By David Sprayberry
With low approval ratings and distrust among many in the public, the political landscape can sometimes seem more like a desert than fertile land. Americans do not paint a good picture of their public servants. In the new national Reason Rupe Poll, Americans believe 70 percent of politicians use their political power the wrong way.
With numbers like these and public perceptions as they are, how do politicians hope to live their calling as honest leaders who serve their constituents and not themselves?
Joel Bomgar is living his call and venturing into the political desert with the hopes of planting seeds of conservative values in the Mississippi Legislature and tending to the soil of his district in Madison and Ridgeland.
For the last 34 years, Bomgar has been a permanent fixture in this state. He grew up here. He met and married his wife in this state, then built a thriving business, and now lives in Madison where he wants to raise his four children. His love for Mississippi and Madison County runs deep and he wants “to see the state continue to improve in numerous ways while staying a great place to live, work, and raise a family.”
Not every person would chose to leave a CEO position in a multi-million dollar company, but Bomgar says he was “convicted by what he saw happening in the state and desired to help Mississippi become the best state.” As Founder, CEO, and now Chairman, he grew Bomgar Corporation into one of Mississippi’s largest technology companies. He believes that what he has done in business can be replicated in the Legislature.
A decision to represent the community in the Mississippi Legislature should never be taken lightly and as Joel believes, “one should understand the significance of what it means to lead and hold office.” After much thought and prayer, he made his decision official on January 5, 2015, when he filed papers with the Mississippi Republican Party, declaring his candidacy for the Republican Primary in Mississippi House of Representatives District 58.
“Madison County has gotten it right—we have great schools, safe neighborhoods, and strong traditional values,” said Bomgar. “If we can build a success story here in Madison County, we can build upon it for our entire state. Great schools, safe streets, and lower taxes are three key components of Bomgar’s platform. He wants to help expand and grow Mississippi’s economy and believes that one of the best ways to do that is to foster innovation and entrepreneurship at home. “The Legislature can either help do this, or it can get in the way. I want to serve to make sure it helps.”
As a Believer, Bomgar understands there is a direct link between living a life guided by God’s truth and as a result, earning the trust and integrity of a community. In many ways, Bomgar has already earned that respect and trust from many in the community. He believes that honoring God is at the center of everything—family life, business, and even politics. He attributes his faith as his foundation that keeps him balanced and from getting swept away by the strong current of politics. “My faith keeps me grounded. I know there is absolute right and wrong and that morals are not subjective. The Bible and my Christian faith are part of my DNA and who I am. It is more important than ever to keep those central as I embark in public service.”
Bomgar has no lack of evidence when it comes to incorporating biblical values into running his business. At the formation of his company, Bomgar and co-founders decided on a set of core values that have guided their business decisions and practices. According to Bomgar, these values were, “inspired by my faith and desire to honor God, and I wanted to apply these important Biblical principles in every circumstance with employees, customers, and financial dealings.” Key values from Scripture—such as acting with integrity, practicing good stewardship, acknowledging the contributions of others, telling the truth, exercising self-control, and speaking the truth in love—direct every interaction and are still in practice at the company today.
Contrary to popular opinion, there are men of integrity that also bear the title of politician and they are respected leaders in their community. Bomgar believes that some people get into politics for the right reasons and some for the wrong reasons. “The folks that get in it for the wrong reasons have predictably bad outcomes. Unfortunately, many people that get in politics even for the right reasons have not spent the time studying economics, human behavior, incentives, and history to be effective,” said Bomgar.
He observes that many people who are not constantly studying and researching are more prone to be swayed or influenced when not immersed in the truth. “I will operate in the public sphere just as I did for the last 11 years at Bomgar, the four years I spent at Belhaven University, the six years I spent in the Air National Guard, and my life growing up in church and in youth group before that.”
God’s truth has been the steady rock he has rested on and one verse that has guided him is from Psalm 127:1 and says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” Another verse that he tries to live out everyday is from Colossians 3:23-24 and states, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
He is not venturing into this campaign alone. His wife Rachel has been a constant source of encouragement and support. “Rachel is the most unshakable grounded person I know,” said Bomgar. “She has no interest in being in the spotlight or playing any political games to get ahead. She loves me and is glad that I am passionate about the things that I’m involved with, but she is the first to tell me if it looks like I’m getting caught up in something that isn’t healthy.” The relationships he keeps with his friends outside of politics have a significant impact on his outlook. Bomgar says he has political friends, but his non-political friends are the ones who are objective and keep him accountable. They tell him the truth about himself and politics because they have no hidden agendas.
Bomgar believes that making changes in legislation can be a solution for many of the problems in the state. “There are a number of issues facing our state and my commitment to the voters is to embrace and advance the policies that will make their life better and move us forward. We need to find solutions that uniquely fit the needs of our people.” Bomgar adds that he knows that the top-down, one-size-fits all approach does not work, and that building upon our strengths to advance socially, culturally, and economically as a community and a state is the key to a solution.”
The timing of Bomgar’s decision to run comes at a time when the federal government is in dysfunction and when the fight for liberty has shifted to the states. He is confident that the state level is where we can still be laboratories of democracy and where we can still chart our own path at all levels of government. Joel believes liberal policies guarantee personal and economic ruin; he believes that as a state we must return to free-market, limited-government solutions to ensure a free and prosperous future. Bomgar adds, “This is one of the reasons why I have a calling to serve in the state legislature. I want my kids and grandkids to have the same opportunity I have had at Bomgar and I’ve had here in Madison County. I want them to be able to start a business and raise a family just as I am doing.
In spite of the unpredictability of running for office, Bomgar says he enjoys the challenge of running a race with endurance and believes in giving his best in everything. His campaign is evidence of putting more than 100% into his efforts. During the first two months, this new campaign had already secured $150,000 and assembled an experienced team of advisors and committee members. Current numbers are reported at $235,000 for campaign funds.
Bomgar brings his track record of innovative business experience and community leadership to the upcoming election. He grew Bomgar Corporation to become one of Mississippi’s largest technology companies, and has created more than 100 jobs in Madison County and successfully built and led his company to serve 8,500 customers in 60 countries from their Madison County headquarters.
Bomgar has served on the board of Madison County Foundation and is a member of the Belhaven University Board of Trustees. The Mississippi House of Representatives and Mississippi Senate have commended Bomgar for creating jobs and economic success in Mississippi. The Madison County Economic Development Authority has honored him with the Visionary Leadership Award. He graduated from Belhaven University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and served six years in the Mississippi Air National Guard. Joel and his wife Rachel are the proud parents of four children: Amelia, Simon, Mark, and Seth. They live in Madison and are members of Redeemer Presbyterian Church.