Thursday, July 7, 2011
Barbour – great leader
I have a few signatures of a few famous people.
None mean more to me than Gov. Haley Barbour’s autograph on the program for the Mississippi Press Association’s Education Foundation Roast from 2005.
Governor Barbour was the honoree that evening, and that just happened to be the year I served as president of MPA. Getting to introduce Governor Barbour that evening at the Jackson Hilton was a highlight of my life.
At that time, Governor Barbour was not even halfway through his first term. He was inaugurated on January 13, 2004.
Two weeks ago, more than six years after the roast, Governor Barbour made what may be his last talk to the newspaper representatives across the state. We were gathered at the Beau Rivage in Biloxi for the 145th Mississippi Press Association Convention.
Governor Barbour’s second and final four-year term in office is winding down.
“I don’t expect to run for anything,” said Barbour, when asked about his plans for the future. “But I’m not going to retire.”
One possibility, he said, is becoming an author.
“I’m considering writing a book on crisis management,” the governor said.
He was in his first term in office when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. Barber has received lots of positive national attention for the way Mississippi responded to and handled the disasater.
“Being governor has been a great challenge,” he said. “After Katrina, outsiders saw our best.”
But that’s not the only disaster Barbour has faced. There was the Gulf oil spill, deadly tornadoes and Mississippi River flooding.
The governor talked about economic development, particularly focusing on the Port of Gulfport, closed after Katrina but on its way back later this decade. The long-range plan calls for doubling the port’s size.
“In 25 years, people will look back and say this is the biggest economic development project in the history of Mississippi because its scale is global.”
He said the state has about 40,000 less people working than at its peak employment before the national economic downturn.
Barbour continued to push workforce development in Mississippi – saying “it is something we owe our people.”
He said Mississippi can’t be first in everything but “there’s no reason to be last.”
“We can be first in some things,” the governor said.
He urged Mississippians to dwell on the kind of state “we’re going to leave our children and grandchildren.”
“The biggest problem is when we underestimate ourselves, but Katrina helped a lot of people in America come to appreciate Mississippians a whole lot more and see our people a whole lot differently,” he said
Barbour, with candidates for governor in the room awaiting a debate before the MPA group, emphasized the importance of having vision.
“A body of 174 (the legislature) cannot have vision,” he said, “because it cannot speak with one voice.
“That responsibility belongs to the governor,” Barbour said. “And the governor has to implement it and sell it.”
Haley Barbour, I believe, has been a great governor. His shoes will be extremely hard to fill.
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