PASCAGOULA, Miss. (WLOX) - One of South Mississippi’s largest employers has new leadership. Starting April 1, Kari Wilkinson will serve as executive vice president of Huntington Ingalls Industries and president of HII’s Ingalls Shipbuilding division. Her election by HII’s Board of Directors was announced Friday morning.
She will succeed Brian Cuccias, who announced his retirement will also take place April 1.
Wilkinson will report to HII Executive Vice President and COO Chris Kastner who described her as “a respected leader with an impressive 25-year record of success managing programs and overseeing major shipbuilding initiatives at Ingalls.”
“Her focus on operational excellence, exemplary leadership skills and ability to build effective customer relationships well positions her for this new role, and I look forward to working with her to continue the Ingalls Shipbuilding legacy of success,” Kastner said.
Wilkinson began her career with Ingalls as an associate naval architect in 1996. Wilkinson transitioned into Program Management in 2007 as a ship program manager for the San Antonio-class LPD program, assuming the position of vice president, program management in 2016.
As Wilkinson steps into her new role as Ingalls President, the shipyard will say goodbye to outgoing president Brian Cuccias, who has held the job since 2014. His career with the shipyard began in 1979 when he joined Litton Data Systems as a financial analyst on several Navy programs. Prior to becoming president of Ingalls, Cuccias held various positions of increasing responsibility at the division including vice president, amphibious ship programs and vice president, program management.
“Under Brian’s leadership, Ingalls Shipbuilding optimized production, improved performance and continued meeting or exceeding customer commitments through many significant and unforeseen challenges,” Kastner said. “His shipbuilding expertise brought immeasurable value, and his contributions to this business have positioned Ingalls for lasting success.”
Upon Friday’s announcement, Mississippi’s 4th District Congressman Steven Palazzo congratulated Cuccias on his retirement from the company.
“It has been a pleasure to work with Brian through the years. He has been a tremendous leader who understands the important role south Mississippi shipbuilders have in strengthening America’s national defense. I am wishing him the best in his retirement and look forward to working closely with Kari Wilkinson as she steps into this role,” Palazzo said.