PASCAGOULA -- About 30 people trickled into the banquet room at Merchants & Marine Bank on Tuesday for a reception Jackson County hosted to meet interim Sheriff Charles Britt.
A total of 103 people, including city and county officials, constables, legislators, police and fire chiefs and their secretaries along with judges, constables and local business people had been invited.
However, elected officials and police chiefs in Gautier, Pascagoula, Ocean Springs and Moss Point were unable to attend because of meetings in their respective cities. In addition, many judges did not show up.
The reception's guest list also featured legislators, though none showed up for the gathering.
Who showed up?
Justice Court Judge Gerald Wayne Jones did attend, along with public defender Brice Kerr. County Supervisors Mike Mangum, Barry Cumbest and John McKay were also in attendance.
Jones said he was pleased to have the opportunity to meet Britt. "I think any time you have a function that pertains to the citizens, that's what keeps everyone abreast of what's going on in the county," he said.
The public was not invited to the reception, at which the bank provided tea, water and coffee.
Britt said he had hoped more elected officials from surrounding communities would have been able to attend to give him the chance to meet with them, but understood they had conflicts because of their meeting schedules.
A chance to mingle
The interim sheriff described the event as "an opportunity to get together." He said he wanted those attending to know the Sheriff's Office is moving forward and is on track.
Ordering an inventory of the sheriff's county equipment, he said, was among the moves he's made since taking over. He said it is going on without any glitches.
Britt's top deputies, including Capt. Mick Sears and Capt. Brian White, Chief Deputy Ray Bates and Maj. Michael Robichaux, attended as Britt's guests along with Investigator Gerald Forbes, now over internal affairs.
Britt also invited businessman Jerry St. Pé, longtime county Republican leader Lynn Rouse and Larry Hammonds, also active in the Republican Party.
Rouse said he was glad he attended what turned out to be a small gathering.
"This is a person that is not new to Jackson County, but is new to the Sheriff's Department," Rouse said. "... it is good for our elected officials to have a chance to meet him."
Since taking over in January, Britt said, he's been working hard to try to mend working relationships between the police departments and Jackson County that were strained during former Sheriff Mike Byrd's administration. Byrd stepped down in December after pleading guilty to one state and one federal felony offense.
County supervisors picked Britt, a Biloxi police major who lives in Vancleave, from a field of 22 who wanted the job of replacing Byrd.
Those applying for the post included a former sheriff, former police chiefs, detectives and narcotics agents with experience in the field and in management.
Just days after Britt's appointment by the board, he announced his candidacy for the job in the November election.