The executive director of the state Department of Marine Resources said he needs to be out from under the constraint of the state Personnel Board to finish his "realignment" of the agency.
Jamie Miller took over last year from fired Executive Director Bill Walker, and several people left the agency over the course of the year. He also brought in a chief financial officer and a chief science officer, though the vacancies he had were for a chief of staff and deputy director. A person who contacted the Sun Herald's Sound Off column had questioned how Miller could hire those people.
A bill that passed the Senate this week and awaits action in the House would create a CFO and CSO in the agency. Miller said he doesn't plan to replace either CFO Bill Feidt nor CSO Kelly Lucas, nor does he plan to fire anyone else.
"There are many good things in the bill, including the annual audit and the people we've already hired," Miller said. "When I stepped into this job there was a lot of expectations about change in direction and getting this agency kind of set on a course for a solid fiscal path. And we've been doing that in the last nine months.
"But we need to make some more realignment within the alignment and we need to do it sooner rather than later."
He said some job descriptions don't line up with what the person in the job is doing at the agency.
"For instance, someone may have been hired as a marine biologist," he said, "and then later ended up having to manage a lot of grants and do a lot of financial compliance. And we just need to really in a few places to just realign ourselves and make sure our job functions line up with our job descriptions."
Feidt has a master of business administration from Dartmouth College and a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the University of Mississippi. He has worked as director of finance and planning at WorldCom Inc. and Skytel Corp.
Lucas has a doctorate in coastal science from the University of Southern Mississippi, an MBA from University of Alabama Birmingham and a bachelor of science degree in microbiology from Mississippi State University.
"I think Sen. (Brice) Wiggins (the author of the bill) thought regardless of who the director of this agency may be in the future, they were key positions and also the marine patrol chief that needed clear qualifications and would remain a part of the agency regardless of who the director would be.
"I just hired those people in, they're part of my management team, so I don't plan on replacing those folks."
The agency has advertised to fill a marine administrator I position that is not among those in Wiggins' bill. The ad on the Personal Board website says that is "a senior level position involved in assisting an administrative superior in the formulating, directing and coordinating projects for the Coastal Restoration and Resilience Bureau including the Gulf of Mexico Alliance Coastal Community Resilience Team and the MS Gulf Coast National Heritage Area." The salary listed is a little more than $41,000 a year.
That job, Miller said, was part of the realignment and would fill a vacancy.
"We have an authorized number of positions in the agency," he said. "And at any one time some of those positions can be vacant. We rarely have everyone hired at the same time."
The bill also would create an oversight committee to keep tabs on the agency on behalf of the Legislature. There already is a Commission on Marine Resources appointed by the governor that has some oversight functions.
The bill passed 37-13 with two senators not voting.
Miller said the reception in the House seems favorable.
Deanne Mosely, executive director of the Personnel Board, could not be reached to learn if the board agreed with the bill or had input into it.