Mayor Sees Post-Katrina Gulfport As A World Class City

Mayor Warr had no idea his campaign slogan would be so prophetic. Months before hurricane season, the candidate running for mayor promised he would "build a better Gulfport."

"Many of you remember that promise. Little did I know that you and I would literally have an opportunity to do just that," Warr said during Tuesday's State of the City address.

After Katrina, that challenge is more than Warr ever imagined.

The rookie mayor challenged city leaders and citizens to join him in the daunting challenge of "building a better Gulfport."

Mayor Warr says the Gulfport he loves is in great position to emerge as a world class city. He says the front entrance is a great place to start.

"If there was ever a time to think out of the box, it's now. It would seem foolish to at least not consider this area as a prime location for development, with retail establishments, restaurants, casinos, and hotels. And all of this can be accomplished without endangering our port, which is so vital to our future growth."

Yes, he said casinos. Warr said his position on gambling is often misunderstood.

"I want to say clearly, contrary to popular opinion, I recognize the economic advantage and importance of gaming to our city. I did and I do support the move to get casinos out of the water and the stabilization of the industry."

Like most cities, Gulfport is hurting financially following Katrina. But Mayor Warr says city finances will rebound thanks to a rainy day fund, a disaster loan and the still booming retail business around I-10 and Highway 49.

"People are buying more and they're buying it in Gulfport, thank goodness. I've said many times since the storm, 'Thank God for Orange Grove.'"

The mayor says condominiums will be a part of beachfront development, but not at the expense of more traditional houses. He praised the Wetzels for already rebuilding their waterfront home and serving as an inspiration for others.

"We should build it back better, because in a few years we owe it to ourselves to be able to say that Katrina won the battle on August 29, 2005, but that we the citizens of Gulfport won the war."

One of the less glamorous, but very important issues facing the city is also getting attention. Mayor Warr says Gulfport is moving forward on more than $150 million worth of sewer and water repairs, many which were planned before Katrina.