CMR will submit 3 nominees for DMR chief to governor this week

Governor will pick one; Senate must confirm choice

mmnewsom@sunherald.comMarch 19, 2013 

BILOXI -- The Mississippi Commission on Marine Resources voted Tuesday on the three names it would give the governor to choose from for the Department of Marine Resources' top job.

The commission narrowed it to three following a closed-session discussion Tuesday during the CMR meeting. The commission likely won't officially release the names due to confidentiality agreements it has with the applicants, who may have other jobs.

"The only name we intend to have anyone hear is the one that the governor selects," Asper said.

Under state law, the commission must provide three names to Gov. Phil Bryant, who will select one. The state Senate must confirm Bryant's choice.

The job has been vacant since DMR Executive Director Bill Walker was fired in January from his $124,000-a-year post amid ongoing state and federal investigations of spending during his tenure. Walker has denied any wrongdoing.

After the March 12 deadline to apply, commissioners said 17 people had sought the job, which pays between $83,427 and $108,455.

State government insiders have tossed around names since Walker's firing. After Ashley Edwards, director of Bryant's office of recovery, declined to pursue the post, another name has been discussed.

Jamie Miller was U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo's chief of staff until he left in December after a little more than a year. Miller also served eight months as deputy chief of staff for the congressman, who was elected in 2010. Miller worked as a DMR coastal ecologist from 1997 to 1999.

Miller hasn't responded to calls from the Sun Herald, so it's unclear whether he's officially sought the DMR director position.

Interim Director Danny Guice, a former state lawmaker Walker hired as his deputy director in late 2012, has said he plans to seek the job on a permanent basis, but would be happy working as either director or deputy director.

DMR has grown to be a powerful state agency since it was formed in 1994. Today, it has more than 140 employees, other contract workers and an annual state funding appropriation of about $19 million, plus typically more than that in federal money and grants to go with the state money.

The agency also has handled distribution of millions of dollars received from BP LLC since the 2010 oil spill, and much more money from the oil company is likely on the way through the RESTORE Act. The act will result in 80 percent of the BP penalties being given to affected Gulf states. It's projected there could be $5 billion to $21 billion split among Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Texas and Florida.

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