A Vision for the future
Senator David Parker combines a doctor’s touch
and a life of careful financial planning to help serve DeSoto County.
Story by TIM SUMMERS JR.
Newly-elected Mississippi State Senator and optometrist David Parker of Olive Branch has spent years helping people in the area see clearer. Now his schedule is spent between his practice here in the area and trips to the Capitol where he represents his constituents, but he says during an interview that his responsibilities remain separate, while the perspective he has gained during his years of treating the county are invaluable.
“I’ve acclimated pretty well,” Parker says of his new responsibilities. “It’s not terrible. I have hit the ground running.” More importantly, Parker says that his experience as a leader in his professional life have helped him make connections in the past. “I have always been very active in my profession.” Parker previously served as just about every position from Board Member to President of the Mississippi Optometric Association as several national positions, and he says that the Capitol building is not such an unfamiliar place to him. “I am not going in there not knowing anyone,”he states. But he keeps the two halves of his life separate, and his commitment to the practice, thanks to his staff and partners, has not wavered. “When I am a Senator I do not have to worry about the practice.”
However he says that he does still make some time to see patients when he is not in Jackson. He makes frequent trips back and forth, Skyping his family on the nights when he is away. His experience as a doctor has helped him understand more of the wants and needs for the county, as he says he has treated such a wide variety of people, people that he would have never otherwise met. “Whatever walk of life you are in you learn by listening,”says Parker.
A lifelong DeSoto County resident, understanding the needs of the county is something that holds great import for the new senator. Parker graduated from Greenbrook Elementary and Southaven High School, eventually earning a scholarship to Christian Brothers University in Memphis. There he began studies in engineering before moving to biology, graduated and moved onto optometry school, eventually exiting the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis Magna Cum Laude.
But it has not always been easy for the doctor, who recently opened a second practice in Horn Lake, and there are lessons, hard-won, that he carries with him today. He was born to his parents when they were older, a fact that forced him to shoulder more responsibility earlier on than most. He began working as soon as he was able, in high school, first for as a greenskeeper for Briargate Country Club, working whenever he had a chance. During college he worked for FedEx for some time, and in both positions he rose to become manager over a staff. Parker says he developed a strong passion for financial responsibility as a result. And as he grew older and his parents aged, he became more and more the custodian of his family’s affairs, shouldering a burdensome responsibility to have at so young an age. “I didn’t, for many years, have anyone to turn to.” His plan he says, ensured that he walked away from school with no debt and has committed to solid financial practices since. “I think everything kind of molds you into what you become,” he says. “It’s going to rain. You need to prepare for the rain.”
But financial caution did not stop him from considering construction of a new practice in DeSoto County. “This is my home. I feel a responsibility to invest in it.” And as a business owner and health care professional, his perspective finds a useful and needed niche in certain discussions, especially concerning the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it is otherwise known. “I understand the impact that the implementation of Obamacare is going to have,” Parker says. “Hopefully I will be an asset to find common ground.”
He was concerned with the prospect of the uninsured, a group he says could have to be cared for the hospitals in the area at their expense, as well as the problem facing business owners and leaders as the federal deadline for implementation of health care exchange looms over the state Legislature.
And of course, as a legislator from DeSoto County, the issue of charter schools is not a conversation that can be avoided. Parker, who attended public schools, is proud of the system currently in place. “I feel blessed that in DeSoto County we have great public schools as well as great private schools,” he says. However, as a parent, he believes each child is different and as such, the education of the child should take an approach of individualization. “As a parent you have to look at your child and their needs and make a decision,” says the Senator. “There is not a cookie-cutter approach to raise children.”
And for Parker the process of decision-making is inseparable from the practice of prayer.
“I am someone that prays daily,” he says. Parker and his family are members of Getwell Road United Methodist Church in Olive Branch. “I always want to act rather than react. Faith is something that allows you to do that.” “Prayer is a time to just reflect and clear the cobwebs.” In Jackson, Parker says prayer helps him concentrate on the important issues, remaining focused that the decisions down at the Capitol affect everyone in the county, from schools to jobs. “It has everything to do with what happens in Jackson,” Parker says. And for him it is an opportunity to continue his service to the county, not for himself but for what he thinks he can do to help others. “Sometimes in life you don’t do things for what you can get out of them, you do it for what you can give.”