GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A protestor from the commercial fishing industry interrupted Governor Haley Barbour's presentation Tuesday at the first meeting of the Mississippi Gulf of Mexico Commission. The panel is tasked with searching for the best ways to help South Mississippi recover from the BP oil spill.
Governor Barbour appointed 34 people to the commission, including a bank CEO, as well as the former head of the state's largest private employer, five marine scientists and local mayors. The governor told them they have a formidable challenge facing them.
"My goal here, is to come out with a plan that is a comprehensive plan that deals with a lot of subject matter," Barbour said.
The governor went on to say it will be a plan developed by those who live and work here. He included fishermen in that group, but that comment brought a strong response from an audience member. From the back of the room, Gulfport resident Linda St. Martin jumped up and yelled.
"They are not at this table, Governor," St. Martin said angrily. "Please excuse me, I apologize. But there is not a single commercial fishermen, not a single Vietnamese person, nor a single conservationist at this table."
The back and forth between Governor Barbour and St Martin, who called herself an advocate for commercial fishermen, went on for at least five minutes.
The governor tried to calmly thank her and move on, but it didn't work. She persisted.
"We can tell, sir, by your actions today, you have no intentions of appointing any of the fishing family, commercial fishermen or conservationists to this body. And this body is bogus."
A few other fishermen also spoke, in a much calmer manner.
Afterwards, Governor Barbour told us the idea of putting a commercial fisherman on this panel is a good one.
"I was surprised there was not a commercial fishermen on there," he said. "But I knew we had a fishermen, but it turns out he is a charter boat captain. It was an oversight, and I do think it is a good idea to have a fisherman on that panel."
When asked about the outburst during the meeting, the governor told WLOX News, "That is one of the great things about Mississippians. Most of them are polite, but when somebody is not, it catches us by surprise. But that is alright. Look, she is a citizen. She has a right to complain."
After that comment, the Governor got in an elevator to head to his next of several meetings.