There’s a new executive director leading the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport. On May 23, Clay Williams of Ocean Springs took the reins of the state’s second busiest airport. With a passenger count of 800,000 in 2011, Gulfport-Biloxi falls just under the Jackson-Evers International Airport in Jackson.
Williams, 38, brings a background of government service to the job, including government relations representative for Capitol Resources, transportation and education legislative assistant and economic development coordinator for former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott and legislative director for former U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering.
His principal efforts at the airport are centered on expansion of air service, new business development and continued funding of essential capital projects.
“As airport director, I balance a variety of interests that include federal, state and local agencies and private entities — and how they all intersect. The air traffic controllers and the Transpiration Security Administration are federal employees,” he said. “In the past, I’ve represented a wide variety of entities. Here we have a wide range that includes general aviation and five rental car companies.”
He’s proud of the airport’s new air traffic control tower that opened in June and the USO Lounge that serves the large number of military flights, and says the Mississippi Air National Guard is a great neighbor located adjacent to the airport.
“I really like that no two days are the same. It’s very interesting and ever changing,” he said. “The airport is such an integral part of the economy here, and we want to continue to utilize opportunities for growth.”
Williams, a graduate of Mississippi State University and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, applauds the airport’s strong, supporting community. “We plan to continue to create an atmosphere that generates investment,” he said, “and are constantly looking at ways to have more private investment.”
In that realm, the airport has several general aviation companies, including Million Air. Air service includes Delta, United, U.S. Airways and American Airlines. There are non-stop flights to Atlanta, Houston, Charlotte and Dallas.
“We are working with the carriers to maintain service and add additional service,” Williams said. “There has been major consolidation in the industry, and that’s a challenge, but we have four of the six legacy carriers. We want to make sure it’s an efficient and quality service here. Our motto is ‘take the easy way out.’”
Williams grew up in Ocean Springs, the son of Karen and Mickey Williams, and his first jobs were washing cars and doing filing and custodial work in a physician’s office. While working in Washington, D.C., he met his wife, Alexis, a native of Holly Springs, who was working as an event coordinator in the nation’s capital. They are the parents of a four-year-old son, Warren. Alexis is a graduate of Ole Miss, which Clay says creates some interesting family Thanksgiving celebrations.
He was recognized as a Top 10 Business Leader under 40 by the Sun Herald newspaper and was involved with the Governor’s Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal after Hurricane Katrina.
The Williams family enjoys the fitness programs of the YMCA and sampling the many local restaurants in Ocean Springs. They are parishioners of St. John’s Episcopal Church. Clay Williams serves on the MSU Department of Communications Advisory Board and is involved with several civic organizations.
If he wasn’t executive director of the Gulfport-Biloxi Airport, Williams says he would be working in some area of government, behind the scenes.
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