JACKSON -- Senators on Thursday confirmed Jamie Miller of Gulfport as executive director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.
Senate Ports and Marine Resources Committee members on Wednesday quizzed Miller about how he'll manage the agency that has had financial problems in recent months. The agency's former executive director, Bill Walker, of Ocean Springs, was terminated Jan. 15 amid questions about misspending. State and federal investigations of the agency's actions during Walker's tenure are ongoing, but Walker had denied wrongdoing.
Miller, who was nominated by Gov. Phil Bryant, said he'll do a 60-day review of DMR operations. He also pledged the agency will be transparent and accountable to the public. With the Senate vote Thursday, the appointment took effect immediately and Miller said he was honored to be taking over the agency.
"I'm just looking forward to the work," Miller said Thursday after the Senate vote. "It's been a long few weeks to get to this point. I'm really look forward to meeting the staff and getting to work."
He's got meetings scheduled over the next few days with current staff about in
ternal issues and has already requested some agency documents. Miller said he expects his first full day of work will be Monday.
His salary isn't set yet, but Miller said the Mississippi State Personnel Board will make a recommendation on his pay to be approved by the Mississippi Commission on Marine Resources, which oversees DMR.
Miller has a degree in environmental science from the University of Southern Mississippi and started his career 16 years ago as a coastal ecologist at DMR.
He also worked on Hurricane Katrina recovery under former Gov. Haley Barbour and was chief of staff for Republican U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo. Miller is also a former deputy city manager for Pascagoula.
The job had been vacant since Walker was fired in January from his $124,000-a-year post. After the March 12 deadline to apply, the CMR said 17 people had sought the job. The CMR submitted three nominees to the governor, who picked Miller.
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 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.
Sun Herald Political Editor Michael Newsom contributed to this report.