Jackson County's Unified Command Praised

Just call them the "Jackson Five." Gautier, Pascagoula, Moss Point, Ocean Springs, and Jackson County.

"I'm not sure how that evolved except for that it's Jackson County and there was five people at the table," Jackson County Civil Defense Director Butch Loper says.

With this unified command team, every Tuesday is family day.

The Jackson Five, as they call themselves, and every governmental and volunteer agency helping rebuilding South Mississippi come together.

The groups give updates.

"For Gautier, we're at 70.2 percent," Environmental Official David Groves says.

Tough questions are asked.

"Have they got a contract on that," Gautier City Manager Christy Wheeler asked.

And like any family, there are ups and downs.

"This is insane. 12,000 business licenses got approved," Pascagoula City Manager Kay Kell says.

"It's Mardi Gras," Groves laughs.

No matter what, they are all in the post-Katrina cleanup together.

"All of the players are in the same room, at the same time, and there's no better way for us to communicate," Jackson County Red Cross Director Paige Roberts says.

"It kind of took some of the confusion out of the confusion state, let's put it that way," Loper says.

The unified command meetings began just hours after Katrina's water receded, at the Jackson County E.O.C. Dozens of representatives from governmental organizations, volunteer groups, city leaders and the media met in one small room to discuss progress and problems.

"Very crowded," Loper laughs.

Since then, the meeting's changed locations and frequency. But most would agree, the weekly briefing has helped keep the county on the same page in this time of need.

"It keeps the camaraderie and everybody working together unified," Loper says.

"I had never been so proud to be a Jackson Countian then when we chose this method of disaster recovery," Roberts says.

Harrison County is doing something similar, just not as often. Civil Defense Director General Joe Spraggins says the executive committee of mayors and supervisors meet once a month.

Jackson County's meetings are getting some attention. Butch Loper says several counties and even the federal government have sent representatives to check out the meetings.