Meet Rep. DeWayne Burns: From FFA to the Texas Capitol
Grounded in agriculture by growing up on a farm while participating in 4-H and FFA, state Rep. DeWayne Burns built on that with a professional career in which he became adept at furthering agriculture through public policy. Today he applies that mixture of knowledge to his service – really a ministry – in the Texas House of Representatives, where he has become a leader on natural resource issues.
TAD recently asked Rep. Burns a few questions so our members could get to know this influential lawmaker.
Your official bio describes growing up on a Johnson County farm – tell our dairy farmer members about your background in agriculture.
I was raised in rural Johnson County on a small farm where we primarily raised hay and cattle. Growing up, I was very active in 4-H and FFA and had a small cow/calf operation of my own by the time I graduated high school. The life lessons learned through working on the family ranch and leadership experience gained through 4-H and FFA really shaped who I am today.
I went on to graduate from Tarleton State University with a degree in Agricultural Services and Development. We still farm the land I grew up on, and our family operates the Ormsby Ranch in Johnson County that’s been in my wife’s family since the 1940s.
How did your professional career in agriculture policy – the Texas Grain and Feed Association, a legislative aide at the Capitol and the Texas Department of Agriculture – prepare you for service in the Texas House of Representatives?
I had no idea how the legislative process really worked, how state government functioned or how agricultural policy was made on a state or federal level. My time with the Texas Grain and Feed Association along with staffing for two House members during the 74th legislative session really allowed me to become familiar with the process. Serving as Coordinator for Special Issues under then-Agriculture Commissioner Rick Perry helped me cultivate countless relationships with people and organizations that shape agriculture policy in Texas.
As you serve your second term in the Texas House of Representatives, and have just completed a summertime special session, what keeps you motivated to continue to serve?
Serving in this position is a ministry for me. The Bible teaches us, through the example of Jesus, where there’s a need, fill it. I grew up around the people I serve, and I care deeply for our community as well as the future of Texas. We are blessed to live in the best state in the best country in the world. I want to do my part to keep the Texas economy growing, to educate our kids, to preserve our rural values along with the liberties and freedoms we enjoy. I look into the eyes of my three kids and know that we can’t afford to fail. There is much to be done.
As a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, you have had the opportunity to review public policy issues related to Texas’ water supply. What is the biggest natural resource issue facing Texas?
Will we have the water resources necessary to meet the needs of Texas as our population and economy continue to grow? We have to be forward thinking and innovative as we look for new sources of water across the state. Technology has improved, and the idea of creating new water through brackish or saltwater desalination is not as far-fetched as once was thought. I really believe Texas is going to see the economics of desalination projects come in line with demand in the near future. We must think ahead and plan ahead. I also believe in the property rights of landowners with respect to the water beneath their land. We must be clear about those rights and make sure our laws respect the rights of property owners.
What is the biggest challenge facing Texas, and why?
Our greatest challenge is keeping the “Texas Miracle” alive and well. We have a formula for success in Texas that includes minimal regulation, low taxes, a trained workforce, adequate resources and the best quality of life in the nation.
We can’t lose sight of that formula and we have to do it while building and maintaining our transportation infrastructure, educating our children and providing for the safety of our citizens. As I talk to folks in my area, I most often hear about three things; public safety, public education and property taxes – which makes them my priorities as well.
I have a feeling it’s the same in other communities around the state.
House District 58
DeWayne Burns was first elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 2014 and was re-elected in March 2016. Raised in southwest Johnson County, he grew up on a small farm near the Bosque County line and the Brazos River. He graduated from Cleburne High School in 1990. After attending Texas A&M University, he transferred to Tarleton State University and graduated in 1994.
Burns began his career at the Texas Grain and Feed Association before being hired as a legislative analyst for State Reps. Arlene Wohlgemuth and Gary Walker during the 74th legislative session.
Later, he moved to the Texas Department of Agriculture under then-Commissioner Rick Perry, where he was ultimately promoted to the position of Coordinator for Special Issues in the department’s Intergovernmental Affairs Division. He also worked as an inspector for the Texas Department of Agriculture, where he was responsible for weights and measures compliance, crop and seed certification, and enforcement of Texas’ plant and pest quarantine laws, among other tasks over a 10-county region.
Burns is currently a property and business investment manager. He and his family have a long history in farming, ranching and construction, and the family ranch is still in operation.
Previously, Burns served as vice president of the Cleburne ISD Board of Trustees, president of the Johnson County Farm Bureau, a member of the Johnson County Economic Development Commission, and as a fire commissioner for the Johnson County Emergency Services District #1.
Burns married his high school sweetheart, Jennifer, and they have two teenage sons and a daughter. They are members of First Baptist Church of Cleburne. ▪