By Bill Minor
JACKSON – Oceans Springs Mayor Connie Moran, Mississippi Democrats’ standard-bearer for state Treasurer in November, is one feisty gal, who brings to the table a resume’ in world trade and economic development no other politician running for office this year can touch.
You could say Moran got a master’s degree in crisis management by steering her Gulf Coast city through the ravages of Hurricane Katrina. But it would only add to a masters degree she had already picked up academically from prestigious Georgetown University and a Fulbright scholarship to do research as an economist at the World Trade Organization in Geneva. For five years in the 1990s she headed the state’s European Trade Office in Frankfurt, Germany.
Evidently the citizens of Ocean Springs liked her leadership in recovery efforts after Katrina by electing her to a second term as their mayor in 2009. She won reelection, it must be noted, despite efforts by Gov. Haley Barbour (and Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant) to elect her Republican opponent, Scott Walker.
Moran, 56, comes from a long line of Jackson County Democratic officials. Her grandfather, Fred Moran, was president of the Jackson County Board of Supervisors in the 1960s when the county developed what is now a major industrial port at Pascagoula, landing the huge Standard Oil (now Chevron) refinery and expanding the Ingalls Shipyard (now Northrup-Grumman). Her father had been Ocean Springs alderman-at-large for 12 years.
“I learned about politics and job creation from my grandfather,” Moran says. One of her goals now, she adds, is to “reenergize the Democratic Party” in Mississippi. Moran won the Democratic nomination for Treasurer without facing a primary opponent, as did Attorney General Jim Hood.
The treasurer’s office is an open seat because Republican Tate Reeves, the incumbent for the past eight years, sought the lieutenant governor job. Though not directly criticizing Reeves’ handing of the treasurer job, Moran said she would bring great transparency to the office by posting online every aspect of state government spending touched by the office. “Our state’s finances are too important for secret meetings,” she added.
(Recently this column raised the issue that Reeves had not been transparent with information concerning thousands of dollars paid in commissions to brokers on purchase of investments by the Health Care Trust Fund – created from the $4.2 billion tobacco lawsuit settlement – whose board he chairs.)
If elected, Moran said she would make Mississippi’s two college savings plans administered by the treasurer “easier for families to save for their children’s college education.” Besides, she plans to initiate a program to subsidize college saving grants for children of military families.
Moran showed her feistiness after Katrina when she refused to sign off on MDOT’s plan to build the new Biloxi-Ocean Springs bridge over Biloxi Bay until it was widened to include a walking and biking lane on one side of the bridge. “Critics had said nobody would use the walking-bike path,” Moran declared, adding: “Now hundreds of people are using it every day.” Additionally, as a result of her negotiations, the 95-foot-high bridge got decorative lighting and see-through railings.
Either Lynn Fitch or Lee Yancey, in a Republican runoff, will oppose her in the November general election. Moran said she had met the three on the campaign trail “and they were all nice people…but my background puts me ahead of the game.”
Bill Minor has covered Mississippi politics since 1947. Contact him through Ed Inman at email@example.com.