BILOXI -- Gov. Phil Bryant has selected Jamie Miller as his choice to head the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.
Bryant made the announcement at a 10 a.m. news conference at the DMR headquarters in Biloxi.
The governor said Miller, who has a bachelor's degree in environmental biology from the University of Southern Mississippi, fully understands how important the Coast's resources are to the state's well being. He also touted Miller's government and private sector experience.
"With this Gulf Coast, these coastal resources that God has given us, it is so important to have a man like Jamie Miller, who has taken the opportunity and the challenge to become the next director of DMR."
Miller, 40, of Gulfport, had been U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo's chief of staff until he left that job in December after a little more than a year. He left to return home to the Coast.
He had also served eight months as deputy chief of staff for the congressman, who was elected in 2010. Miller had also worked as a coastal ecologist with DMR from 1997 to 1999, as well as Pascagoula's deputy city manager and as policy adviser under Gov. Haley Barbour.
The Mississippi Senate will have to confirm Bryant's pick, and it's expected they'll take it up before the legislative session is scheduled to end April 7.
Miller acknowledges DMR faces plenty of obstacles, given the ongoing state and federal investigations of its spending, but he wants to transform the agency.
His goal is to make DMR the most respected and well managed agency in state government.
"I'm excited about being part of the solution," Miller said. "Let me just say it begins and ends with being transparent and accountable to the public."
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.
Officials were tight-lipped on the name of the pick ahead of the news conference, but sources have been telling the Sun Herald for weeks that Miller was the likely choice.
In early February, Ashley Edwards was thought to be the front-runner. But Edwards, who has been dubbed a "go-to" man on Coast issues by some in state government, declined to pursue the job. He joined Barbour's office in early 2006 and served as deputy director of the Governor's Office of Recovery and Renewal after Katrina. He now
works as executive director of Bryant's recovery office.
The Sun Herald follows this story in Wednesday's editions.