BILOXI -- Interim Department of Marine Resources Director Danny Guice began a talk to employees today by emphasizing the need to restore the public's trust.
Guice held up a copy of today's Sun Herald as an example of the need for the department to be open with the public and the media.
Guice began his campaign to refurbish the DMR image, and perhaps land the director's job, with a pep talk of sorts to more than 100 DMR employees
Most of employees left after the 15-minute meeting, but a few who stopped to talk seemed to be on Guice's side.
Joe Jewell, a staff officer with Marine Fisheries, said "the meeting was positive and went really, really well."
"The employees were looking for guidance and information. The employees are looking for the same thing as the public. They want some reassurance that our main porgrams are still on track. The confidence that the public had with the mainstream employees here is still intact and we're proceeding with the normal functions that we do."
"As Mr. Guice mentioned, this is restricted to two or three individuals that are part of this criminal investigation and it has nothing to do with the rest of the employees. The employees here, the honest hard-working employees, the first time they're hearing of these things is in the Sun Herald. They're as uniformed as every one else is -- and as concerned.
"There is a criminal investigation, as you know, and those type of activities certainly could have been a lot more transparent. In my position and 95 percent of the people at DMR had no part of that process," Jewell said.
"I want to reassure the public that we do have that bond with them, we have that trust."
George Ramseur, who manages dredge materials, said the simmering scandal at DMR hasn't affected his ability to do his job.
"Most of us are very focused on our jobs, he said. "We're very concerned about the public perception and loss of trust because that is vital to us being able to carry out these jobs. It's affected us it terms of our day to day feeling and our concern about how we move forward with our objectives and I feel director Guice is really taking us in a great direction in terms of focusing on gaining that trust."
Tom Stadler, four-year contract employee with the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve program, said he felt good about having Guice as the interim director.
"I think he will be a guy who will talk to you. It will be good."
Stadler said under previous Director Bill Walker there was less openness at the department. "That was the general feeling," he said.
Bradley Randall of the Shellfish Bureau said he thought the meeting was "a positive step."
"In the shellfish bureau, we deal one-on-one with our constituents. We've always had an open relationship with our stakeholders," said Randall, a DMR employee since 2004.
"We're going to continue doing a good job of managing our resources."
"We're focused on our mission, and we'll try not to let the other stuff affect us."
Jennifer Leirer, Guice's assistant, said she got immediate feedback when she sent out a message about the meeting with Guice.
"This is great, I've been waiting for something like this," was the response to the meeting being called, she said.
"People feel confident that Danny is in control now," she said. "That's the feeling I get."