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Brown's ouster: Politics as usual (unfortunately)

By Wally Northway

It’s déjà vu all over again. And it’s not good déjà vu, either.

The recent unceremonious ouster of Mississippi Department of Transportation executive director Butch Brown by the Mississippi Transportation Commission seems to have finally ended the long-running blood feud between Brown and Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall, though the hatred runs so deep one has to wonder if Brown won’t somehow, someway get in another shot.

However, the Brown firing represents yet more maneuvering by the Commission, and this is not a good thing for the road building industry.

Not long ago, a person in the industry, who spoke off record, said the war between Brown and Hall had road builders in a bind. Too often, road builders felt that if they took a stance or gave an opinion on an issue, they worried of angering either Brown or Hall.

In other words, the politics of the Commission were hurting the industry.

Now, we have Mike Tagert, who had just been sworn in as the Northern District Transportation Commissioner, hadn’t even warmed the seat up, voting with Hall to cut Brown. As usual, Southern District Transportation Commissioner Wayne Brown went the other way and voted “no” to Butch Brown’s let-go.

To me, it looks like either Hall and Tagert had already huddled and decided to get rid of Butch Brown before the fact, or Tagert, without conducting any due diligence, simply played a willing accomplice to Hall’s Machiavellian scheme.

Either way, it is troubling. We have a crumbling infrastructure in this state, and our road builders are struggling to stay in business. Road builders should at least not have to worry about personal vendettas and political deal-making among Commission members and the leadership at MDOT.

But, it appears they are going to get just that.

I do have to give Hall credit, though. Just last month he told the MBJ that his first item of business when the new commissioner was sworn in and seated was to get rid of Butch Brown. We can’t say Hall never keeps his word, that’s for sure.


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