Warr: Gulfport still has "great promise" despite its storm of problems

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Just hours before Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr gave his state of the city address Thursday, the outgoing mayor talked with Brad Kessie about his tumultuous four years as Gulfport's CEO.

At the advice of his attorney, Warr would not talk about the pending 16 count Katrina fraud case that forced him to walk away from politics.

What he did talk about were the peaks and valleys he experienced while trying to help Gulfport get back on its feet.

Warr's one term as Gulfport mayor started with so much promise.  He steam rolled into city hall with unprecedented community support.  But then a hurricane swept across his city.  And all of the new mayor's plans changed in an instant.

"We still have great promise," the mayor said on Thursday as he looked back at the early days of his administration.  "The city's doing very well."

Recovering from Hurricane Katrina started slowly and that handcuffed contractors.  They claimed Mayor Warr was micromanaging his city too much.  Warr would not apologize for his administrative style.

"For a long time we weren't really managing the way that we needed to in Gulfport.  And I came in determined to do that," he said.

The mayor spent Thursday afternoon rehearsing for his last state of the city speech.  He said his final draft was remarkably similar to what was expected to be a campaign kickoff address.  The tone changed on Tuesday, when he dropped out of the race.  But the wording stayed the same.

"I would say that my most proud accomplishment would be with what the city did with the disaster that was Hurricane Katrina," he said.

Mayor Warr dubbed 2008 the year of bricks and mortar.  Examples of his pledge to rebuild Gulfport include rebuilding the old courthouse and Grasslawn.  He's quite proud of the construction accomplishments, and so many other success stories during his four years at Gulfport City Hall.

"There will be a lot of great projects that exist now because of the efforts our team took that would not have been possible without Hurricane Katrina's damage," the mayor said.

What pains Warr so much is how his time as mayor must end, with a federal Katrina fraud indictment still hovering over his head.

"I would love to stay in here and continue this growth and this expansion with the city," he said.  "But I have to deal with first things first.  And my family is the most important thing to me in this scenario."

Mayor Warr said he was worried about his legacy.  His hope is that people remember his administration for what it did to repair a damaged city after the worst natural disaster in American history.

"I figure the communications will be in the realizations when the people start using the great community centers and the great facilities that we're bringing out of the ground now.  They'll realize that a lot has actually occurred," he said.

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