On the same day the city mourned the death of former Mayor Jerry O’Keefe, another former mayor — Gerald Blessey — unexpectedly tendered his resignation Tuesday as Biloxi city attorney.
Both Blessey and Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich, however, indicated Blessey may continue to serve the city as an outside counsel.
His announcement was met with applause from council members and those who attended the regular meeting at City Hall.
Blessey said his resignation is effective Sept. 30, which is the end of the fiscal year. That gives the city six weeks for the transition, he said.
“It’s been a great honor to work for you and the mayor and the city of Biloxi,” said Blessey, who served two terms as mayor from 1981 to 1989 and also was a state legislator.
“If needed, I’ll be glad to help part time,” said Blessey.
Tidelands, economic development and waterfront master planning are the areas where he might assist the city as outside counsel, he said.
“It’s been my pleasure to work with you once again,” said Gilich, who hired Blessey to serve as city attorney, a position that hadn’t been filled in several years.
“Believe me, every day I appreciate your expertise and your leadership,” Gilich said.
Blessey notified him on Friday that he would be stepping down and submitted a letter of resignation on Monday, according to a city press release.
“At the age of 74, it is time for me to slow down a bit,” Blessey said.
Since he was hired, Blessey hired eight firms for outside counsel by a request for proposals. He also reorganized the municipal court system as part of the settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union, which required Biloxi to add clerks, a public defender, judge and court administrator.
“That was all part of the settlement,” he said.
Blessey told the Sun Herald that Biloxi saved $100,000 in legal services since taking the department back in house. The work that previously was spread across four departments now is all in one department, he said. In addition to that, Blessey did the legal work to refinance millions in city bonds for $5,000 on two occasions. He said the previous bond cost Biloxi $50,000 in legal fees.