Commission speeds up search for DMR director

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The commission that oversees the Department of Marine Resources is looking for a new permanent director to replace Dr Bill Walker, who was fired last month. How long should that process take?

It will be faster than many expected. Commissioners voted unanimously to set a deadline of March 12th to accept applications for the job.

Whoever the governor eventually chooses, that choice has to be confirmed by the state senate and time is running out, according to CMR Commissioner Richard Gollott.

"We'd be paying someone $100,000, or something like that, to participate in a job and if the senate doesn't confirm them, they are out of a job. So we would have wasted a lot of time and a lot of money," Gollott said.

Some members of the audience were critical of the move to speed up the process. One of them was Terese Collins of the Gulf Islands Conservancy.

"This shows the public that we really can't trust you," Collins told the commissioners. "That you're not looking for an open process. Let's just open it and slam the door. Let's get this done, and I don't think that's what you really want."

They do want to get the word out about the search. Jimmy Taylor is another commission member.

"With the internet and the media, it's not like is was 20 years ago where you have to publicize everything in the newspaper. Most of your people look online for jobs," Taylor said.

With the agency under investigation by state and federal officials, and headed up by an interim director, stability is important, according to CMR Chairman Dr. Vernon Asper.

"We're trying to get out of the interim situation as quickly as we can. We really feel like we need to move on beyond this and we need to get a permanent director in there just as quickly as possible," Asper said.

One of the concerns expressed at Tuesday's meeting was would commissioners have enough time to go through possibly hundreds of resumes that may come in between now and March the 12th? One commissioner had a simple answer for that.

"We're going to have to make time, as I said in the meeting. And if we have to increase the time we will," Taylor commented.  "We want the best person that we can get."

Also Tuesday, the commission voted to establish three committees to look at ways of overseeing the activities of the new executive director. In addition, new guidelines regulating the executive director's actions in the future may be added to the DMR handbook after getting input from DMR staff members and attorneys.

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