By BOBBY HARRISON
Glenn McCullough officially begins his tenure Monday as executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority.
The former Tupelo mayor and Tennessee Valley Authority chairman already has begun the transition in the weeks since his appointment by Gov. Phil Bryant.
“I have been doing work as a volunteer for MDA already,” McCullough said last week.
McCullough is replacing Brent Christensen, who already has left Mississippi after three years as MDA executive director to take over as chief executive officer and president for the Greensboro Partnership in North Carolina.
McCullough, 60, said his wife, Laura, was searching for a home in the Jackson area.
“Our lifelong home is in Tupelo,” he said. “Laura is looking at homes in the Jackson area. I found it best to leave that to her.
“We will have a home in the Jackson area.”
But the former Republican mayor said he and his wife have no intention of giving up their Tupelo residence. Asked if he was excited about taking over MDA where he will lead the state’s economic development efforts, he said, “This is a great place….I have gotten to meet some of the people at MDA, not all of them.
“Laura and I are really excited about getting to support our home state.”
McCullough also praised Bryant, saying the governor is a nonstop economic developer himself who is an important asset to the MDA effort.
Besides looking for a home, McCullough has had to make changes in his professional career before accepting the state position. McCullough has terminated his interests in consulting firms he either owned or in which he was a partner. But based on an opinion from the state Ethics Commission, McCullough will continue to serve as chairs of the boards of two companies that work primarily in the energy sector – Richland, Washington-based Mid-Columbia Engineering and Pittsburgh-based NuVision.
While names are not included in Ethics Commission opinions, it appears that McCullough sought an opinion about those positions before being named MDA executive director in late April.
What appears to be an opinion related to McCullough’s request says state law would not forbid him from serving as board chair for the two companies, in which he has “material financial interest.” According to the opinion, neither company does business with MDA. One company does rent space from a Mississippi public university and another is working on a project that could lead to sales to another state agency.
The opinion goes on to say that a major function of the agency headed by the person requesting the opinion is to provide state financial assistance for new projects. If it was a possibility that one of the companies were eligible for financial assistance from the state, the executive director should not be part of the discussions on the project.
“If it is not possible for the director to recuse, then the company would effectively be prohibited from participating in that project,” the opinion said.
McCullough has never led a state or local economic development agency, but the Tupelo native did serve as chairman of the federally owned Tennessee Valley Authority, which not only supplies electricity in its seven-state region, but also works with state and local governments in the TVA region on economic development efforts.
He also was Mississippi director of the federal Appalachian Regional Commission, which is involved in economic development efforts in Mississippi and 12 other states.