BILOXI -- The state Department of Marine Resources has a deputy director for the first time since 2009.
Former legislator Danny Guice Jr. has taken the job and will assume some of the responsibilities of the executive director, Bill Walker told the Sun Herald on Tuesday.
Walker is the DMR's executive director and said he has announced to his directors, "I intend to retire sometime between now and June of next year."
In the interview, Walker indicated Guice would like
ly be the person to succeed him and that Gov. Phil Bryant was involved to some degree. Walker hired Guice, but in Mississippi, the governor appoints the head of the DMR and would appoint Walker's successor.
"What the governor needs is someone who can put in another eight to 10 years in the position," Walker said. "Well, I made it clear before he was elected that I didn't have eight years to give him. I'd take it year by year."
The DMR has come under fire recently with a preliminary federal audit report from the U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Inspector General. The report criticized the agency for using unusually high appraisals in paying millions of dollars for property on the Coast. In October, the State Auditor's Office began an investigation of its own and seized records.
Walker did not associate the recent investigations with his hiring of Guice, or considering retirement. He said it was just time.
The deputy director position has been vacant since William S. "Corky" Perret retired in June 2009.
Walker said he did not fill it "to be a little bit more budget conscious."
"But we just need to go ahead and fill it," he said.
Guice, 59, of Ocean Springs, served in the state House of Representatives from 2006 to 2008, and was on the Marine Resources Committee. He was also a Justice Court judge in Jackson County in the early 1980s.
Guice left the state Parole Board to take the DMR position, and Bryant filled his seat on the Parole Board last week.
About selecting Guice, Walker said Guice's name rose to the top after he consulted people in the agency.
"He's great. I've known Danny for a long time. Worked with him in the Legislature," Walker said. "He's very fair-minded and an open-minded kind of guy."
He said Guice will "oversee certain programs within the agency, to help with all of them, really. Do the same thing that I do. Take some of my responsibilities away."
Walker said Guice's background in aspects of law enforcement, which made him well-suited for the Parole Board, will be an asset to the DMR.
"But I don't know all the details about his past," Walker said. "I didn't really get to know him well until I became the director of the agency and he was in the House of Representatives."
He said Guice's salary will be in the neighborhood of $65,000 to $70,000.
Walker said Guice knows how state government in general works and that will be an asset, as well.
"He should be able to hit the ground running," Walker said.
Guice's first day on the job, Tuesday, was a little overwhelming, Walker said. "But I told him, look, you're going to be here a long time. You don't have to learn everything the first day."