UPDATED: New director for Port & Harbor board
By Dwayne Bremer
Sep 24, 2013, 18:41
The Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission on Monday, recommended Thomas "Ashley" Edwards to become its new executive director.
The commission has been without a permanent director since former director Jack Zink resigned more than a year ago.
The commission voted 5-1 to hire Edwards.
Commissioner Gene Taylor cast the lone "no" vote. Commissioner Charles Gallagher was not present and did not vote.
Newly-appointed Commissioner Sherri Bevis did not vote because, she said, she did not take part in the selection process.
The commission's recommendation will now be forwarded to the Hancock County Board of Supervisors for final approval.
The Port and Harbor Commission oversees the Stennis International Airport and the Port Bienville Industrial Park.
The commission has about three dozen employees. Edwards, 33, is a native of Petal. He attended college at USM and Tulane and began his professional career at the Hattiesburg Police Department.
Later, Edwards worked in the newspaper field before becoming an aid to Gov. Haley Barbour in 2006.
He was living in Pass Christian when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.
During his time under Barbour, Edwards was assigned to recovery efforts on the Gulf Coast, including Hancock County.
Edwards said Monday that he sees a lot of positives in Hancock County and he believes there are many economic opportunities ahead.
"I want to be very aggressive in the economic development and community development arena," Edwards said. "There are industries in Hancock County today that have the potential to expand, and there are opportunities to recruit new industries in several sectors, including polymers and composite materials, cargo-related commerce, aerospace and defense. We are going to cast a wide net and let folks know Hancock County is going to be a leader in development.”
Steve Landry--who has been serving as the interim director of the port and harbor commission--will revert to his duties overseeing Port Bienville once Edwards takes over.
Edwards said if he is approved by the board of supervisors, he will get to work immediately.
“I was on the ground in Hancock County less than a day after Katrina’s landfall and I’ve spent a great deal of time here in the years since,” Edwards said. “Hancock County has become like a second home to me. I look forward to moving my family here and becoming a part of this community. I think Hancock County is the gem of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. With Stennis Space Center, Port Bienville and Stennis International Airport, Hancock County has amazing assets that can be leveraged for development."