The Mississippi Gaming Commission has gained a new chairman, moved into a new home and changed its meeting schedule.
Last May, newly-elected Republican Gov. Haley Barbour appointed Mississippi Business Hall of Fame inductee Jerry
St. Pé to chair the three-member commission, which regulates the state’s casinos and charitable gaming activities. In November, the Jackson office relocated from 202 East Pearl Street to 620 North Street. Beginning this month, the regular monthly meetings will be held on the first Thursday after the 15th of each month, beginning at 10 a.m., instead of on Wednesdays.
When the Mississippi Legislature legalized gaming in the 1990 special legislative session, Gov. Kirk Fordice appointed three gaming commissioners — Bob Engram, Stuart Irby and Bill Gresham — who hired Paul Harvey as the first executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission.
Engram was hailed for crafting the infrastructure requirement for casinos to invest equally in hotel rooms and gaming boats, a move that dramatically boosted economic development in Mississippi.
Chuck Patton, deputy director of the commission, was named executive director when Harvey retired in 1998. In December 2001, chief of staff Larry Gregory, former deputy director of the Mississippi State Personnel Board and secretary to the Mississippi Transportation Commission, took over as executive director when Patton resigned.
With satellite offices in Biloxi, Tunica and Vicksburg, the gaming commission has an authorized staff of 166, including an executive staff comprised of the deputy executive director and 11 division directors. Those divisions include accounting, charitable gaming, compliance, criminal investigations, enforcement, investigations, legal, management information systems, personnel, public affairs and the gaming laboratory, which was created in 1995 to evaluate electronic gaming devices used in the casino and charitable gaming areas.
For 2005, the Mississippi Gaming Commission consists of:
• Commission chairman Jerry St. Pé of Pascagoula, whose term expires September 30, 2008.
The former president of Ingalls Shipbuilding (now Northrop Grumman) in Pascagoula and retired executive vice president of the shipyard’s parent company, Litton Industries, St. Pé created St. Pé & Associates, LLC, after his retirement, a company that represents his private business interests and charity work. He is a board member of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, over which he presided, The Southern Company, Merchants & Marine Bank, Delta Health Group and Signal International. He is a founding member and current chairman of the Jackson County Economic Development Foundation, a founding member and former chairman of the Mississippi Partnership for Economic Development and a former member of the Jackson County Port Authority.
A Mississippi Business Hall of Fame laureate, the U.S. Navy honored St. Pé with the Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz Award. Barbour appointed him to the commission May 20, 2004, to replace Leonard Blackwell at the expiration of his term on September 30.
• Commissioner Howard R. Sanders of Hollandale, whose term expires Sept. 30.
Sanders graduated from Tougaloo College and earned masters’ degrees from Indiana University and Fisk University. A retired educator, he served as superintendent of the Hollandale School District. He also served as a funeral director for 32 years.
He has been chairman of the Delta Area Health Center, Hollandale Minority Development Corporation, Jobs for Mississippi Graduates and the Mid-Delta Consortium; president of the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents and the Delta High School Activity Association; vice president of the Delta Council; vice chairman of the Mississippi State Department of Education Accreditation Commission; and a board member of the Mississippi Forum on Children and Family, Greenville Arts Council, South Delta Housing Authority, Mississippi Delta Service and the Yazoo Delta Water Management.
On March 13, 2003, Gov. Ronnie Musgrove appointed Sanders to fill the unexpired term of A.J. Pitts.
• Commissioner Nolen Canon of Tunica, whose term expires September 30, 2007.
Born in Morton, Canon graduated from Mississippi State University before establishing Canon Farms, a 7,000-acre farm comprised of rice, soybean, cotton, grain, sorghum and wheat crops in Tunica County.
Named Rice Farming Magazine’s 1994 Farmer of the Year and Mississippi Ag Network’s 2001 Farmer of the Year, he has served as board chairman of the U.S. Rice Producers Association and the Mississippi Rice Promotion Board and president of the Tunica County Farm Bureau. He is a board member of Citizens Bank & Trust and Delta F.A.R.M. On May 20, 2004, Barbour appointed Canon to complete the unexpired term of Robin Robinson, who was named an Institutions of Higher Learning trustee.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at email@example.com.