I was born. I actually grew up on the same farm where my dad did.  Our roots run deep there and I know that the Delta influences me, and my work in state government today, on many levels. In fact, I credit my current success to the environment I grew up in and the values I was surrounded by in the Delta.” 

After a brief stint working at a physical therapy clinic in Oxford, a fortuitous event took place for Brashier. 

“I met Senator Thad Cochran through an older cousin who had worked for him,” she says. “Ironically, Senator Cochran had been a cheerleader at Ole Miss at the same time my grandfather played football there and they knew each other well. So I did some intern work for the senator between my junior and senior years in college in the summer of 2012. I ended up falling in love with it.” 

Senator Cochran had one of his three state offices located in Oxford and Brashier ended up doing another internship for two months with him in the fall before she graduated the following year in 2013.

However, after those seeds of doubt planted that physical therapy might not be the ideal career choice for her Brashier, who was planning to attend the University of Birmingham in Alabama to actually go forward in obtaining that degree, made the decision that changed her life permanently. 

“I had graduated from Ole Miss in May and classes in Alabama weren’t going to start until January, so I had some time on my hands and my mother said I was most definitely not coming back home to Indianola and  just sit around!” says Brashier. “So, I went back to D.C. to work for Senator Cochran and stayed seven years. The rest is history, as they say.”

Brashier says working for Thad Cochran was something she will always treasure.

“I learned so much from him as a mentor and he was the consummate gentleman,” she says. “It was the greatest experience of my life. For over forty years, he meant so much to the state, the nation and to those of us who were honored to work with him. You have to remember, in Senator Cochran’s day, politics was not as vitriolic and partisan as they are today. People worked together and that’s how the senator conducted himself personally.  He never wanted accolades but he certainly deserves the many he’s received over the years. I honestly don’t think Mississippi would be as successful and as wonderful a place to live as it is today without the tireless work that great man did, especially for the farming community. He didn’t label people either,” says Brashier.  “When you came into his office you weren’t a Democrat or a Republican—you were a Mississippian first and foremost. And when he was Chairman of the appropriations committee, one of the most powerful positions in the country, he still always took the time to interns and talk to his mentors like me and give his time freely.”

Brashier began her career as a policy advisor to Senator Cochran of Mississippi when he was on the appropriations committee which included her working with him on its subcommittee on defense on issues related to national security, foreign policy and homeland security.

For the latter roles, Brashier obtained a Master of Military Operational Art and Science from Air University’s Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama and also received professional military education certificates from the U.S. Naval War College and the U.S. Army War College. 

“Senator Cochran told me that a degree in Exercise Science was just great, but if I was going to help him in national security matters, I might need education in those fields,” says Brashier. 

While with Senator Cochran, Brashier was successful in steering many federal research dollars to the University of Mississippi, including funding for programs at the National Center of Physical Acoustics and the National Center for Natural Products Research.

Following Senator Cochran’s retirement from the Senate, Brashier transitioned to the U.S. House of Representatives and began work serving as Mississippi Representative (and General) Trent Kelly’s Deputy Chief of Staff and National Security Advisor. She was responsible for leading Kelly’s work on the House Armed Services Committee and directing his legislative team on issues such as the 2018 Farm Bill. 

Brashier has also served as the National Security Advisor to U.S. Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. During her time with Senator Tillis, she led the efforts to reform the military housing system to ensure men and women serving in our armed forces have adequate housing on base.

Brashier says that, after a year with Tillis, she was getting more than a little homesick and was ready to return to Mississippi.

“Brad White, who had been Senator Cochran’s Chief of Staff when I worked for him and now has the same role for Cindy Hyde-Smith, was going to work for Tate Reeve’s transition team,” says Brashier.  “When he told me he was returning home to Mississippi, I said ‘I’m going with you!’ And that’s eventually how I met Governor Reeves shortly after his election and joined his transition team in December of 2019.”

Serving as Governor Reeves’ policy director when Covid hit Brashier called the most challenging point of her career—and life.

“The world literally shut down and we didn’t know what was next,” she says. “But it was while working with Governor Reeves through those tumultuous and terrifying, uncertain years that I came to have even more respect for him as a leader and as someone who would fight tooth and nail to keep his home state—and mine—self-sufficient and able to preserve and able to re-open quickly. I consider Tate Reeves a policy genius,” Brashier said, “and have learned much from him.”

A current resident of Ridgeland, Brahier has been nominated by the Governor to serve on the Mississippi Commission on the Status of Women. She also serves as the Governor’s appointee to the State Workforce Investment Board, Delta Regional Authority and the Appalachian Regional Commission.

When not working, Brashier enjoys tennis and golfing when she can find the time to play. For now, however, her focus and dedication is on her job “which is incredibly exciting,” she says.

“My current goal is to stay here in Mississippi and try to get as much done as I possibly can, especially for the Delta,” says Brashier. 

As for the future? “My mother doesn’t want me to run for office because she says people are too mean!” she says. “I’ll probably just end up going back to Indianola and farming when my political work is done. But who knows? Right now, I’m focused on the here and now as I said—and loving it.”