Moss Point — It’s been a long six months for Moss Point Mayor Xavier Bishop. The first-term mayor took office in July before Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in August. “It feels like six years!” the 49-year-old Bishop says. “This term should be counted as two terms.”
A native of Chicago, he graduated from St. Xavier University with a degree in political science. He worked in telecommunications for the former Bell System for 15 years holding several positions including computer analyst, payroll manager and course instructor. He managed his own home remodeling business for 12 years.
Seeking a more peaceful life and a warmer climate, Bishop moved to his mother’s native Mississippi. He says he chose Moss Point for its small town atmosphere and the friendliness of the people.
He serves as full-time mayor and administrator of this east Jackson County city of 16,000 that is governed by the mayor and seven aldermen. The majority of residents work for the county’s two largest employers, Chevron Pascagoula Refinery and Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding.
During these busy post-Katrina days, Mayor Bishop answered some questions for the Mississippi Business Journal.
Mississippi Business Journal: Why did you run for mayor of Moss Point?
Mayor Xavier Bishop: I felt there was a need and that I had the background and skills to do the job. I want to make my adopted home an even better place to live.
MBJ: If you had known the hurricane was going to hit here, would you have run?
XB: Yes, I would have. It’s the best job I’ve ever had.
MBJ: What’s the number one thing you most hope to accomplish during this term?
XB: To better meet the needs of our citizens. Our sole purpose as a governmental body is to improve the quality of life for our citizens and I want to do that.
MBJ: What’s the most challenging thing you’re facing?
XB: Marshalling all the resources to deal with recovery and rebuilding. All of it must be done at the same time that we’re seeing that basic services are met with resources already strained. I have to be a salesman and spokesperson for the city. I have to put the best foot forward to make the city appeal to perspective citizens and businesses.
MBJ: What’s the overall mood of Moss Point residents?
XB: The mood is upbeat. We have mood swings when confronted with the reality of what must be done, but people are positive about the direction we’re moving.
MBJ: How is the plan for Moss Point from the Governor’s Commission being accepted?
XB: It’s full steam ahead here. We’re trying to take advantage of everything we can. There is considerable enthusiasm around the rebuilding effort. I think that’s because a malaise existed following the storm, and people were looking for something beyond debris and trailers. They want to look to the future.
MBJ: What do residents seem to like most about the plan?
XB: The plan for downtown redevelopment. In most cities, the downtown defines the city and shapes its character. With the widening of the highway through downtown here, that was lost. We are trying to recapture that character and look. The waterfront park is the centerpiece. We hope to expand it and make it a gathering place.
MBJ: Didn’t you already have a waterfront park?
XB: It was just a green space; a park in name only. We would like to define it in such a way to give it more utility with parking spaces, rest rooms and a place for concerts.
MBJ: Is there something else about the plan that appeals to your citizens?
XB: In large measure it gives us an opportunity to do things right. The city was already rebuilding because we had lost considerable industry and were trying to stimulate the economy.
Now we can plan in a way to make the city a destination. We like the mixed use design where people can walk, ride bikes, shop, dine and live in the same neighborhoods. People move to places like that for those reasons and to be in touch with neighbors and enjoy nature.
MBJ: Any ideas for funding to implement these plans?
XB: We’ve identified some funding sources from private and public grants. We qualify for some mitigation funds to relocate our city hall out of the flood zone. We had a 15-foot storm surge downtown and got about four feet of water in city hall.
MBJ: How did businesses and homes fare in the storm?
XB: All the businesses downtown had some degree of flooding and those off Main Street had more water in them. Out of 5,500 households, 800 were damaged in some way, either by flood or wind.
MBJ: Will most of the businesses re-open?
XB: Many are waiting to see what the outcome of their insurance settlements is. We have lost some population but hope to offset that by new residents moving in since we have considerable property that did not flood. I hope that draws new residents and makes us more attractive. We do have some people living here on a temporary basis and they may stay.
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at firstname.lastname@example.org.