Coast Community Leaders Mingle With State Politicians

Some South Mississippi community leaders want to make sure their voices are heard. They boarded a bus bound for the state capital and Wednesday night's legislative reception.

Frank Wilkerson owns Lighthouse Tours. He says tourism on the Gulf Coast in making a comeback. His trip to Jackson was to ask the state legislature to help spread the word.

"More money is always good," said Wilkerson. "So basically more money supporting the Convention and Visitors Bureau down here. Basically publicizing where we are and letting the public know we're down here. We're recovering and getting well."

About 35 Biloxi Bay Chamber members boarded the bus. The seats were filled with business owners, bankers, military officials, and retirees all with their own message for the senators and representatives.

Biloxi Bay Chamber president Melissa Polk said, "Personally, I want to thank them for what I know it was a difficult decision for them, okaying on-shore gaming. I think that was very important. Several casinos are open now because of that."

While some travelers would strengthen old relationships others would forge new ones. Only two months on the job at Keesler Air Force Base, Brigadier General Paul Capasso saw an opportunity to introduce himself.

"I believe it's a great opportunity to meet the 2006 Mississippi legislators," he said. "Then to work with the folks on the bus, the Chamber, to look at opportunities and challenges to come up with some answers."

Members say the first Legislative Reception since Katrina will be different from years past.

"This year I don't think I'm going to go with the Legislative Reception asking for anything in particular," said Polk. "Sometimes I go with an agenda that I really want to ask for. This year I think everyone just wants to go and say 'thank you' for what they've been doing for the coast."