JACKSON -- Gov. Phil Bryant has named 44-year-old environmental lawyer Gary Rikard to replace the outgoing executive director of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.
Rikard, of Olive Branch, is a partner in the Memphis, Tenn., office of the Butler Snow LLP law firm. He had been an environmental engineer and an lawyer at MDEQ, leaving in 1998 to go into private practice.
"He has the legal and technical expertise to ensure that Mississippi's environmental conservation and economic growth priorities are achieved in concert with one another," Bryant said in a statement Wednesday.
Rikard will replace Trudy Fisher, who has led the MDEQ since 2007. Fisher, appointed by Gov. Haley Barbour and retained by Bryant, said in May she was leaving to explore other career options.
The new director will serve subject to later confirmation by the state Senate. Rikard said he wasn't sure exactly when he would start work, declining further comment until he takes the post.
"I am grateful for the opportunity to serve in this capacity, and I am humbled by Gov. Bryant's choice and by his faith in me," Rikard said in a statement included in Bryant's announcement. "I look forward to the challenge and to leading an agency that is tasked with such an important mission."
The department has been leading planning efforts on how Mississippi should spend money from BP PLC arising from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. More than $83 million in restoration projects for the oast have been approved, and the state is making plans to spend $356 million that will be conveyed by the National Fish and Wildlife Federation.
Bryant's office said Rikard specialized in permitting and water quality-compliance issues while working for MDEQ. He retired as a major from the Mississippi National Guard, where he was the primary legal officer for environmental matters.
Rikard and his law firm have represented a number of entities before the Department of Environmental Quality, including Hercules Inc. That company and its parent, Ashland Inc., are being sued by the city of Hattiesburg, claiming groundwater contamination from a closed Hercules factory may leach into the city's water supply.