Brent Warr didn't hide from the fact that it's been a long 17 months for the city of Gulfport since Hurricane Katrina.
"Our recovery has not been perfect, nor has this past year," the Gulfport mayor said.
Staircases that once led to antebellum homes still dot the city's landscape. But the homes are gone. Warr conceded the steps that ultimately lead to Gulfport's recovery were as messed up as many of the waterfront lots. And he admitted the rather slow pace of his city's recovery had been difficult to oversee.
"But the truth is the storm is behind us and now we are dealing with the reality that post Katrina decisions and solutions are very complicated," he told Gulfport and Orange Grove chamber members.
Warr spent his first year in office reacting to Katrina's immediate aftermath. In his second state of the city address, Gulfport's mayor said it was time for his administration to stop reacting and start acting on 18 strategic plans and 50 annual goals created since the storm.
"I'm here to tell you I can see the future of Gulfport, Mississippi and this great community and it is bright," he boasted.
The mayor's vision for Gulfport starts on the city's waterfront. This summer, the tattered small craft harbor and Jones Park areas will undergo a $13 million makeover. And that work will be funded by the federal government. Just north of the waterfront, Warr has a $12 million revitalization plan for the city's downtown area. He also mentioned in his speech a million and a half dollars are in the budget to heal hurricane wounds at neighborhood recreation facilities.
"We all want a community where we can allow our children to go outside and play," the mayor said.
As for a community that free of the debris, Warr said 350 property owners have been told it's time for them to put a band-aid over their hurricane scars.
"It's time to get this cleanup finished," he said.
Before becoming mayor, Warr was a businessman. So he's applying business principles to government.
"I'm here to tell you Hurricane Katrina might have defined our world, but it doesn't define us," he exclaimed. "We're getting there."
Warr ended his speech by saying the combination of hard work and prayer would lead Gulfport to better days. He choked back tears when he said, "The God that allowed that storm to crash into us on August 29 is the same God that created our children and our grandchildren. And with his help, and your help and your support, we'll get there."