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New president takes over at BIPEC just as busy 2008 gets going

There’s been a leadership change at the Business and Industry Political Education Committee (BIPEC), but the services of this organization will continue in the same dependable way members expect and need. Vice president Van White is replacing retiring Richard Wilcox as president of the political research group founded in 1980.

“After 40 years of keeping up with elections, I’m ready to retire,” Wilcox said. “Van has experience with the election process and the understanding of how government really works. He will develop his style of dealing with a membership organization.”

White, 43, is a Moss Point native and 1986 graduate of Ole Miss. He worked nearly 10 years with Raytheon Aerospace Services before transitioning into marketing, targeting research and strategic campaign consulting opportunities with Southern Research Group. From there he was the managing partner of Strategic Consulting & Initiatives where he worked with BIPEC on several consulting projects. He became BIPEC’s vice president in May 2006.

Building on ‘solid legacy’

He is excited about the presidency and looks forward to continuing the group’s work. “I am grateful for the experience of these past two years that I have gained while working for Dick Wilcox,” he said. “He retires having established a solid legacy of achievement that I will work hard to continue. He will be missed at the office but remains just a phone call away for advice and counsel. Dick has done a great job and I hope to have a small measure of the success that he’s had.”

BIPEC chairman Ronnie Tubertini, a Ridgeland insurance executive, praised White’s appointment as president. “Van is well known in the political circles of Mississippi’s employer community, plus his strategic and tactical know-how will be great assets as he leads a business/healthcare coalition’s political education and action,” he said.

BIPEC is a statewide organization of business and professional employers, who come together to research, educate and identify common objectives in election politics. There are approximately 100 business members throughout the state and 36 professional and trade group association members. The organization’s major duties include political research for the business community, monitoring election politics for the Mississippi Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and Legislature and grading members of the Legislature on their business performance. This information is published and sent to members.

Wilcox notes that BIPEC does not lobby or champion any particular issues. “We provide research for our members, track it and publish it,” he said. “The members decide what’s important.”

He said the organization’s roots began with providing research for the business community, and has remained relevant for 28 years because employers need this information.

“We have a one-of-a-kind product,” he added, “and it’s important that we don’t have issues or lobby. We follow what the Legislature does to evaluate their performance. We’re also a one-of-a-kind organization in Mississippi for what we do for employers. Employers base decisions on numbers, and we create the election-related numbers for election decision making. If you’re going to expand your business, you’re going to look at numbers.”

He and White feel that 2008 is a critical year with four of the nine justices on the Mississippi Supreme Court up for re-election along with three of 10 judges on the court of appeals.

“There are potentially seven big judicial races this year,” Wilcox said. “In the last eight years, our Supreme Court has changed from a liberal to a conservative court. Real tort reform came from changing the court.”

White points out that BIPEC does a lot of face-to-face meetings and phone calls with members. “That will continue,” he said. “This is going to be a busy year. We have the judicial races and will track legislative bills that members make us aware of and are interested in.”

At the end of the legislative session, a committee of BIPEC members will meet to decide which votes were important and grade state senators and representatives. In addition to reports sent to members, this information is released to the media and often used by political columnists and radio talk show hosts.

Wilcox says he will miss the work. “Elections are a process of human behavior, and we are creatures of habit. If we understand the habits, we can predict how people will vote,” he said. “But, it’s time to stop and smell the roses. The first thing is to stop.”

He plans to spend time with his wife and nine grandchildren, eight of whom live close by.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

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