Harrison County

Harrison County officials sworn into office

 Madeline Peterson helps hold the Bible as Troy Peterson is sworn in as Sheriff by Judge Chris Schmidt, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016.
TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD Madeline Peterson helps hold the Bible as Troy Peterson is sworn in as Sheriff by Judge Chris Schmidt, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. SUN HERALD

GULFPORT -- Harrison County's elected officials took their oaths of office Monday in ceremonies that put eight new people in office, including two who are part of the first majority-female Board of Supervisors in Mississippi.

New District 1 Supervisor Beverly Martin and District 2 Supervisor Angel Kibler-Middleton have joined District 5 Supervisor Connie Rockco as the female majority among county supervisors.

They and newcomer Kent Jones, District 4, were elected after their predecessors made headlines, including two involved in federal criminal cases.

Kibler-Middleton replaces Kim Savant, who resigned just before his indictment in a public corruption case. Savant's serving a five-year prison for conspiring to commit bribery while working on the Harrison County Utility Authority Board.

Jones replaces William Martin, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot after learning he had been indicted on charges of bribery and obstruction of justice.

Beverly Martin replaced Windy Swetman III, who decided to not run for re-election on the board after he lost his bid for the mayor's race in Biloxi.

They will serve with long-term supervisor Marlin Ladner, District 3 supervisor now in his fifth term.

Martin spoke emphatically as she swore to uphold her duties, in particular with the phrase "so help me God."

Angel Kibler-Middleton spoke quietly and fought back tears.

Jones' oath was preceded by a kiss-and-tell experience that brought laughter from the more than 100 people attending the back-to-back ceremonies. Jones had asked County Judge Robin Midcalf, a longtime friend, to administer his oath. Midcalf said Jones had given her her first kiss when they were in the sixth grade and coming home from a ball game on a bus.

"Ya'll may think I'm pushy," Midcalf said, "but it was him that kissed me."

They were among 20 sworn in at the county's board room in the Harrison County Courthouse in Gulfport. Two others were sworn in at the courthouse in Biloxi, where Rockco and Martin took another oath since the majority of their constituents are in the judicial district based in Biloxi.

Martin did a happy dance of sorts after taking her oath.

"I'm excited," she said repeatedly.

Longest-serving replaced

Two newcomers replace some of the county's longest-serving officials.

County Superintendent Roy Gill replaces Henry Arledge, who served in that capacity for 36 years and worked for the school district 48 years.

Circuit Clerk Connie Ladner replaces Gayle Parker, who has retired after serving as circuit clerk for 23 years.

"She will do a great job," Parker told the Sun Herald. "The whole office is staying and is behind her."

Parker remembered when Connie Ladner first joined her office, working with marriage licenses.

"I told her she was too smart to just do marriage licenses," Parker said. "I told her she needed to learn it all, and she did."

Retired Circuit Court Judge Kosta Vlahos echoed Parker's faith in Ladner before he swore her in.

Numerous judges of the officials' choices administered the oaths while most officials held a family Bible and were surrounded by family.

Connie Ladner's staff of deputy clerks also were sworn in.

District Attorney Joel Smith, now in his second term, was sworn in, followed by the oaths of his assistant district attorneys and criminal investigators. Smith is the chief prosecutor of state felony crimes in Harrison, Hancock and Stone counties.

New sheriff, long-timers

Sheriff Troy Peterson, who replaces two-term Sheriff Melvin Brisolara, took his oath, a scenario to be repeated later Monday in separate ceremonies with his deputies and administrators.

Two of the new officials have been in office since their elections in 1996 -- Chancery Clerk John McAdams and Coroner Gary Hargrove, the later also the county's medical examiner.

Tax Assessor Tal Flurry was first elected in 1999.

Longtime Justice Court judges who retained their seats on the bench are Albert Fountain, Bruce Strong, Dianne Ladner, Melvin Ray and Brandon Ladner.

Herman Cox, longtime Harrison County prosecuting attorney, was sworn in for another four-year term of office.

New constables

Two of the county's constables are new, though one has been on the job for more than three decades.

Paul Johnson has been a constable 31 years.

Alan Weatherford, former Gulfport police chief, and James Morgan are the new constables. Sammie Taylor was sworn in for a new term.

Related stories from Biloxi Sun Herald