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These are the Mississippi Coast’s top newsmakers of 2017

Clockwise from top left: Jesmyn Ward, Scott and Trinity Walker, Jim Cantore, Mario King, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Scuba Steve, Billy Hewes, Boosie Badazz, Shea Dobson and John Harrison Doucet.
Clockwise from top left: Jesmyn Ward, Scott and Trinity Walker, Jim Cantore, Mario King, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Scuba Steve, Billy Hewes, Boosie Badazz, Shea Dobson and John Harrison Doucet.

Some were naughty, some were nice. There were winners, losers and survivors among the top 10 newsmakers on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. In no particular order, they are:

1. John Harrison Doucet in April began a hopeful chapter in his recovery from a horrific accident when he landed in Gulfport aboard an Angel Flight from Georgia. The Gulfport sailor had been near death several times after his sailboat mast touched overhead power lines at the Gulfport Yacht Club. The 20-year-old lost his legs and right arm to burns from the electrical shock and faces a long recovery.

2. Boosie Badazz made the front page after he was pepper-sprayed in Dillard’s at Edgewater Mall, the day after he performed at Biloxi Black Beach Weekend in April. The Coast probably hasn’t heard the last of the rapper, who sued Dillard’s, Weiser Security Services, the Biloxi Police Department, Jim Wilson & Associates and an unidentified police officer.

3. Scott and Trinity Walker fought the city of Ocean Springs over its refusal to allow them to rent their home as a bed and breakfast and Ocean Springs won — sort of. The Walkers were denied a permit for the B&B but Scott Walker told aldermen he and his wife had been renting the home without a permit. Then he offered to drop a suit against the city over the B&B in exchange for a permit. The Board of Aldermen didn’t take that offer, nor did it put Walker on the Planning Commission that twice voted to deny the Walkers a permit.

4. Jesmyn Ward of DeLisle had an exceptional year. Her novel “Sing, Unburied, Sing” earned the associated professor of English at Tulane University her second National Book Award for Fiction and the appellation “Heir to Faulkner” from Time.com. In October, she received a “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation.

5. Scuba Steve, T-shirt designer and Coast icon, learned he was cancer-free to start off the year. The Coast had followed his battle for months via social media. “I feel the most normal I’ve ever felt since pre-2014,” Johnson said. “It feels so good, man.”

6. The people caught doing it. Two women, one from Biloxi, the other from Pearl River, Louisiana, were having sex on the deck of Triple D’s Landing in Kiln with a man from Texas when the owner pulled up to take care of some business of her own. Then the deputies arrived. The three were charged with misdemeanor indecent exposure, but as Sheriff Ricky Adam put it, “I’d hate to have to tell Mama and Daddy I got arrested for such as that.”

7. Millennials Mario King and Shea Dobson were elected mayor — King in Moss Point and Dobson in Ocean Springs — in an election that shook up several city councils and boards of aldermen. They had a rocky start. Dobson has faced continuing criticism over his decision to fly the state flag. King was accused of misdemeanor domestic violence.

8. “To Kill a Mockingbird” is back in the Biloxi eighth-grade classroom after the decision to remove it subjected the school district to nationwide heckling. Superintendent Arthur McMillan tried to sell it as a routine change of materials. Critics called it censorship.

9. Jim Cantore had the Coast fearing the worst when he touched down at Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport as Hurricane Nate churned in the Gulf. But Cantore quickly moved on and Nate spared most of the Coast. East Jackson County took the brunt of the storm, which also caused damage at Biloxi casinos.

10. Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes received the inaugural One Coast Ambassador Award but he also created some division in Harrison County when Gulfport broke with the Harrison County Utility Authority’s countywide garbage collection and disposal contracts. “You have robust discussion but you don’t have to make every disagreement a declaration of war,” he told the crowd gathered at the IP Casino Resort to see him get an award named after a phrase he coined.

Paul Hampton: 228-284-7296, @JPaulHampton

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