GULFPORT -- Sources in state government say the next head of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources could be revealed as early as next week.
News of the impending nomination came Friday -- the same day Ashley Edwards, rumored to be in line for the job, told the Sun Herald he doesn't intend to seek the post. Sources were tight-lipped about the finalists.
State government watchers had told the Sun Herald last week Edwards may be the next director. Edwards had previously declined comment, but Friday, he said he wouldn't seek the job. He declined to elaborate on what led him to his decision, which he reached this week.
"I will confirm to you I don't in
tend to apply," Edwards said.
Edwards, 33, joined then-Gov. Haley Barbour's office in early 2006 and served as deputy director of the Governor's Office of Recovery and Renewal after Hurricane Katrina. He now works as executive director of Gov. Phil Bryant's recovery office. He's been considered a go-to guy on South Mississippi issues by those in state government, as he's been on the Coast, heavily involved in Katrina recovery and the 2010 BP oil disaster.
The DMR is the focus of state and federal investigation for its spending under the leadership of Executive Director Bill Walker. Walker was fired last month, but has denied any wrongdoing.
Interim DMR Director Danny Guice, a former state lawmaker whom Walker hired as his deputy director in late 2012, has said he plans to seek the job on a permanent basis. Guice said Friday he hadn't spoken with the governor's office about his future, but he wants to continue working at the agency.
"I'm still very much interested in being DMR director," he said. "I'm going to be happy to work there as director or as the deputy director. That's the governor's call and I'm going to live with whatever the decision is."
State law requires Bryant to choose the next DMR director from three candidates nominated by the Mississippi Commission on Marine Resources. Bryant's nominee must be confirmed by the state Senate. In addition to rules on appointment, state law also specifies the DMR director "shall be knowledgeable and experienced in marine resources management."
The commission, which oversees DMR, held a well-attended meeting Thursday to get residents' opinions on the qualities they'd like to see in the agency's next leader.
Whoever leads DMR may have a different boss than Walker had. Bryant has said he wants to study abolishing the commission and having the next director answer to directly to him. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann is also studying the issue, and Bryant said bills on the issue could be ready for the 2014 legislative session.