Speculation ended about who would nab the state’s top posts after Gov. Ronnie Musgrove made announcements prior to his inauguration.
After naming Dr. David Cole, president of Itawamba Community College, of Fulton as his chief of staff, Musgrove picked J.C. Burns, a Batesville banker and economic developer, to succeed Jimmy Heidel as head of the state’s economic department. As senior vice president and senior lending officer of First Security Bank in Batesville, Burns played a leading role in Panola County’s economic growth over the last two decades.
“J.C. has done an outstanding job for Batesville and Panola County,” said Larry Pratt, chairman of the board of First Security Bank of Batesville. “He started here when we were showing industrial sites that were just cotton fields with no sewers, no water, no utilities and it was very difficult to get industry to locate here. Through his leadership and the support of other community leaders, Batesville has grown and progressed, and Panola County has about as many industrial jobs as some of the more populous counties in the state. He’s evidenced his ability to work with leading industrialists, executives and legal people. He’s been able to keep a vision in the minds of city and county public officials and a goal to reach that has helped everybody. He’s done an outstanding job here, and I think he’ll do an outstanding job there.”
Since 1981, 21 companies have located in Panola County, which created 2,563 new jobs and landed capital investments of approximately $500 million. Burns was instrumental in the creation of Panola Partnership, a countywide economic development organization.
“J.C. Burns has a unique private sector background and will be an outstanding asset in solidifying a public/private partnership in recruiting new businesses and helping to expand existing businesses,” said Blake Wilson, president of the Mississippi Economic Council. “I am looking forward to working with J.C. as we continue to build a stronger and more prosperous Mississippi through strong business opportunities.”
As director of the Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development, Burns will manage 380 employees and a $155-million budget.
Gary Anderson of Jackson, CEO of Barrington Mortgage Co., was named director of Finance and Administration, the major purchasing arm of state government.
Dr. Bettye Ward Fletcher, professor of sociology, former dean of the Jackson State University Graduate School, and recently the interim president of Jackson State University, was nominated by Musgrove to head the Mississippi Department of Human Services, a post held by Don Taylor. As one of the largest state agencies, Fletcher will oversee more than 4,000 employees and a $434-million budget.
Soon after Rep. Tim Ford (D-Tupelo) was elected without opposition to his fourth term as Speaker of the House, along with House Speaker Pro Tem Robert Clark, and established top issues of early childhood education, transportation and economic development, committee assignments were met with few surprises.
Democrats garnered 41 committee chairmen and vice chairmen spots, 48% of the party representation in the House. Republicans nabbed 15 chairs and Independents took two. Of the 29 committees, just six have Republican heads. Only 24 chairmen and vice chairmen remained the same.
As expected, Charlie Capps (D-Cleveland) retained chairmanship of the powerful appropriations committee. William J. McCoy (D-Rienzi), who was not a ways and Mmeans committee member last term, was given the nod as chairman. Eloise Scott (D-Tupelo), former vice chairman of the education committee, was moved to head the ethics committee and Joe Warren (D-Mt. Olive) took the top education committee post. Four other committee chairmen were not previously on the committees to which they were appointed.
At press time, the Senate awaited committee assignments from Lt. Governor Amy Tuck, who had already made the move to replace Tommy Gollott (D-Biloxi) with Travis Little (D-Corinth) as Senate President Pro Tem.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.