President Barack Obama met local business owners, including a fisherman, a restaurant owner and a shrimper, during a stop at the Courthouse Road fishing pier during his visit to Gulfport today, according to Gov. Haley Barbour's spokesperson, Dan Turner.
The restaurant owner was Scott Weinberg of the Blowfly Inn.
The stop at the pier came after a closed-door meeting the the Coast Guard station in the Gulfport harbor this morning. Obama is on a two-day visit to the Gulf Coast region to learn more about the impact of the BP oil leak.
After the morning meeting, Obama and the motorcade stopped at the Courthouse Road pier, where the president met with local residents while the White House press corps ate snowballs from a stand there at the beach. Obama, Barbour and Gulfport Mayor George Schloegel enjoyed snowcones as well.
"That's another thing we can agree on," Barbour said as he and Obama both chose lemon-lime snowballs.
Earlier, Obama met for more than an hour with Mississippi and Louisiana’s governors, as well as state and local officials at the Coast Guard Station in the Gulfport harbor this morning in the first stop on a two-day visit to the Gulf Coast region.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal were among the group who heard Obama say that more skimmers, fighing oil further offshore and better communications were needed.
Also included in the meeting with Obama are Rep. Gene Taylor, Sen. Roger Wicker, state Attorney General Jim Hood, Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway, Gulfport Mayor George Schloegel, Harrison County Supervisor William Martin, and Jackson County Supervisor Mike Mangum, as well as Trudy Fisher with the state Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Marine Resources Executive Director Bill Walker and Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Womack.
He said he is gathering information while on the Gulf Coast before being with BP officials and he plans to “make sure people in Mississippi and elsewhere are adequately compensated for their damages and losses.”
Obama also made a pitch for Gulf Coast tourism.
“Here in Mississippi and in Florida, Alabama and parts of Louisiana there’s still a lot of opportunity for visitors to come down here,” he said. “There’s a lot of beaches not affected and that may not be affected.
“People wanting to know how to help, one of the best ways to help is to come down here and enjoy the hospitality.”
After the meeting, where Obama discussed some of the impact on local businesses and the safety of local seafood, the group dined on mini crab cakes, fried shrimp, shrimp salad sandwiches and other delicacies from The Chimneys in Gulfport.
This morning, Air Force One landed at the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport at 10:15 a.m. Obama alighted and briskly trotted down the stairs holding a pair of sunglasses and wearing shirtsleeves and no tie. He was greeted by Gov. Haley Barbour and his wife, Marsha.
Obama and the Barbours made their way across the tarmac to greet some of the citizens of the Coast. The two chatted and Barbour made a comment that made Obama laugh as they walk toward citizens allowed on the tarmac. He's taking his time to shake hands and talk with Obama. One woman gave him a hug.
Meanwhile, Gulfport Police Department began closing streets that insect U.S. 90 between Hewes Avenue and U.S. 49 in anticipation of Obama's motorcade.
A Gulfport Community Service vehicle was parked at Second Street and Hewes Avenue to prevent any traffic or north or south.
Police also are barricading parking bays along U.S. 90 between U.S. 49 and the White Cap Restaurant just east of Courthouse Road, as well as the parking lot at the White Cap Restaurant.
Parked across the street from the White Cap is a truck with a sign on it that reads, in part, "Save Our Sound."
A mobile command center is set up in the parking lot of the Courthouse Road pier, along with a MEMA command center. The area is cordoned off and a small crowd of 50-75 people are gathering there in anticipation of a possible stop by the president.
A sign posted at the pier announces that the pier is closed until Tuesday, furthering speculation that Obama will stop there later this morning.
Obama arrived a little early which probably allowed him to talk with some of the people who waited to see him. He stopped to have his photo made with one woman who was on the tarmac.
After about two minutes, he turned to leave and received a round of applause from the crowd before entering a Cheverolet SUV. The Barbours rode in an SUV behind the president, followed by five other SUVs and the press pool, more vehicles, an ambulance and state trooper cars. The motorcade made its way to the Coast Guard station at the Gulfport Harbor for a closed-door meeting with local officials.
Some military officers deplaned from the back of the plane while the stairs were put into position for the president. Barbour and his wife greeted the president as he left Air Force One.
Six television news crews and another dozen or so print and radio journalists gathered in the heat at the airport to wait for Obama to arrive. A line of National Guard trucks also lined the runway.
Obama left for Alabama on Marine One on schedule at 1:50 p.m.