JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - The man who led recovery efforts in Harrison County after Hurricane Katrina will soon take over as executive director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.
Gov. Phil Bryant announced Wednesday Joe Spraggins will replace Jamie Miller as head of DMR on Dec. 20.
"I am honored that Gov. Bryant chose me to be the executive director for the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources. I have worked alongside Jamie Miller for the past four years, and his leadership has been outstanding. I look forward to continuing the work that he has done to make this agency one of the best in the state," said Spraggins.
Spraggins served 34 years in the Air Force before retiring in 2006 as a brigadier general.
Spraggins is no stranger to the Mississippi coast or DMR. He has served as the agency's chief operations officer since 2013. Before that, he served as commander of the Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport and director of emergency management in Harrison County, a role he assumed just days before Hurricane Katrina made landfall on Aug. 29, 2005.
Miller, who's been DMR's executive director since 2013, is taking a job with the Mississippi Development Authority as deputy director of governmental affairs and chief innovations officer.
"Jamie has served the people of Mississippi well at DMR," Bryant said. "I know he will continue to improve our state at MDA."
Miller took over the troubled DMR agency in the wake of a scandal involving former director Dr. Bill Walker. Walker pleaded guilty to conspiracy involving the use of federal money he controlled at the DMR in 2014.
To increase transparency at DMR, Miller worked with the state legislature to pass the DMR Reorganization and Accountability Act, which requires the agency to be audited annually.
Miller has also been a champion of preserving and enhancing Mississippi's natural coastal resources. One thing he focused on in his time at DMR is Mississippi's oyster reefs, including playing a key role in the Governor's Oyster Council on Restoration and Resiliency.
"It has been an absolute privilege to lead the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources and its employees for nearly five years. I leave knowing the positive initiatives we implemented will continue to benefit the agency in the future," said Miller
Bryant said the agency will continue to move forward under Spraggins' leadership.
"DMR is in good hands with Gen. Spraggins assuming leadership, and I am pleased he has accepted this appointment," said Bryant.