Thursday, October 20, 2011
Haley Barbour said there’s no better government job than governor.
“And this is likely my last government job,” he said.
Barbour’s two-term stint as governor of Mississippi is winding down. A new governor, either Johnny Dupree or Phil Bryant, will be sworn into office in January.
“Eight years is enough,” he said. “Term limits for governor is a good thing, but I would not give anything for this experience.”
The University of Mississippi hosted a conversation with Gov. Haley Barbour Wednesday evening of last week at the Overby Center For Southern Journalism and Politics. Charlie Mitchell, assistant dean of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at Ole Miss, conducted the hour-long interview.
The talk dealt with a wide variety of topics.
When Governor Barbour is mentioned in Mississippi history, one of the first things atop the praises will be his efforts after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He said he felt it was providential that he was governor when the worst natural disaster in American history hit Mississippi.
His work in Washington prior to becoming governor paid dividends.
Mississippi has received $24 billion in federal assistance so far. The state asked for $34 billion.
“We had a good plan – a reasonable request,” he staid. “Of course, without Thad Cochran, it would not have happened.”
He relived the days leading up to Katrina and the first time he saw the devastation.
Barbour said, at first, evacuation was slow. Then weather experts started warning that the storm could be Camille-like.
“That helped us to get people off the coast,” he said.
His wife Marsha, who was in Hattiesburg when the storm hit, traveled in via ground with emergency crews – clearing a lane of traffic as they went and taking them seven hours from Camp Shelby to Gulfport.
“You can’t believe it,” she told her husband upon arrival.
He flew in later by helicopter.
“It was utter obliteration – nothing there,” Barbour said.
The rebuilding, thanks to a solid plan, has gone well.
“From that day on, there have been so many stories about compassion and unselfishness,” he said.
He plans to become an author after he leaves office – writing a book about Hurricane Katrina.
The rebuilding of the Port of Gulfport continues, and the governor said 25 years from now people will say that’s the most important economic development project of the Barbour administration.
“It will keep on growing,” he said.
The governor also responded to questions about public health, money in politics, dealing with the media, race relations, education and more.
He said he doesn’t watch much TV.
“When I do, it’s usually ball games,” Barbour said.
He threw out an interesting fact – 79 percent of the state’s budget is spent by department heads who do not report to the governor.
He has no regrets.
“I’m confident with the decisions I’ve made,” Barbour said.
His approval rating over the eight years, Mitchell pointed out during questioning, is more than 70 percent.
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